Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Amazon Wish List


With this being the last Product Placement Wednesday before Christmas, I thought it was appropriate to go with a "gift" theme. Unfortunately it is too late for this product to help you and your friends & family this holiday season but there is always next year!



Amazon.com has an amazing feature - the Universal Wish List. This allows you to create a wish list from the many amazing items on the Amazon site as well as add items from other sites as well. The key to adding the non-Amazon items is the "Universal Wish List Button" that adds to your toolbar with a simple download. This allows you to keep yourself organized as to things you might like and helps your friends and family figure out exactly what to get you for all of the gift giving holidays. You can set up as many wish lists as you like and also decide if you would like to make them public or keep them private. The benefit of keeping the list private is that you can keep track of items you might like for redecorating a room, etc. It is a great companion in that regard to Pinterest. Though Pinterest allows you to dream big (in ground trampoline for the backyard) I tend to keep my Amazon list a little more realistic.

As I mentioned in my previous post "You Shouldn't Have! - A Guide to Gifting," this is a great idea to share with your friends and family and help make the holidays more fun and less stressful! Still not convinced about the wish list? Hopefully this previous entry will still help you give amazing gifts!

I would love to hear from you about the best and the worst gifts you've ever received. Remember you don't have to be a registered user to comment and you can be anonymous if you prefer!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cooking Club, Part 2

A little over a month ago was the second meeting of Cooking Club! As a reminder, the guidelines we are trying to stick with are as follows:

  • Fresh (or fresh frozen) veggies & fruit as much as possible
  • Whole grains
  • Minimally processed food
  • Organic when possible and affordable
  • Lower calorie dishes preferred

All the recipes below are linked back to the source if known and we don't take credit for any of them (even though with our tweaks they are NEW recipes!). We are missing Katie's recipe but hopefully she will send it over and I can update the post. Let us know what you think of these recipes as well as those from Cooking Club, Part 1!

Mia’s Contribution: Eggplant Caponata

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grilling

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons golden raisins

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more if needed

1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 cup white-wine vinegar

Coarse salt

2 cubes TJ's basil

2 cubes TJ's garlic

1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, raisins, pine nuts, garlic, and red-pepper flakes; cook stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

2. Add tomato paste, cocoa powder, and sugar; cook, stirring, until tomato paste is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant, vinegar, and 1/3 cup water.

3. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is tender and mixture is thick, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and more sugar (up to 1 tablespoon), as desired.

4. Serve with crostini as an appetizer or over pasta as a meal.

Note: Raisins were not included in our version of this recipe and it turned out delicious.



Jasmin’s Contribution: Quinoa With Toasted Almonds & Dried Cranberries

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 vegan vegetable bouillon cube

1/2 tsp salt

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dried cranberries


1. Soak the quinoa 15 minutes in cold water

2. Stir the quinoa with your hand, pour off most of the water and drain through a fine mesh strainer

3. Shake dry in the strainer, then set the strainer over a bowl or pitcher

4. Heat a wide bottomed pan on medium heat and add the oil

5. Stir and toast the sliced almonds until golden, then remove from pan

6. Add the quinoa. Stir and toast until dry and turning color

7. Add boiling water, veggie cube, salt, bay leaf and cinnamon stick, and dried cranberries

8. Bring back to boil, cover, turn the heat to simmer, cook for 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed

9. Remove from heat and allow to sit five minutes with the lid on

10. Fluff gently with a fork and serve

Note: Cooked chicken was added to our version to up the protein content of the meal.



Rachael’s Contribution: Slow-Cooker White Bean and Kielbasa Stew

1 pound dried white beans (such as great Northern or navy)

14 ounces kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 large onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

5 ounces baby spinach (6 cups)

country bread, for serving


1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the beans, kielbasa, broth, tomatoes (and their juices), onion, garlic, rosemary, and 1 cup water.

2. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).

3. Just before serving, stir in the spinach. Serve with the bread.

Note: Turkey kielbasa was substituted for regular kielbasa and the spinach was left out.



Gretchen’s Contribution: Easy Lasagna

1 28 oz. jar plain Ragu or other spaghetti sauce

1 ½ lb. browned ground chuck (or leaner beef)

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 lb. low-fat ricotta cheese

1 lb. grated mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

Lasagna noodles, uncooked


1. Combine first 4 ingredients to create sauce.

2. In 9 X 13 pan: layer of sauce (1/3), layer of noodles, layer of sauce (1/3), layer ALL ricotta cheese, layer ½ mozzarella cheese, sprinkle parmesan cheese to taste, layer of noodles, remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella cheese, sprinkle parmesan cheese to taste.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes. If top is dry, add a little more sauce. Let sit about 15 min. before cutting.

Note: Lots of substitutions were made with this dish. Organic marinara was used instead of Ragu. Ground turkey was used instead of ground chuck. Fat free ricotta was used instead of low fat. Low fat mozzarella was used instead of regular. Also the first layer of sauce did not have meat in it and two layers of fresh baby spinach were added after the ricotta cheese and before the final layer of mozzarella. The spinach didn't add much but was an easy way to sneak in some veggies. Next time I would add more spinach. This is also to adapt for vegetarians too. Just leave out the meat!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Paper Pots

The holiday season is upon us and time is at a premium! At least that's what I am blaming for the past two weeks absence of Product Placement Wednesday. Speaking of holiday season, if it's holiday season unfortunately it is also cold season. I had one of those last week so it can share the blame with the holidays. Unfortunately I don't have a product to help with the lack of time during the holidays but I do have one that will make your cold a bit more stylish.








Paper Pots are colorful orbs that can hold/hide your tissues or toilet paper while also adding a pop of color to your life! As you can see by the photo above, you can mix and match the tops and bottoms to coordinate with any decor. It is simple to add your choice of paper as also referenced above. Who knew a cold could be so fun!?!?! For those readers that avoid all things BPA, this is made from BPA free plastic.




While available in a variety of stores, the link above will take you to Uncommon Goods.




Paper Pots not enough to make your cold better? Clearly you didn't read my post about Cold FX!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - NoStik Toaster Bag


Sticking with the cheese theme of the past few Wednesdays, let me just say that I love grilled cheese. However, I find it difficult to make the perfect grilled cheese on my stove. It just seems that the burners are too hot so the bread toasts quickly but the cheese doesn't melt quickly enough. Toaster ovens are a great way to make grilled cheese but there just is not enough counter space for one in my home. I recently saw a photo on Pinterest about how you can use your toaster to make grilled cheese but honestly it just looked like a hot mess. That brings me to this week's product...




NoStik Toaster Bags are not only perfect for making grilled cheese but can be used for a variety of delicious grilled sandwiches or just about anything you can fit in the toaster. The only caveat is that the bag can't touch the actual heating elements of the toaster or a hole will form. Since the bags are reusable, you want to make sure that does not happen!

When I first heard about these bags, all I could think was "Mmm... grilled cheese". Turns out that these bags are also perfect when you have a member of your household with a gluten allergy. These bags will keep the gluten free bread protected from cross contamination from regular bread - even if you are just making regular toast.

The easiest place to find these bags? Amazon.com

Monday, November 14, 2011

Iron Chef West Hollywood, Part 4


I can't believe how many recipes I have yet to post! There are still some from The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad plus at least one picnic! Today's post was a recent dinner Katie and I made. It was not completely Iron Chef style like we've done in the past but we did still somewhat throw it together.

Meatless Meatballs and Vegetable Saute
8 meatless meatballs
10 baby zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup frozen leeks
1/4 cup white onion
1/4 cup red onion
1 tablespoon garlic
dried rosemary
coarse sea salt
garlic olive oil
parmesan cheese
cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta

1. Saute onion and leeks in a bit of water to help soften.
2. When onions start to look clear, add baby zucchini and garlic and continue to saute until zucchini softens. Add more water if needed.
3. Microwave meatless meatballs per package instructions.
4. Add rosemary, salt and flower pepper to vegetable mixture to taste.
5. Add meatless meatballs to vegetable mixture.
6. Top brown rice or whole wheat pasta (we used rice) with meatballs and vegetable mixture.
7. Drizzle with garlic olive oil and top with parmesan cheese.

Trader Joe's Kale Salad Knock Off

Note - This is a knock off of a new salad that Trader Joe's is carrying. It sounded so good but the dressing had so many calories that I figured I should just try to make it myself! The original doesn't include avocado and does include almonds but I made the substitutions based on what I had at my house. I have made it again with wasabi almonds and it was also delish!

4 cups of kale
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon garlic olive oil
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
coarse sea salt, to taste

1. Combine kale, edamame, avocado, cranberries, (& almonds if you desire).
2. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, garlic olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
3. Top kale salad with dressing and mix well to coat the entire salad. The dressing is really thick so it will take a minute or so to combine properly.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Mini Brie Bites


Yes, it's another Trader Joe's specialty this week! Also, this is the second week in a row that Product Placement Wednesday is cheese related. Clearly I have a problem. However, this week's little delights will soon give you a problem too.

Trader Joe's Mini Brie Bites

If you are anything like me, it is difficult to determine when to stop eating when it comes to cheese. They say a serving is the size of a pair of dice. As I may have mentioned before, that amount of cheese is the cheese I eat while cutting up the cheese I'm actually going to eat. Weight loss experts would say I have problems with "portion control". If they didn't make cheese so delicious it would be easier to control! Or if cheese came in single serving packaging (other than string cheese) maybe I would be more successful. Well, that's exactly the sizing of the Mini Brie Bites. You can sit down with some lovely crackers (my personal fave are the Rosemary and Raisin - also from Trader Joe's) and have a relatively guilt free snack!

I also think these would be great to make mini Brie en Croute for your holiday parties! Take your Mini Brie Bites, smooth some great jam on top (personally I think one that is both sweet and savory would be best), wrap in puff pastry and bake. There are a million recipes out there that will give you an idea as to baking time though I would recommend checking it every five minutes the first time as these guys are small and will likely brown up quickly.

Trader Joe's also makes a great little goat cheese medallion that can also be enjoyed with crackers. I like to crumble it on salads or if you are able to successfully remove it from the wrapper without destroying the shape you can also roll it in some crushed nuts and place on top of the salad as is.

I am sure there are some other great ideas out there for the Mini Brie Bites. Let me know if you have discovered one!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Crate & Barrel Cheese Markers


I heart cheese. I will eat it on just about anything but my favorite way to enjoy cheese is on it's own. No bread, no crackers. That being said, I love a good cheese plate and always have one at any function I put together. Until recently, I would use little metal cheese signs that had names of particular types of cheeses (cheddar, stilton, etc.). The problem with these signs was that there were so many cheeses unaccounted for by the pre-selected names. Then I found these little gems!




These cheese markers are the perfect way to both personalize and add some personality to your cheese board. The markers themselves can be customized with a dry erase marker, grease pencil or even a crayon to describe your delicious selection. Since all of those writing utensils easily wipe off the porcelain base, you can label unlimited cheeses!

I think the cheese markers are perfect for all of your holiday functions or even as a hostess gift! They come in a set of 6 so the biggest question is how to narrow the selection down to only 6 cheeses! Trader Joe's here I come!



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Pinterest

I was a little late to the social media scene. I skipped Friendster and MySpace. I was dragged onto Facebook kicking and screaming. I don’t Tweet (except for a brief spell where it was required by a former employer). Now I have discovered a social media site that is truly for me. It is my new crack like addiction and I must share it with you.

Pinterest



If you are anything like me, you bookmark lots of ideas – things to buy, recipes, great websites, etc. Many times it seems so silly to bookmark just one item. Also, if you are gathering a number of items for a project, your list of bookmarks can quickly become cumbersome. Wouldn’t it be easier to have everything in one place and to be able to quickly glance at the photos without having to bring up an entire site? That is exactly what Pinterest allows you to do. You are basically creating an online bulletin board of ideas. You can start as many boards as you want (currently I’m at 5 boards) in order to break down your ideas but subject. The options are limitless – home d├ęcor, food & drink, art, diy & crafts, sports and travel are just a few of the many categories in which your boards may fall.

You are likely wondering how this site is a “social media” site. Beyond the fun of just setting up your own boards, you can “follow” (like Twitter) your friends and get new ideas from their boards. You can also look on the main boards (sorted by subject) at the most popular and newest posts. What do you do when you see something fabulous that you would like to add to your own boards? You “repin” and the idea is yours forever!

Personally I have found that the main boards are the most addictive and have found some amazing ideas. Of course the more you post to your own boards, the more you will get out of it!

You have to request to become a member or be invited by a member to join. It took about 48 hours from the time I requested to become a member until I was given a password. It might be faster if you are invited by a member. That being said, if you want to get on this crack too just drop me a line and I’ll invite you right away!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tacky Weddings

I know I did a wedding post last week and even though no one is getting married this week this one is too funny not to share. This is not a new site and is not even updated that regularly but is still hilarious. Take some time to flip through the entire site if you can. If you don't watch the videos it does not take long. Seriously, the entire site could be devoted to the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding type photos and that would almost be enough. Of course the super white trashy stuff is also excellent. So enjoy your new time suck!

Tacky Weddings







What is your favorite tacky wedding trend?



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Oscar Mayer Sandwich Combos



Personally I am not a big fan of the "Lunchables" type of pre-packaged meals. To be fair, I am not a big fan in general of any pre-packaged "fresh" food. On a recent vacation, the only place to grab lunch was a general store type place as we were out a bit from any towns. Their selection of lunch items were all prepared in a factory (and looked like they had been on the shelf for awhile) so I opted for something a little healthier - root beer float flavored ice cream and a Power Bar (my traveling companion did a little better with a Power Bar, baby carrots and an apple though I think preferred my lunch...).



So I was heading out of town again earlier this month and took a quick spin through Target to see if I could find something for my airplane dinner. I used to get the Whole Kids meal from Whole Foods ($4.99 for a sandwich, chips, graham crackers, fruit leather and a juice box) but unfortunately that has been discontinued. Then I found it - this week's product....












I tried the Turkey and Cheddar variety and found it to be surprisingly delightful! Besides the turkey and cheddar, a sandwich thin and deli mustard are included to complete the sandwich. My combo also included Wheat Thins and a chocolate Jello Pudding Mousse Temptation. Other options include the Honey Ham & Swiss and Southwestern Style Chicken. Each comes with a savory and a sweet treat and are all less than 400 calories!



While I am not planning on making these sandwich combos a part of my daily routine, they are the perfect item for low calorie meals on the go. Way healthier AND cheaper than buying food at the airport! I find the packaging to be a little wasteful but hopefully they will work on this as the product catches on.



Have any of you tried this product? What are your favorite food items to take with you on the airplane?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weddings, Marriage & $$$

In the past I have blogged about the fun side of weddings - the planning, gift guides, being a good bride, being a good guest, and what to do with old bridesmaid dresses. One thing that no one likes to think about is the cost of weddings. Films fill brides-to-be with grandiose ideas of what a proper wedding should look like. Have you stopped to think what those weddings actually cost? You know it is a lot but how much? This article exposes the high cost of having a movie wedding and I found it fascinating!



If I should ever find a guy worthy of marrying, I have no intention of taking his last name. I know some guys say this is a "dealbreaker" however if they read the next article they might agree that the financial benefits of their wife keeping her last name will keep their "manly pride" in check.



This article's title is a little misleading but there is a book out there encouraging women to be golddiggers. On the flip side, smart women don't marry deadbeats with gambling problems and mountains of debt. After reading this article it reinforced in my mind that some of my past love interests were just too much of a hot mess to ever marry. I used to joke that I would have my future husband sign a reverse pre-nup - one that absolved me from any of his debt. Maybe not just a funny idea after all...



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Strawberry Pops


Back in June, I shared my love for Trader Joe's Peach Pops. Clearly they must have been a popular item as many of you have found my blog in your quest to learn more! Well our friends at Trader Joe's have done it again and this time they are strawberry! Let me introduce - Strawberry Pops!

As with the Peach Pops, these Strawberry Pops look like Otter Pops but made with fresh fruit not artificial colors and flavors. I find that they do not freeze as solid as the peach variety but are delicious nevertheless. Again, this is a low calorie treat with each pop containing a mere 50 calories! It is a hot day in LA and I may have already eaten two to help keep cool. No guilt though!

I suggested using the Peach Pops on top of ice cream or yogurt and I think the Strawberry Pops would be equally as good served those ways too.

While Trader Joe's does not necessarily specialize in "health food" (see Powerberries), this is a treat that you can feel good about enjoying and is perfect for kids too.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Airwaves Gum


If you are like me, I love to pick up new food items when traveling. When in Europe, I found myself especially fascinated by the candy selection. While I try not to eat a lot of candy, I adore it. Maybe that's why I still love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory so much? I would kill to be allowed in that room made of candy! Mmmm candy....

So this week's product - Airwaves (made by Wrigley) is actually considered a "wellness" gum (which I consider candy even though you don't eat it) so it is really more of a health food. I discovered it on a trip to the UK and have become a little obsessed. The gum has a menthol core which is extremely powerful. I love it because it knocks out bad breath and then the flavor shifts to become a delightful chewing gum. I will be honest though that some people find the menthol portion of the gum too intense and liken it to medicine. The Menthol & Eucalyptus is the most common and popular flavor though there are a variety of flavors that vary throughout Europe and Asia. My personal favorite - Spicy Cocktail - has unfortunately long been discontinued. Black Current and Honey & Lemon are other great ones and are currently available in Asia. There are a variety of other flavors I have not had the pleasure to try yet but would welcome feedback from anyone that has tried them!

How do you get this delicious gum? Personally I have anyone going to a country that carries Airwaves to pick me up a few packs. You can also order from Amazon.com or British Delights. I tried writing to Wrigley to see if they would start carrying it in the US and was told "This is a product specially formulated for our overseas consumers." or something like that. Stupid Wrigley.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Keyboard Organizer


I hate clutter. The place I live is small so it is a constant battle. While I don't have a separate office, if I did I would want it to look perfectly organized. Something straight out of Martha Stewart. Something like this:


See? No clutter.

That brings me to this week's product - the Keyboard Organizer. While this little gem looks a little like a toy, it is an actual keyboard but with built in storage. This keyboard has 10+ separate storage compartments, multimedia quick keys and has a wireless option. Personally I prefer a "classic" styled keyboard (cleaner, less cluttered look) but if you prefer something more "you" they offer custom colors and graphics. This keyboard is the perfect way to keep important supplies close at hand but also out of sight.


Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Things That Make A Woman Undateable

In hopes of engaging a few of my male readers, I found this gem from Cosmo. They searched Twitter for #undateable posted by the best and the brightest in the male gene pool. And when I say best and brightest, I mean the same guys that likely are unable to get dates in the first place.


Of course I have to share a couple of my favorites....

"If you want to find 'your own Edward Cullen.'" —@Lord_Voldemort7

Hello pot? This is the kettle - you're black. Are vampires "not real" unlike wizards which are obviously very real?


"A girl that farts in her sleep." —@Zay_InkdUp

So I dated a guy a few years ago that actually farted so loud he woke himself up. I did the only appropriate thing - I laughed so hard I almost fell out of bed. Farts are funny. Chill out.



What are some of the things that make a girl/guy undateable? Personally, it's a guy that wears Ed Hardy, has bad teeth, or bigger boobs than me. Let me know some of your dealbreakers!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Giant Silicone Ice Cube Tray


Sorry for the radio silence for the past week - travels do not allow much time for blogging! However I have found some interesting products to share with you and this week is a personal favorite!

At first glance, Giant Silicone Ice Cube Trays may seem like a summer only item but they are useful year round! The principle behind them is simple - the larger the ice cube the more slowly it will melt in your glass. Rather than fill your glass with a ton of small cubes, you just need one larger cube. I love using these giant cubes in cocktails as it eliminates the watered down drink issue. Also, because the cube is larger it allows additional space if you wish to make more festive ice cubes and freeze fruit or herbs inside the cubes. They are also great to freeze other items like stock or juice to have available to help save time in the kitchen. Though if you freeze leftover wine, keep it in the tray - trust me I have made this mistake before and had to clean a mess of wine up in my freezer!

There are a number of companies that make this type of ice cube tray but my personal favorites are from Crate & Barrel & Williams-Sonoma. I have tried other silicone ice cube trays and have had problems getting the cubes to release. Both of these particular trays are very simple to use.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - The Amber Special


I realize that I have been taking some liberties with the "products" lately and this week will be no different. This week's product is in honor of my dear friend Amber who sadly passed away a year ago.


Amber was the type of girl that would light up a room just by entering it. Her energy was infectious and her smile was naturally perfect. You would want to hate her for having been spared the agony of braces but she was too nice to hate. While I met Amber in 5th grade, our friendship grew over the years and we graduated high school as dear friends. It wasn't until 2007 that we had our "friendaissance" and started traveling together with our other fabulous friend Megan. Traveling with Amber is where I first learned of today's product - The Amber Special.


Amber actually called "The Amber Special" the "Airport Special" and swore that you could go into any airport bar and they would know what you were talking about. Turns out that was not true but it didn't matter. According to Amber if you asked for the "Airport Special" you would get a special price on a beer & shot combo. We started joking that it was really just "The Amber Special" and once she passed away a mission was determined. Megan and I decided that the beer & shot combo that Amber so fondly referred to as the "Airport Special" should be known across the world as "The Amber Special".


That leads us to how you can help keep her memory alive. If you find yourself having the opportunity to order a beer and a shot together, make sure to call it "The Amber Special" and explain to the bartender why. It is really amazing how things like this can become viral.


I encourage you to have "The Amber Special" in honor of Amber on September 3 which is the day she left us. But only this year! From then on the day to have them going forward is her birthday - November 11. If you want to make it extra "Amber" be sure to stick an already chewed piece of gum on the side of your glass to save for "later".

Another great way to honor her life would be to become an organ donor. Amber was an organ donor but the realities of actually donating your organs is very complicated. Thankfully she was able to give the gift of sight to one or two people. That being said, you do not have to wait until the end of your life to give. Almost everyone is eligible to be a bone marrow donor and it is a very simple proceedure to register. I encourage you to click here to find out more. Amber was a very selfless and generous person so this is an amazing way to honor her memory.


I miss you girl.





Monday, August 29, 2011

The Bachelorette Dinner, Part 5


Yes, the most recent season of The Bachelorette is over (thank goodness) but there are still some delightful dishes to share! This particular week we supplemented our homemade dishes with Trader Joe's Balsamic Rosemary Chicken. If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it for a quick and delicious dinner.

Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing
3 cups kale, chopped
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced & pitted
1 green onion sliced
1/4 cup fennel seed
handful parsley, chopped

Tahini Dressing
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, roasted

1. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl.
2. Combine dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Just prior to serving, add a little water to dressing while stirring constantly to thin out.
3. Top with dressing and mix well.

Caprese Style Couscous
1 cup whole wheat couscous
20 mini heirloom tomatoes
1/3 cup fat free feta
6 large basil leaves, chiffonade
splash olive oil
sea salt
ground pepper

1. Cook couscous according to package instructions. Allow to cool.
2. Cut up heirloom tomatoes into small pieces.
3. Combine couscous, tomatoes, feta and basil.
4. Drizzle with olive oil and top with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Stir and serve.




Friday, August 26, 2011

Iron Chef West Hollywood, Part 3


As promised, here is the best in the recent "Iron Chef West Hollywood" series! The secret ingredients were: portobello mushroom, kale, chopped cucumber, roasted garlic, red grapes and almonds. Yes, these were a lot of items to work with but that don't really go together. Once I had the secret ingredients I did a quick scan of what I had and decided that kale and tomatoes went together. This brought me to Real Simple's Enhanced Recipe Search where I found the great pasta dish below! We made some changes (of course) so rather than write out the entire recipe, I have just noted our changes.


1. As we were only making two servings, we adjusted portions of ingredients accordingly.

2. Ingredient substitutions: baby heirloom tomatoes for grape tomatoes, roasted garlic for regular garlic, and parmesan for pecorino cheese.

3. Prep changes: Since the garlic was already roasted, we did not saute this at the beginning of the recipe. Instead it was added towards the end to heat through. Also, we did not combine everything with the pasta but rather place the kale/tomato/red onion/garlic mixture on top of the pasta. We then garnished with parmesan cheese, almonds, salt and pepper.

Cucumber & Grape Salad
Please note that measurements are approximate.
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1 cup red grapes
1/3 cup fat free feta
olive oil
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
sea salt

1. Combine cucumber, grapes, feta and mint.
2. Drizzle with olive oil and top with coarse sea salt.
3. Stir and serve.

This salad was so delicious and refreshing! It is a perfect warm weather salad and will keep well in the heat.

Portobello Mushroom with Balsamic Reduction
1 portobello mushroom top
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Place portobello mushroom and balsamic in a saute pan and cook over medium heat.
2. Turn the mushroom regularly to make sure it is cooked through.
3. Watch temperature and balsamic closely as the balsamic may reduce faster that you expect. Add additional balsamic if needed.
4. Once mushroom is cooked through, discard the remaining balsamic reduction or use for another purpose. The mushroom will have soaked up an adequate amount.




Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Gold Kiwi

Recently I was given a generous gift of a flat of gold kiwi. At first I didn't realize that these were not the regular kiwis I was used to eating. They were described to me as sweet unlike the more tart green kiwis. They are fantastic! Much softer and more tropical tasting that the kiwis you find at your local markets. If you hold a gold kiwi next to a green kiwi, you will notice their differences go beyond the color of their flesh. The gold kiwi is slightly longer with a pronounced beak-like stem. The outside is also significantly less "fuzzy" than the green kiwi.

When deciding to write about these golden kiwis, I started to do a little research and it was interesting to learn that kiwi are actually originally from China NOT New Zealand as commonly thought. The standard green kiwi was in fact developed in New Zealand where it's name was changed from the "Chinese Gooseberry" to "Kiwi". Kiwis are also a fantastic source of vitamin C and has almost as much potassium as banana.

I have been enjoying my gold kiwis simply cut up on a plate but recently made a mock tart with them. I will be sharing the recipe on a future blog entry but I'm not gonna lie - it was out of this world!

Gold kiwis are a little tricky to find. I was told that these were from the "ranch market" which I think is actually the 99 Ranch Market as this is a southern California chain. If you are outside of California, I would suggest checking with stores that carry a large variety of unusual fruit. As 99 Ranch Market specializes in Asian items, that might be another avenue to try. Hurry though as gold kiwis are only in season until the end of this month!



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Iron Chef West Hollywood, Part 2


I am so behind with recipes! Apparently I was cooking up a storm in the month of July with my fabulous creative co-chefs! Katie and I whipped up this little dinner and her "secret ingredient" was baby broccoli. The rest were items in my pantry, fridge & freezer. This meal was really good with the baby broccoli being the standout. The best of our recent Iron Chef nights is yet to come. Hopefully this week but I have a ton of Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad recipes too!

Baby Broccoli with Goat Cheese
1 package of baby broccoli (not sure of the exact size however it was purchased from Trader Joe's)
1 oz goat cheese, crumbled
olive oil (for cooking)

1. Cook baby broccoli in a skillet with olive oil. Add a little water as needed to soften the broccoli.
2. When the broccoli is tender, remove from skillet and place on plates.
3. Top with crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle with merlot salt.


Brown Rice with Roasted Garlic Salt

This was a great way to use up some extra pre-cooked brown rice. We just warmed it up and topped it with Roasted Garlic Salt for a low calorie but delicious finish.


Veggie Sausage with Garlic Mustard Aioli

Another simple dish from items in the freezer. We heated frozen veggie sausage and served it with Garlic Mustard Aioli sprinkled with fresh chives.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - DKMS Bone Marrow Donor Center

Unfortunately we have all lost loved ones for a variety of reasons. I am sure most of you would have been willing to do anything to stop that from happening. This week's "product" will help you do just that for your extended friends and family.

A woman I have never met, but a fellow employee at my company, is in desperate need of a bone marrow donation. Matching bone marrow is a very tricky thing - basically a needle in a haystack. In order to up the odds of helping her and in turn others, my company is holding a bone marrow drive. While I am going to miss participating in the drive itself, the idea that something I have in abundance can save someone's life led me directly to the website to sign up online.

By registering with the DKMS Bone Marrow Donor Center, you have the potential to give the gift of life to another person. It does not cost you anything at any point in the process other a bit of your time if you are a match. In the grand scheme of life, giving up a little time to give someone else A LOT of time is completely worth it.

Registering is so easy - dare I say it's idiot proof? You barely have to get off your couch!

1. Click here to register online.
2. Once the packet arrives, swab the inside of your cheek.
3. Put the swab in the self-addressed, stamped envelope and toss it in the mail.
4. Save a life.

I encourage you to check out some of the stories on the website including how this organization was founded if you need further motivation to register.

Once you register to be a bone marrow donor, I challenge you to inspire others to register as well. Ways you can help spread the word include:

  • Reposting this blog link or the direct link to DKMS on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Forwarding either link via email.
  • Spreading the word the old-fashioned way - verbally.
  • Hosting your own bone marrow drive.

I would love to hear from those of you that register and how you chose to help spread the word! As always, feel free to post in the comments section (regardless if you are registered), on Facebook or by sending me a personal message. I hope that many of you will join me in this important opportunity to save lives.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cooking Club, Part 1

So this past Sunday night was the first meeting of my new Cooking Club! There are a total of 6 people in the club - size based on manageable number of portions but also providing a variety of options each time we meet. The guidelines we are trying to stick with are as follows:

  • Fresh (or fresh frozen) veggies & fruit as much as possible
  • Whole grains
  • Minimally processed food
  • Organic when possible and affordable
  • Lower calorie dishes preferred
Unfortunately we did not have full participation for our first "meeting" but everyone enjoyed catching up with some light snacks and wine while exchanging delicious homemade food. Also, we are not taking credit for the recipes below but are not sure who to credit for most.

Check out the recipes below and let us know what you think!

Rachael's Contribution: Matzo Ball Soup

A few notes from Rachael:
I cook a whole chicken in a crock pot for about 4 hours on high (6-7 on low) or until the meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees since its a whole chicken. You can also do this with some chicken thighs if you are making a small portion. Remember to remove the giblets inside the chicken and then put your "poultry bouquet" of herbs (found in the produce section) inside the chicken. Add about 2 cups of water, salt, pepper, and the veggies listed on the recipe.

After the chicken is cooked remove it from the pot and use the juices to add to the chicken stock. This homemade stock gives you all the great flavor. Once you've heated your broth, pull the chicken from the breasts to add to the soup, chop up some of the cooked carrots, add your cooked matzo balls, and then a few sprigs of dill. (Note: I chopped the dill too fine and it made the soup look green. Just chopped it a few times. I also did not use the chicken fat in the matzo balls since we wanted to keep it healthier. I cooked the balls for only about 10 mins since they were on the smaller side.)


Jasmin's Contribution: Gluten Free Baked Penne with Spinach

1 large bag of gluten free penne pasta
3 large cans of organic crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 container of low cal fresh mozzarella - bocachinni if you can get it
1 small tub of low fat ricotta cheese
1 small white onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 container of grated parm cheese (the good stuff)
1 large bag fresh spinach
Fresh basil
Fresh oregano
6 pepper cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbspn of olive oil

Sauce
In a large pot heat olive oil, add crushed garlic and diced onions

Once onions are translucent, add basil, oregano, pepper cloves, salt and pepper. Mix and simmer for 1 minute.

Add crushed tomatoes and stirr. Bring to boil on high/ med heat. Once boiled, stirr and reduce to simmer for 1 hour.

After an hour, add tomatoe paste and add 1/2 tub of reduced fat parm cheese. Stir, simmer for 1 additional hour.

After 2 hours, add 1 large bag of fresh spinach to sauce. Let cook/ wilt for 5 mins.

Boil pasta in separate pot.

In lasagna tray, add sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add layer of pasta. On top of pasta layer mozzarella cheese and spread ricotta cheese in a thin layer. Repeat to desired amount. Very important ( be liberal with the sauce, especially cover the sides and corners to avoid burning). When layers are completed, cover with tin foil and bake on 350 for 45 mins. After 45 mins, remove foil and bake for another 20 mins uncovered ( to allow for crisp).

And there you have it! Serves 8+. Enjoy!


Mia's Contribution: Pasta with Potatoes & Spinach

Pasta/Potatoes

1 1/2 vegetable bullion cubes

16 oz whole wheat pasta (I also use the organic brown rice pasta from TJ’s but it doesn’t taste that great the next day)

4 small caribe (or any potatoes (about 1 lb)

Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp dried basil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup vegetable broth/stock

1 lemon juiced

4 cups amaranth or fresh spinach, washed and chopped if leaves are large

1 15 oz can cannellini beans

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp fresh basil (optional)

2 tbsp fresh chives (optional)

1) Add water to a large pot. Bring to a boil.

2) Slice potatoes: quarter, then slice lengthwise, 1/4”.

3) Once water is boiling, add bullion cubes. Stir until they're dissolved. Add potatoes and pasta (in that order). Cover. Cook until pasta is al dente and potatoes are tender/cooked all the way through. Drain and return to pot.

In the meantime...

4) In a small bowl, combine dried basil and olive oil. Mix. Set aside

5) In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add basil and warm through. Add garlic. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until fragrant and it just starts to brown.

6) Add vegetable broth and lemon juice, scraping bottom of pan with your spoon to get all the good stuff mixed in.

7) Add greens. Stir until just wilted. Add beans with just a bit of the bean water. Stir and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

8) In the large pasta pot (assuming it will leave room for you to stir), add sauce to the pasta/potatoes and mix it all together.

9) Garnish with fresh basil and chives if you have them lying around. I had just a few leaves of basil and barely an ounce of chives I needed to use. That’s why they’re in there.


Gretchen's Contribution: Taco Soup

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

2 cans Rotel (comes in several flavors: original, mild, Mexican, hot)

1 15 oz. can corn, drained

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained

1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained

1 15 oz. can refried beans, fat free

2 9.75 oz. cans of white meat chicken, drained

1 packet taco seasoning mix

1-2 packets Ranch dressing powder mix (I use one, less salty)

Place all ingredients in a crockpot (break up chicken as you put it in crockpot for best results) and simmer on HIGH for about 1 ½ - 2 hours. Stir the mixture several times during the cooking process.

Serve with shredded fat free cheese (or your favorite cheese). One cup is an ample serving when you add the cheese. You can also top with crumbled baked tortilla chips, fat free sour cream or avocado.

Serves 10


Katie's Contribution: Slow Cooked Braised Pork with Roasted Tomatillo

4lb boneless pork shoulder or butt

2 cups tomatillo or salsa verde

2 1/3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1 large onion

1 1/3 tsp. cumin seeds or ground cumin

4 plum tomatoes

2/3 cup cilantro

quinoa

1. Trim and discard pork surface fat. Cut meat apart following layers of fat around muscles to trim fat. Cut into 2" chunks and rinse with cold water. Place in a 5 qt slow cooker and cook on high.

2. Combine tomatillo, broth, onion & cumin in saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Pour over meat, then add tomatoes and stir gently. Place lid on slow cooker and cook for 6-7 hours until meat pull apart easily.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork into a large bowl. Cover and keep warm. Pour sauce and vegetables into skillet & skim fat. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil skimming froth periodically for 20 minutes. Add pork and cilantro while heating through.

4. Serve over rice/quinoa (cook per package instructions) and garnish with sour cream and cilantro.




Friday, August 12, 2011

Seven Most Debated Tipping Issues

Yesterday I read an interesting article on Zagat.com regarding tipping issues at restaurants. It seems that everyone has their own methodology to how they determine the amount they tip. Are you a double the tax person? Is 15% enough or is 20% the minimum? What about those of you that have worked in the service industry? What are your thoughts?

I love hearing your feedback both in the comments section and on Facebook! Keep in mind that you can post on this page anonymously so I encourage you to comment here as often as you wish!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Salon Grafix Dry Shampoo


What is dry shampoo? Dry shampoo is the perfect tool to use when you need to stretch your hair for just one more day between washes. It dries up the oil, adds volume and refreshes with a pleasant scent. Well, that is what it is supposed to do....

Many dry shampoos on the market do all of the above but they also do not blend well with an individual's hair color. Oscar Blandi makes both a classic and revised version but they are a little clumpy (I would choose baby powder over these options). Bumble & Bumble makes colored powder for a variety of hair colors - but what if you are in between colors?

That is where Salon Grafix comes in and knocks these big brands off their high horses! Salon Grafix Dry Shampoo is an invisible formula that works for any hair color while delivering all of the key facets of a dry shampoo. Because it is invisible, this makes it easy to use for the dry shampoo novice. Personally having tried all of the brands mentioned in this entry, Salon Grafix is the only one I will ever use again. To make it even better, it is a fraction of the price of the other fancier brands.

Salon Grafix Dry Shampoo is available at a variety of drug stores, Target, Walmart and Ulta.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Iron Chef West Hollywood, Part 1


So first of all, I must apologize for the week plus of radio silence! New job = reduced blogging time. Good for me, bad for you. Not to worry, I plan to make time for all of you as I have so many "recipes" to share!

This is the first in a series I am calling "Iron Chef West Hollywood" because the meals are essentially made from ingredients in my pantry and random additions by my friend Katie. I posted a recipe for Fresh Vegetable Pasta last month which was the precursor to this new series. Please note that these recipes more than ever will be less specific with proportions but I promise to do my best to give you as much accuracy as possible!

Apple & Leek Pasta
1 1/2 cup frozen leeks (or fresh leeks if you desire)
1/2 golden delicious apple, diced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
whole wheat pasta (2 servings - we went light on the pasta)
garlic olive oil
olive oil
shaved parmesan cheese
sea salt

1. Cook pasta according to directions.
2. Saute leeks in a little olive oil until slightly browned.
3. Top pasta with leeks and apple.
4. Drizzle with garlic olive oil.
5. Top with parmesan, mint and sea salt to taste.

Serves 2


Friday, July 29, 2011

Wedding Guest Dos and Don'ts

So this weekend Melissa and Andy will tie the knot! In honor of their upcoming nuptials, here is a great article to help you be a perfect wedding guest.


Regardless if you are a wedding guest or planning your own trip to the alter, don't miss out on my other wedding related posts!




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Flower Pepper


This week is back to "normal" for Product Placement Wednesday and I have a wonderful new product for you! Trader Joe's has recently released Flower Pepper complete with grinder. The blend includes black peppercorns, rose petals, calendula, lavender and cornflower. Floral flavors can be tricky to use but the black peppercorn makes it a little less intimidating.

There are so many uses for this product but so far I have found myself using primarily on salads. I look forward to using it as a crust for a goat cheese medallion and to season roast chicken. It would also make a nice savory addition to certain desserts. I envision somesort of vanilla and lavender dessert (possibly a creme brulee) with a light dusting of this pepper. I had this amazing lavender ice cream at The Foundry once that would probably also be an excellent balance to this pepper. I feel you are only limited by your imagination and willingness to experiment! Be sure to let me know what you try it on!



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Half-Birthday To Me!


Today is my half-birthday and I technically was another half year older at 3.03pm ET. Growing up we always celebrated our half-birthdays. My brother's half-birthday is a few weeks after mine and we would have a cake at that time since my parents didn't want to create two half-birthday cakes. Too bad they didn't think of this idea at the time!


There is a great photo somewhere of me and my brother with our half-birthday sheet cake. We were each able to decorate half of the cake. Unfortunately this photo has disappeared into somesort of other universe since no one can find it. Most years (UNLIKE this year) my parents will still call me on my half-birthday just to wish me a happy half-birthday. It may seem silly but it is nice to get that warm birthday feeling when your big day is still very far away.

So that brings me to the point of this entry. We need to celebrate more half-birthdays! Half-birthdays are great for kids because they love getting older. Having a half-birthday mini-celebration reminds them that they are on track. Those of us that are not as thrilled with getting older can still celebrate! This is proof that we have MADE IT another 6 months - something that gets more and more important the older we get.

Presents are not necessary for the half-birthday but a half dozen roses or a half carat diamond are always lovely gifts. If nothing else, it gives your friends and family the six month warning that your birthday is coming up so they can start their shopping before all the good gifts are taken. Of course I know that you are all experts in gift giving since you read my previous entry on the topic!

With that in mind, please indulge me while I share a few items from my "wish list". These are all on the higher end but they would make great group gifts so start planning now! :)

Barbie Dream House



Guns N Roses Pinball



Savannah Cat


Not too much to ask for right? Okay, maybe a little bit out there. Maybe some cake pops from Surprise Surprise Bake Shop would be more appropriate for a half-birthday? What outlandish things would love to get for your birthday (or half-birthday)? Remember you do not need to be registered to post on this blog! I love hearing from you!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Bachelorette Dinner, Part 4

Last week we skipped dinner due to scheduling challenges but that doesn't mean we needed to skip dessert! Popsicles are a quintessential summer treat and so easy to make yourself. Plus homemade popsicles are much more nutritious than the store bought variety. A few months ago, I shared my simple recipe for yogurt popsicles during The Bachelor Dinner, Part 3. This time the pops are dairy free and have only two ingredients!

Simple Strawberry Popsicles
Note - Quantity of ingredients will vary based on the number of popsicles and size of mold.

Fresh Strawberries
Sugar Free Lemon-Lime Flavored Sparkling Water (seltzer water can be substituted but you will need to add a bit of sweetener)

1. Place clean, de-stemmed strawberries into blender.
2. Add sparkling water until the berries are half covered.
3. Blend to your desired consistency and add more water if needed.
4. Strain seeds if desired.
5. Pour into popsicle molds.
6. Freeze.

I created this recipe when I had strawberries to quickly use up but I think it would work well with other fruit/water combos. Blueberry and lemon sound particularly good to me!

My molds were from IKEA but I found these cute molds at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Amazon.com.

Has anyone else created any fun popsicle recipes this summer? Are you too busy or lazy to make your own popsicles? Check out Trader Joe's Peach Pops!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anti-Product Placement Wednesday - Dog Strollers


This past week someone asked me if I ever do negative reviews. While I feel that it goes against the idea of "Product Placement Wednesday," when inspiration hits, you can't fight it.

Yesterday I saw a woman pushing a dog stroller at The Grove. That's right a DOG STROLLER. Yes, I have seen this monstrosity before and it was appalling then too. This little tiny dog was just cruising along like it was a small child. I did not grow up with dogs but from what I know of dog owners is that most people treat their dog like a dog. Now I know there are all kinds of ways to treat your dog more like a person like giving them a mani/pedi or taking them to the shrink - I think that is weird too but the dog stroller pushes me over the edge. I am a cat person and I would never do anything other than treat it like a cat (except maybe teach it to pee in the toilet or walk on a leash).

I found this blog post titled 16 Reasons to Use a Dog Stroller on a site that - you guessed it - sells dog strollers! Why does your dog need to go everywhere with you? Are all dogs too lazy to walk? Even if your dog is elderly, the dog stroller just seems like a cruel way to taunt them about how they used to have legs that would take them for long walks.

So instead of encouraging you to by a product today, I am encouraging you to have a little self respect - if not for you then for your dog - and run away from the dog stroller craze!

Have you already given in and are cruising around town with your dog waving to passersby? Tell me why this item works for you. I am dying to know.

Maybe "Anti-Product Placement Wednesday" should just be "Crazy Rant Wednesday"?



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Bachelorette Dinner, Part 3


So there is a pretty good chance I am losing my mind. I SWEAR I posted this entry but apparently only in Gretchenland. I know I had intended to post it prior to the 4th of July weekend because it would have been perfect for all of your outdoor soirees. Alas, you will just have to have more fabulous people over this weekend and give it a whirl. Trust me when I say that the photo does not do these dishes justice. I am still working on my food photography skills. :)

Salmon "Pistou"
Note: This is not a traditional Pistou but is a great compliment to the salmon.

16 oz salmon, approximate
1/3 cup dill, chopped
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
1/3 cup pistachios, toasted & chopped
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except for the salmon and set aside. Pistou can be made up to 2 hours in advance.
2. Grill salmon to desired temperature.
3. Top salmon with pistou.
4. Slice and serve.

Serves 4 (makes great leftovers!)

Whole Foods Kalameta Olive and Feta Couscous
Note: This is a copycat version of a prepared food item at Whole Foods. The portions of each ingredient were approximated based on taste.

1 cup of whole wheat couscous (use butter or oil per instructions on box)
1/3 cup red (or red and orange) peppers, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup fat free feta (regular feta can be used too)
1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped and approximate (dried can be used instead but it is not as good and requires a lot more to get the desired flavor)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, approximate
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, approximate
fresh ground sea salt

1. Prepare couscous per package instructions using either butter or oil. Allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Mix red peppers, onions, feta, kalamata olives, oregano, and parsley with couscous.
3. Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a separate bowl. Pour onto couscous.
4. Combine dry couscous salad and dressing well.
5. Grind (or sprinkle) sea salt on top and mix well.
6. Taste and adjust seasoning or dressing as needed.

Serves 8 sides (at least)

Besides these delightful items, we enjoyed Trader Joe's Tomato and Olive Focaccia Bread (which while not low calorie is extremely delicious and made a great sandwich the next day).

As is par for the course this season, our meal outshined The Bachelorette. When I say outshined, I am referring to how the sun outshines a mud puddle. Will we keep watching? Of course. It is like that proverbial train wreck and we can't look away.