Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My New Favorite Cleaning Tool

So I had heard about a cleaning tool called a "grout pen" from my dad however when I asked the folks at Home Depot (figuring that was the logical place to go for something like this) they looked at me like I had made up this amazing invention. Turns out I didn't need to go to Home Depot but my local neighborhood Target now that Tilex makes a Tile and Grout Pen. If you have tile you need to buy this pen. I live in an old building and the grout in my kitchen is probably from the 50's. I used this pen on it and it is WHITE again. It wasn't as white as I would have liked when I initially wiped it off but it kept getting whiter as the bleach finished soaking in. I do recommend that you put on an old shirt to do this as while I was extremely careful I still got a tiny bit on the shirt I was wearing. Bleach + black = bad news.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Bachelor Dinner, Part 7

The Bachelor may be over for the season but that doesn't mean that the fabulous and easy meals need to stop! I have a few menus from earlier in the season to share until The Bachelorette starts in May.

Open Face Chicken BLT
Ciabatta Rolls
Chicken Breast
Olive Oil
Garlic Spread (This was from the farmers market so if not available use a garlic aioli instead.)

1. Cook chicken and bacon in your preferred style. We cooked the chicken in a grill pan and the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven.
2. As the meats finish cooking, place ciabatta rolls in the oven to warm and lightly toast. Note: You are only using half a roll per person as this is an open face sandwich.
3. Spread rolls with garlic spread and begin assembling the sandwich. Chicken, bacon, tomato, and arugula.
4. Top with a drizzle of olive oil.

Bruschetta Quinoa Salad
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups Chicken Broth (Vegetable Broth or Water can be substituted)
1/2 Container Bruschetta Sauce from Trader Joe's (Diced tomatoes, garlic, basil & olive oil can be substituted)
Mini Sweet Bell Peppers

1. Prepare quinoa with chicken broth in either a rice cooker or on the stove according to package directions. Allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Dice mini sweet bell peppers and cucumber. Quantities will vary based on size and desired taste. It is better to start out with less and add more to taste. We used approximately 3 peppers and 2/3 a cucumber. Add to cooled quinoa.
3. Using a slotted spoon, add bruschetta sauce to cooled quinoa. Stir.
4. Taste and adjust quantities of add-ins as needed.

Makes approximately 8 side servings.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of these dishes but they are pretty simple. The great thing about the quinoa salad is that it keeps for days. You can make it at the beginning of the week and enjoy it as a side with a variety of other meals.

You Shouldn't Have! - A Guide to Gifting

I am sure you are wondering why at the end of March I would choose to write about gifting. Shouldn't that be saved for November as everyone begins to spend their life savings on holiday gifts for family, friends and that annoying co-worker that always gets you a gift? Absolutely not! There are occasions for gifting year round and with these helpful hints you will be an all-star gift giver by the time the holidays roll around!

I know I am not the first person to spread this wisdom around but what makes me different from the Martha Stewarts and Real Simples of the world is that I have actually made the majority of the mistakes I will be helping you avoid. They say the best way to learn is to learn by experience so I suggest you sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine and learn by mine.

Choosing The Gift
Actually choosing the gift can be the easiest or most difficult part of the gifting process depending on how well you know the recipient. Even for those we know the best, we still might not know what they truly want. Here are some easy ways to make foolproof selections.

1. Ask them what they would like. - This seems like the easiest and most logical but it is tricky. Often when faced with this question the recipient's response goes something like this: "You really don't need to get me anything." or "I'm sure whatever you choose will be great." This brings you back to square one.

2. Look on their "Wish List". - What's an Wish List you ask? Only one of the greatest gift giving inventions of our time. Amazon has pretty much everything under the sun available for sale and the Wish List feature allows you to let generate a list of the items you would like to receive. Have an item you desire that isn't on Amazon? Just download the "Add to Wish List" button and you can add items from all over the internet. The Wish List can be set to a variety of privacy settings so you can add all the "Toddlers & Tiaras" DVDs you want and don't have to worry about the entire world knowing. Personally I update mine all year long as I see a new item that looks interesting. Unfortunately I can't buy everything I want the second I want it so this allows me to "save it for later." So the gift recipient doesn't have an Amazon Wish List? I suggest you lead by example and start one of your own. Then you can share the idea with your family and friends which will eventually eliminate this problem!

3. Buy them something you think they will like. - This is probably what you've been doing all along. As I mentioned above, if you know the recipient well, then this is likely the easiest way to go. I have one friend in particular that always knows what to get me and it's usually something I didn't even know I wanted (though he said that a few years he knew what to get me because I told him earlier in the year - another tip - use your listening skills!). Use your context clues to see what they like and what they already have before shopping. It should give you the inspiration you need.

4. When you are still at a loss.... - As Mr. Birchum says on the KROQ 1996 Christmas Tape (yes, that's right - TAPE), you go for the big three and don't stray - booze, porn or cash (or for him the big four - booze, porn, cash and more porn). Now I'm not suggesting that you buy your friends and family porn. From what I understand that's really more of a personal choice. Booze and cash in the form of champagne and gift cards are another story. If the recipient enjoys alcohol, champagne or wine are always great gifts. If you know that they enjoy a specific spirit or microbrew, that is an option as well. For those with a more robust budget, you can always purchase a wine or beer of the month club for a certain duration of time.

Alcohol not their thing? Gift cards are always a safe option. The best gift cards are to places you already know that they frequent. Two of my favorite gift cards in recent memory were both very practical. The first was to Whole Foods where I pick up an item or two weekly. While I ate everything I bought, I was able to appreciate that gift every week when I went shopping. The second was an online gift certificate to Snapfish which is my preferred photo site. I was able to purchase well over 300 photos and preserve all of those memories in an album. These examples are meant to show you that thinking outside the box can make something as simple as a gift card special.

5. What about regifting? - Regifting is a touchy subject. We've all done it regardless if we admit to it. While a new gift is preferred, sometimes regifting is a viable option. Here are some guidelines to assist you in making sure you regift successfully.

  • Make sure the gift is something the recipient will actually want and enjoy. Just because you received two blenders for your wedding does not mean that your sister wants or needs one.
  • The gift needs to be in new condition. Don't "try" something and then regift it. That goes for items that are missing pieces or are damaged too.
  • Remove all traces of the previous gifting. This includes all wrapping paper, personal notes (personalization on the item itself means it can't be regifted) enclosed in the packaging, gift cards on the gift bag, etc. Just because you don't see these telltale signs of a regift when you quickly glance at the gift, know that the recipient will find them. Go over the item with a fine tooth comb.
  • Don't regift within the same circle of friends. This goes without saying - you will get busted.
6. Non-tangible gifts - There are lots of special gifts you can give someone either as a main gift or in addition to the main gift. These don't have to cost a lot of money but are extremely thoughtful. It could be as simple as making a special dinner or making a funny card. Because this type of gift is best when it is personal, it is difficult to give specific examples of things you can do. One recent gift I received that fell into this category was from my last birthday. A friend placed a cupcake and flower vase on an adorable little plate with a sign that said "Eat Me". The items were all great on their own but putting them together with the sign pulled them all together and also went with my party theme.

7. Gifts to Avoid - Clothes, fragrance, bath products, personalized gifts, knock-offs, exercise equipment, and art. This list is far from complete but is somewhere to start. Feel strongly that you know the recipient will love a particular item? See gift receipt below.

Giving the Gift
Once you jump over the first hurdle and have selected the gift, the final step is giving it. Easy as pie right? Nope. This is where a lot of people suffer defeat.

1. Give them a gift receipt. - For those that have been living under a rock, gift receipts allow your recipient to return and/or exchange a gift without the original receipt. We all like to think that our gifts are going to be a slam dunk but unfortunately that is unlikely. Gift receipts sound like a no-brainer but they are often not used. In the past I know I have refrained from providing a gift receipt when I have gotten a particularly good deal on the gift. This is wrong. Trust me when I tell you that if you purchased a sweater that didn't fit the recipient, they are not going to care that you spent $50 or $25 on it. It is an item that they can't enjoy regardless of what you spent. Who loses in that situation? Everyone. You have spent money on something that is likely going to charity (or possibly regifted) when the purpose was to treat the recipient. The gift receipt also works on the flip side of this scenario. Let's say you purchased the sweater at $50 and now it's marked down to $25. Even if the store will exchange it without a receipt, they will only give current value. Your $50 purchase is now only worth $25.

I have a friend who is excellent at providing gift receipts. She always does a great job selecting gifts she knows I will enjoy however there did come an occasion when she purchased an item I already owned. The gift receipt made the exchange simple and painless for all. I have also experienced the flip side and have ended up with two of the same item and been unable to return either. The morale of this story? Gift receipts, gift receipts, gift receipts.

2. Wrapping the gift to perfection. - The art of gift wrapping is a dying art since the invention of the gift bag. I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to gift bags. They are so simple and easy to use (and reuse). If you are willing and able to actually wrap the gift, more power to you. I look forward to receiving a gift from you! If you are like me and sticking with the gift bag option, here are a few helpful hints to make your gift look like a million bucks!
  • Keep a variety of bags on hand so you have a variety of options when it comes time to wrap. Think of square peg, round hole. A too large gift jammed into a bag doesn't not look good.
  • Match your tissue paper to the bag. It doesn't have to be matchy matchy but complementary. I like to buy a package with a wide selection of colors which requires less storage space than buying a different package for each bag.
  • If you are going to reuse a gift bag, make sure it is in pristine condition. No wrinkles, tears, etc. Also, check the bag tag for a personal note. If it's there, remove it. Bags that don't pass this test need to be reused for your personal business or recycled.
  • Be sure to fluff up the tissue right before presenting to the recipient. If the gift may be damaged in travel, assemble just before gifting.

Accepting the Gift
So you are the gift recipient? Congrats on your birthday, wedding, etc! Let's say the gift giver didn't follow any of my advice. What should you do?

1. Thank them. - Regardless of how you feel about the gift, you need to thank them. Both when you open it (if they are around) and also with a thank you note. Thank you notes can be hand written or online through a site like Paperless Post.

2. Be honest. - If they ask you how you like a gift and it something you already have, let them know that you love it adding something about how great minds thing alike. They may offer to exchange it for you. Regardless, don't make a big deal about it. You don't want to make the gift giver feel bad about giving the gift.

3. Recommend On The Tart Side. - Have family and friends that can use some of this advice? Suggest that they read this blog!

It is my hope that these tips will help you become a better gift giver and in turn set an example which will result in you receiving amazing gifts for each occasion. Can you think of any good advice I forgot? Comment and let me know!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bachelor Dinner, Part 6

So this week was the finale of this season of The Bachelor so we decided to go all out for our last dinner of the season. What we came up with was a healthy menu with strong herbal and Asian influences.

Thai Basil Crusted Chicken
Chicken Breast (single cut breasts are better than the double cut as they will cook more quickly without getting too browned)

1. Cover each side of the each chicken breast with a light coating of the Thai Basil Sea Salt.
2. Let sit at least 20 minutes.
3. Grill until done or if cooking inside use a grill pan for best results.

The Thai Basil Sea Salt was amazing and we plan to experiment with it and other meats too. I think it would also be great on tofu.

Quinoa Salad
2 Cups Chicken Broth (Vegetable Broth or Water can be substituted)
1 Cup Quinoa
1 Clove Garlic, chopped
1 Carrot
2 Celery Stalks
2 Sprigs of Green Onion
1/2 Red Pepper
Handful of Baby Heirloom Tomatoes (Cherry Tomatoes can be substituted)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1.5 Limes, juice only
Cilantro, Basil, Mint, Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Prepare quinoa with chicken broth and garlic in either a rice cooker or on the stove according to package directions. Allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Dice carrot, celery, green onion, and red pepper. Add to cooled quinoa.
3. Thinly slice tomatoes. Add to cooled quinoa.
4. Finely cut up cilantro, basil and mint. Add to cooled quinoa.
5. Add olive oil and lime juice to quinoa and vegetable mixture. Stir.
6. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Makes at least 8 side servings.

Sauteed Bok Choy, Broccolini & Green Cabbage
Equal amounts of Bok Choy, Broccolini, & Green Cabbage
12 Cloves Garlic
Grapeseed Oil (another oil can be substituted if need be)
Toasted Sesame Oil
Sesame Seeds

1. Saute bok choy, broccolini, green cabbage and garlic in an appropriate amount of grapeseed oil.
2. When vegetables are nearly done, add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and the sesame seeds.

Very Herby Salad
1 Bag of Herb Salad from Trader Joe's (If this salad is not available, use regular mixed greens and add cilantro, parsley and dill)
5-7 Basil leaves, finely chopped
4-6 Chives, finely chopped
Fresh shaved Parmesan, optional

1. Empty Herb Salad into a large bowl.
2. Add basil and chives.
3. Add parmesan if you wish.
4. Add dressing and toss.

Makes approximately 4 side servings.

We also enjoyed a cheese plate as a pre/post dinner snack as well as the Mango on Sticky Rice for dessert from Trader Joe's. The Mango on Sticky Rice is a large dessert and very filling due to the large amount of rice. We shared a piece and probably could have shared with another person too.

As for wine, we started with a glass of The Prisoner, followed by a Riesling from Silverlake Wine, and finished the evening with Pierre Sparr Cremant Brut Rose from BottleRock LA.

Even though The Bachelor is over for the season you won't have to wait until The Bachelorette starts up again for new recipes! I still have three weeks from earlier this season to share! Don't forget to comment if you try any of the recipes. Cooking isn't a perfect science so I would love to hear what works and what doesn't work for you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Date Do's and Don'ts For Boys

I have gone on a lot of dates. Some would say this makes me a dating expert and others would probably say this proves that I know absolutely nothing about dating. What everyone can agree on is that I have got some GREAT stories to share. Don't get your hopes up - that is fodder for a different post(s). A global problem I have found is that guys don't know how to behave on dates - especially the first date. So in an effort to help the male species, please find my Do's and Don'ts for First Dates!

Do - Actually ask us out on a date.
Don't - Ask us to hang out.

My good friend Jen circulated this article last week which covers this point beautifully. If we are friends, then yes let's hang out. If you like me more than friends, then ask me out on a date already!

Do - Be chivalrous.
Don't - Be too cool to open the door.

While most modern woman are very independent, we still appreciate when a guy opens the door for us, walks on the appropriate side of the street, let's us order first, etc. Even in the situation where a woman prefers a guy not to do these things, she will never scold him for doing so (and if she does then she has other issues and it's time to cut your losses). It's all about showing respect and we notice.

Do - Be on time.
Don't - Go ahead and order if you arrive first.

I live in LA and traffic sucks. If my date is scheduled to begin at 8pm and I arrive by 8.05 it's basically like being on time. I would give him the same benefit of the doubt. If you'll be any later, you need to call or text. In the meantime, if you do arrive early and/or before your date it's rude to go ahead and order. Now I know I said I wasn't going to get into the stories but this is begging for an example. I was meeting a guy for coffee and as I pulled in the parking lot I saw him walking up to the door. He was probably waiting for me all of 30 seconds until I parked and walked in the shop. In the meantime he had already gotten in line to order his beverage. This isn't the only time this has happened and it's just awkward. If your date is going to be extremely late and/or she says to go ahead and get something it is acceptable, otherwise it's not.

Do - Offer to pay.
Don't - Act weird when the bill comes.

I'm sure some of my male readers are balking at this one. Some may even say "Whomever does the asking should pay." You are wrong. It is again a sign of respect to pay for the first date. After that, you can take turns or whatever. On a tight budget? Then you should suggest a place to meet up - that is in your budget. Coffee dates are very easy on the budget - at most you might be out $10 for both of your beverages. Remember the date I mentioned above? That guy didn't even offer to buy a coffee drink for me. If a guy won't buy you a coffee, what does that say about how he will value and treat you in general? Another quick example, I was on a date with a guy that insisted on ordering a bottle of wine to enjoy with our meal. He reviewed the wine list and picked out the bottle (an expensive bottle of course). When the bill came he acted very jumpy. It was very uncomfortable and he all but signed the check under my nose so I could see how much he spent. If you are intent on splitting the check at any point in the dating process, it's inappropriate to choose an overly expensive item without the other person's knowledge (ladies this goes for you too).

Do - Ask questions to get to know your date and determine if there is chemistry.
Don't - Grill your date like you are auditioning for some cop show.

Dates are stressful for a lot of people for many reasons. Some people are very focused on their mental checklist and need to see if their date meets all of their criteria. A date should be a conversation not an interview. I once felt like I was on a job interview to be Mr. X's wife. I could tell you after about 10 minutes I knew it was not the job for me. Probably one of the longest hours of my life. If you're nervous, try to find common interests that are easy to talk about. That will at least get the conversation flowing. Current events, movies, old school Saturday morning cartoons are all easy topics to discuss. I also like to use a technique I stole from another friend - bring lottery scratchers on your date. It is really a great icebreaker and someone might win a little money!

Do - Be honest with your opinions.
Don't - Antagonize your date when your opinions differ.

Even the most solid couples don't agree on everything and you and your date are probably no exception. When finding a challenging area, be sure to ask enough questions to understand their position on the topic if it is a deal breaker for you. If it is not a deal breaker, it is better to steer the conversation in another direction. Nothing can ruin a date faster than having a heated argument. You would think this is a no brainer but unfortunately that is far from the truth.

Do - Be over your ex before you go out.
Don't - Focus too much on either person's past dating life.

Keep in mind this is the first date in the real world not on a tv show like The Bachelor. You don't have only 5 minutes to decide if you want to marry this person. Everyone has a past and the key is that you are ready for a relationship not what your track record looks like. It seem like a standard first date question goes something like this "When was your last long term relationship?" I propose that we throw that question out of the first date repertoire. Spend more time getting to know who the person is in the present and where they are going in life rather than their past.

Do - Have a good time on your date and have a cocktail or two.
Don't - Have such a good time that you can't drive home.

Nothing is more awkward and disrespectful on a first date (or really any date until you are more serious - however you wish to define that) than a guy trying to guilt you into letting him stay at your place because he's "too drunk to drive home". I know for a fact (courtesy of a male friend who will remain nameless to protect his guilt) that this is a ploy some guys use in hopes of getting a little somethin somethin. If you got drunk so you could try to make a move (or even if you are just pretending), you are a dirtbag. If you got drunk on accident, learn to hold your liquor or drink less.

Unfortunately I don't have good advice for those guys that are just straight up socially awkward. Best you can do is put yourself in other social situations (other than dating) until you learn to loosen up and carry on conversations like the rest of us.

To my lovely female readers - Did I miss any key advice you think the men of the world need to be more successful daters? Please post it below!

To the fabulous gay men and women that read this blog - Would love to hear your thoughts on how this applies to same sex couples!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Bachelor Dinner, Part 5

So as you can see, I'm not really one for recipes. I like to think of them as jumping off points. Well this week I made on of the dishes from an actual recipe! Ok, I made a few small adjustments but more or less followed the recipe. This week we enjoyed Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula, Lemon Chicken, and Green Beans with Red Onion and Creamy Feta Dressing.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta
I didn't follow a recipe when I made this particular dish. I looked at a number of similar recipes online and they all included extra oil, butter or cream. I wanted to keep it light and healthy. This is the closest recipe I could find online after the fact - Lemon Ricotta Pasta for those of you that would prefer a standard recipe. Here is the Gretchen version:

1/2 lb Whole Wheat Rotelle Pasta (Penne, Fusilli, or other similar pasta would be a good substitute)
15 oz Fat Free Ricotta Cheese (I used slightly less because I already ate part of it. :) )
1 Lemon - Zest & Juice (I only used juice from 1/2 the lemon but it could have used a bit more. Adjust to your taste.)
1 Bag of Arugula - rinsed and chopped

1. Cook the pasta until it is al dente.
2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the ricotta cheese, lemon zest (do yourself a favor and buy a microplane instead of a standard zester. So much easier!), lemon juice (squeeze through your fingers to catch seeds), garlic (to taste), salt (to taste) and pepper (to taste).
3. When the pasta is done, first scoop out 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
4. Place desired amount of arugula into pasta strainer. The heat of the pasta will wilt the arugula. You may not choose to use the entire bag but I would recommend at least half a bag because it shrinks up a lot.
5. Dump pasta into strainer.
6. Mix reserved pasta water into ricotta mixture until desired consistency is reached. The recipe I linked to above says to use the entire 1/3 cup but I didn't even use half that much. It is up to you how thin you want your sauce to be.
7. Throw pasta and arugula back into pot and top with ricotta mixture.
8. Stir all items together and serve!

Servings - 4 to 6 healthy sides

Lemon Chicken
This was not made from scratch but purchased from Trader Joe's. If you choose to make your own lemon chicken, I recommend using real lemons and not lemon juice from a bottle no matter what the recipe says. I have horrible memories of that flavor from when I was a kid. (Sorry Mom. I know you were just trying to expand our menu options. I will share your amazing Blueberry Muffins in a future entry!) When enjoying pasta leftovers, I made some turkey meatballs and they were also pretty good with the pasta. I nice chicken sausage would probably also be quite good.

Green Beans with Red Onion and Creamy Feta Dressing
As I mentioned, I basically followed the recipe on this on. This recipe is from the I Heart Trader Joe's Cookbook but it is easy to make even if you don't have a Trader Joe's nearby. I'll note my substitutions in parenthesis. Also, I only made about 1/2 the dressing as I wasn't sure how long it would keep and there were only two of us for dinner. It still turned out great!

1 16 oz Package Fresh Green Beans, trimmed & steamed (12 oz Haricot Vert Steam in Bag)
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup Plain Yogurt (Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt)
3/4 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled (Fat Free Feta Cheese)
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or Red Wine Vinegar (I used the vinegar)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Chopped Basil, for garnish

1. Arrange green beans on a serving plate and scatter most of the red onion slices over the surface, reserving a few.
2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Note: The dressing will be thick with pieces of feta throughout.
3. Dollop the dressing over the salad and garnish with reserved red onion slices and basil.

I mixed the onion into the dressing as I was plating up individual portions and it worked just fine.

Servings - 4 to 6

We enjoyed a rose wine with our meal though I think I crisp white would also be good.

This meal was SO easy and pretty healthy. I hope you'll try it out soon. Please let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ultimate Eye Cream Search, Part 1

Recently the focus of this blog has been in the realm of cooking and entertaining. It is time we mix it up. What better way for this mad scientist to discover the ultimate eye cream than to try a whole mess of them out? I have been wearing eye cream for about 10 years - ever since a slightly younger friend of mine turned me on to it. I was surprised why someone of her age was so diligent about using eye cream - her response "Because I don't want to get wrinkles." I was sold.

This series to find the ultimate eye cream does not have a set number of parts. After trying a few, I will write about them. The series will end either when I find the best one, I get bored or possibly a combination of the two. Keep in mind that these are my observations on various eye creams and pending your own skin type and needs eye creams I don't think are particularly fabulous might be your dream come true. That being said, you may need to read between the lines a bit to determine which ones you like to try. Currently I have minimal fine lines around my eyes so I want to continue to fight off additional lines while minimizing the appearance from those I already have. Finding an eye cream that I can successfully wear under make up is key for me. I have a lot of samples of higher end creams so this quest will focus on primarily department store brands. This will make trying creams easier for you as these stores will likely give you a sample for your own at home trial. However, if anyone can give me a week's worth of any eye cream, I'm willing to give it a shot!

What They Say: Opti-mologist Eye Cream with Light Diffusers is a unique waterless eye cream with light diffusing crystals that reduces under-eye puffiness and treats all of the key eye area concerns.

My Review: This eye cream was awful. I used it once a few years ago when my eyes were particularly puffy from crying and it slid off my face and into my eyes which made them stick together. When trying it for the second time, I was able to still see out of my eyes but was still dissatisfied with the product. The texture of this cream was terrible and actually made my lines more noticeable once make up was applied. Looking at the website, I realize that I didn't warm the cream between my fingers before applying so I'm not sure if that would have made a difference. I was so disgusted by how terrible my under eye area looked that I threw the rest of the sample away.

What They Say: Rich and luxurious from the moment it touches the skin, fresh start helps diminish lines and wrinkles in the delicate eye area and protects against future damage. Perfect for daily use, it provides a smooth foundation for eye makeup, and safe to use for contact lens wearers.

My Review: I liked this eye cream but didn't love it. It was very moisturizing but still cracked when covered with concealer. My sample was rather small so I don't know what I would have seen with continued use. I would recommend this for someone in their 20's without wrinkles as a preventative measure.

What They Say: Resists and lifts wrinkles with high concentrations of potent antioxidants found in African red tea and vitamin C. This richly textured eye crème forms a protective layer that strengthens the skin’s elasticity with its blend of peptides and sodium hyaluronate.

My Review: This cream was preferred to the Fresh Start but still cracked when covered with concealer. I did like how the skin under my eyes looked when I used it but didn't put concealer. Unfortunately with my super pale/thin skin, concealer is a needed evil. I would caution about putting too much cream on as I rubbed my eye during a couple of wears and it seemed to crumble off. That is very undesirable.

I was also going to write about a Clinique product but realized that it is no longer made. Good thing because my review was not favorable.

I will continue to update once I have a few more eye creams to review. In the meantime, I would love to hear your feedback. Do you love or hate your current eye cream? Have you found the ultimate eye cream? Share your comments below - you do not have to be a registered user to comment though registered users can sign up to follow this blog. Either way, I look forward to your feedback!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Bachelor Dinner, Part 4

For this past week's Bachelor Dinner, we went classic with a twist. Hamburgers & Tater Tots with freshened up with gourmet toppings for an adult taste. This meal is perfect for those that have children as you can prepare both to your and their palate.

Hamburgers with Balsamic Sweet Onions and Mushrooms in a Red Wine Reduction
Ground Beef (the leaner the better and proportioned for the quantity of burgers needed)

Suggested Gourmet Toppings
Aged Gouda Cheese
Fresh Spinach
Fresh Avocado
Balsamic Sweet Onions (either from Trader Joe's or recipe below)
Mushrooms in Red Wine Reduction (see recipe below)

1. Cook ground beef to desired temperature either in a skillet, grill pan or on your preferred grill.
2. Place burgers on a paper towel to absorb any excess grease.
3. Burgers can be served with or without buns.
4. Top with desired toppings. We used all of the above.

Balsamic Sweet Onions
Sweet Onions
Olive Oil
Balsamic Reduction (See instructions below)

1. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in your skillet to stop the onions from sticking. It's key to use as little as possible.
2. Add your sliced sweet onions and begin sauteing them.
3. Once the onions are 3/4 done, add a healthy pour of balsamic reduction. Make sure the onions are throughly coated.
4. Complete cooking and serve.

Balsamic Reduction
Definition of Reduce: Culinarily, to boil a liquid (usually stock, wine or a sauce mixture) rapidly until the volume is reduced by evaporation, thereby thickening the consistency and intensifying the flavor. Such a mixture is sometimes referred to as a reduction.

Making a Balsamic Reduction (or any reduction) is pretty simple. Depending on how much of the reduction you ultimately need, start with about double that amount of balsamic vinegar. Continue to boil until it reaches the consistency you are looking for. Keep your eye on your reduction and stir regularly. If you aren't careful, a wonderful reduction can tip over the edge quickly and create as one friend called it "balsamic candy".

Mushrooms in Red Wine Reduction
Sliced Mushrooms
Red Wine
Olive Oil

1. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in your skillet to stop the mushrooms from sticking. Again it's key to use as little as possible.
2. Add your sliced mushrooms and begin sauteing them.
3. Add red wine and continue to saute the mushrooms will the red wine reduces. This will infuse the mushrooms with red wine flavor.
4. Separate mushrooms from red wine reduction and serve. (Reduction can be pitched or saved to top burgers or another meat dish later in the week. Store in refridgerator.)

Black Truffle Tater Tots
Frozen Tater Tots

1. Cook tater tots according to package. I prefer oven preparation to avoid adding extra calories from oil.
2. Drain/blot tater tots on a paper towel as needed.
3. Toss with Black Truffle Salt.
4. Serve and enjoy.

The Black Truffle Tater Tots are inspired by the O Hotel's amazing Parmesan Truffle Tots (known as "crack tots") and are an excellent replica. You will want to eat an entire bag of them!

Served along with the burgers and tots were sliced tomatoes and leftover roasted curry cauliflower. We enjoyed a bottle of wine from Silverlake Wine and some leftover Oscar cookies (more on the cookies in a later post).

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