Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simple (and Relatively Healthy) Recipes for the Holidays

With only a couple weeks until Christmas, I am looking at recipes and trying to figure out what delicious contributions I can make to my family's holiday meals. In the process I realized that I have a few recipes I could share with you might make your search a little easier!


Holiday Floats

Last month I shared a couple signature drinks I have made for previous Thanksgivings. This year I created "Thanksgiving Floats" which are easily rebranded "Holiday Floats". I used Martha Stewart's Everyday Food recipe for Cranberry & Apple Cider Sorbet for these floats. I followed the recipe as it was written with the exception of doubling the recipe. This meant it froze on a different timeline and even though I forgot about it in the freezer and mashed it late, it turned out wonderfully once I put it in the food processor. The flavor is quite strong but really mellows out once made into a float.

The assembly is quite simple. In addition to the sorbet you will need sparkling wine - I personally like Prosecco as it's not too dry or too sweet. Despite what my directions say in the photos below, I think the best way to assemble the floats is as follows:

1. Pour a small amount of sparkling wine in each glass. Allow the foam to subside.

2. Put 1 or 2 (depending on taste) small scoops of sorbet in the glass. I used a melon baller to get the right sized scoop for a champagne flute.

3. Slowly and carefully top with sparkling wine. The combination of the bubbly drink and the cold sorbet really causes it to foam up!

In order to keep the sorbet frozen, I took an ice bucket, filled it with ice, and then placed the bowl of sorbet on top. If you are hosting a party and want this drink to be self-serve, I would recommend doing something similar.


Tortellini Caprese Skewers

1 package whole wheat cheese tortellini
cherry tomatoes (I used Sweet 100s from my garden)
basil, cut or torn into skewer size pieces
Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze
olive oil
coarse sea salt

1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Cool. If you don't have time to allow the tortellini to cool on their own, you can prepare an ice bath (ice & water) and plunge them for a quick cool down.

2. Assemble skewers using toothpicks sandwiching the basil between the tortellini and tomato. Be sure to skewer through the "meatiest" part of the tortellini and tomato for a sturdy appetizer.

3. Arrange dipping "sauces". Balsamic Glaze (can be substituted for a balsamic reduction) in one bowl, good quality olive oil in another, and coarse sea salt in another (or via a salt grinder) with small serving spoons. While I prefer to offer the selection of classic toppings, you could also just drizzle one or the other over a platter of skewers.

Note - I actually originally made these for a picnic at the end of summer but the colors and simplicity make them a perfect appetizer for the holidays!

Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Bacon Spread
I made this delicious spread last year for Christmas and it was a huge hit! I found the recipe on the Cooking Light website. At only 100 calories for 3 tablespoons, you can feel free to indulge! The creamy cheese, caramelization of the onions and subtle saltiness of the bacon makes this dip seem much more decadent than it actually is.
Something to note - you have to cut up A LOT of onions for this recipe (this is what makes it so low cal despite all of the other delicious ingredients). If you are sensitive to the aroma, you may want to wear eye covering. I had to keep stopping because I couldn't stop crying! Also, I prepped the entire spread the day before with the exception of adding the final layer of cheese. If you are trying to get a number of items ready, just having to pop this in the oven is a big time saver. I served this spread with Trader Joe's Rye Crisps and crostinis.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light
Side Dish/Salad
Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots
This was another great find from Cooking Light! Our main dish last Christmas was a pork roast and these potatoes went wonderfully. I think this dish would go equally well with any number of proteins as the shallots and rosemary really help tame the sweetness of the potatoes.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light
Christmas Spinach Salad
This is a salad that was inspired by one my friend brought to an event several years ago. I just love the contrast of the pomegranate seeds against the spinach leaves. Unfortunately no photos of this one but I promise it is very simple.
1 bag of pre-washed spinach leaves
feta cheese, crumbled (I like the fat free or reduced fat.)
fresh pomegranate seeds (dried can be substituted but it isn't as good)
walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted
balsamic salad dressing
1. Fill a large bowl with spinach leaves and top with the feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts - use your best judgement as to proportions. You want to garnish the salad - not have the toppings in equal proportion to the spinach.
2. Just before serving, toss with dressing or allow everyone to dress their own salads.
I hope these recipes have given you a place to start when planning your holiday meals and gatherings. The options really are endless! I am a crazy Pin-aholic so please check out my Pinterest page for lots more recipe ideas!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On the Tart Side's Holiday Gift Guide

Everyone and their brother is doing a holiday gift guide this time of year so I figured I would throw one more in the mix! While I still stand by the advice from my previous gift giving entry - You Shouldn't Have! - A Guide to Gifting - here are some creative items for everyone on your list!

Ladies first....

Gentle Reminders Pencils - Even though we ladies strive to embody all of these attributes, it never hurts to have a little reminder at our fingertips! These cute pencils come in a variety of colors (though I think the gold on white is very chic) and at just $12 a set are perfect for small gifts for co-workers or stocking stuffers. In addition Amanda Catherine Designs, the Etsy shop that sells the pencils, donates a portion of their proceeds to end child sex slavery & exploitation. These pencils are not quite the "write" sentiment? There are several other fabulous designs as well as a number of cute prints for your walls.

Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler Gold Chevron Picture Frame - As a huge Jonathan Adler fan, I was thrilled when he started designing a line for JCPenney! While MY wish list has a number of items from his regular store, you can't go wrong with this adorable $15 frame. The neutral tones of gold & white give it flexibility to work with a variety of different decors. Other stylish frames are priced similarly so you can bring that Jonathan Adler look to your home for a fraction of the cost! Also, right now all of the holiday themed items are on sale! Very cute stockings to dress up your mantel!

Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It - Nothing says friendship more than crazy Patsy & Edina from Absolutely Fabulous! This just released DVD box set includes every episode, every special and lots of extras. While at the higher end (currently approximately $143 on Amazon) it would make a very memorable gift. Don't forget a bottle of Stoli and some champagne sweetie darling!

And now for the Gentlemen....
Antonio Glasses Holder - I am a big fan of anything that makes boring more fun. Lose your shades frequently? Not anymore! What guy wouldn't want to see his glasses perched on top of a moustache? At only $6.99, it also can double as a conversation piece on your entry table. Is it practical? Is it art? It's both! Available at The Container Store.

Recycled Vinyl Record Bookends - Regardless if he uses these bookends to hold up his own vinyl collection or a bunch of encyclopedias, give his bookshelf a facelift! IKC Designs confirms that no viable records are harmed in the creation of these bookends so for $24 a set he can cozy his books up next to some vintage vinyl. One can only hope that such classics as Air Supply and Milli Vanilli end up in your order. These records are coming from my home state of Ohio so you never know what you might get!
Craft Beer Connect - Shopping for a craft beer lover? Give them the gift that keeps on giving with a membership to Craft Beer Connect! Memberships start at just $30 per shipment and you have several options depending on the types of beer you would like to gift/receive. Prefer to do a one time shipment? That is an option too - same options and prices but as single transaction. You can even select your beers if you want! Please read any shipment restrictions carefully as not all states allow the shipment of alcohol.

Don't forget the kiddos!
Fingernail Friends - I remember the year that Santa brought me my first nail polish. It was supposed to be kid friendly however I recall sitting in my parents' bathroom waiting FOREVER for it dry. Kids are not known for being great at the waiting game which is where this product comes in. Choose either Butterflies or Zoo Animals and have fabulous nails in seconds with these great stickers from The Container Store. At just $4.99 they make a great stocking stuffer!

Incog-Neato Moustaches - Movember might be over but kids will love playing with this fun selection of moustaches from The Land of Nod. Hours of make believe await for just $7.95!

What about a gift for the ENTIRE FAMILY?
Zoku Quick Pop Maker - Kids want popsicles, parents want to provide a healthy snack with minimal time and effort - enter the Zoku Quick Pop Maker. You simply store your pop maker (makes either one, two, or three pops simultaneously depending on model) in the freezer and when the popsicle mood strikes, simply fill with your favorite juice, chocolate almond milk, etc. In just seven minutes you will have fully formed popsicles! Each slot can make up to three pops before needing to be fully refrozen. The maker comes with instructions on how to make fancy layered pops if you want to get creative. The single pop maker starts at just $24.95 and is available directly through Zoku as well as Williams Sonoma; Amazon; Bed, Bath & Beyond among others.

Show your favorite Host or Hostess that they truly are the Mostest!
Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato - Last year I traveled to Australia and while there discovered this wonderful, light, sweet sparkling wine - Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato. While a traditional champagne is a safe choice, I think this particular wine is a very fun and festive option for a hostess gift. Rather than a champagne cork, the bottle is topped with a bottle cap which is very unique. In Australia they also serve this wine on draft at bars in fabulous beakers. K&L is selling this wine for just $10.99 a bottle so at this price you can pick up a case!
Journals from Kikki K - Kikki K is another discovery from my time down under - a Swedish themed stationary company based in Australia. Kikki K has the most amazing journals - not just a book with blank pages but one that helps take you on a journey. The two examples I included below are two of my personal favorites. The "A Sentence a Day Journal: Celebrate Today" is a three year journal where you write one sentence about your day each day. It is a wonderful way to reflect on the little things that make up the days of our life. Another favorite is the "Happiness Journal" which provides activities and places to write you monthly objectives to exploring your own happiness. I could go on and on so it is better to just take a moment and see for yourself (I bought my guestbook from this store - it is similar to this book). Prices vary and international shipping is free with orders of $150 or more.


Last but not least a fun item for your office gift exchange!
Misheard Lyrics Coaster Set - I just saw these coasters this week and thought they were just too fun! Coasters with commonly misheard lyrics are an automatic conversation starter - Did you ever think they were singing that? What lyrics did you realize you sang wrong for years? With a price of $20 they are the perfect price point for your gift exchange!

What is the best gift you've ever received? Any favorites for this year you are hoping to find under the tree? Happy Gifting!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Pita Crisps with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds

Yes, I know that it isn't Wednesday but I couldn't wait until Wednesday to share this product with you! Earlier this season our friends at Trader Joe's teased us with a great product called Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps. They were very similar to the Raisin Rosemary Crisps but in far less supply. As with so many of their seasonal products, these guys flew off the shelves. Don't miss out next year! In the meantime, I have a slightly different product that you will love equally as much!

Trader Joe's Pita Crisps with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds

In case you are wondering how good these pita crisps are I will tell you I wish I never opened the bag - they are that addicting! Of course addicting in the best possible way! They are the perfect combo if you don't know if you want something sweet or savory. They lean towards the sweet side as they have a sugar coating though have that crunchiness of savory snacks. I have been enjoying mine with the Mini Brie Bites (for portion control) but I think they would be equally good with other soft cheeses like goat cheese. They are also delicious on their own! Trader Joe's recommends enjoying then with egg salad but I really think the cracker is too sweet for that flavor profile. I would stick with plain hummus, cheese (be careful if the flavor is too bold), and sliced turkey. Also, they are whole wheat so they are TOTALLY good for you! No matter how you serve them, they are the perfect addition to your holiday spread. Don't miss out!

Still looking for a cocktail to serve on Thanksgiving? Be sure to check out my last post here!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Turkey Day Cocktails

Last week I shared with you a couple fun ideas for Thanksgiving tablescapes using the same products on each table. As promised, I am pleased to share some delicious cocktails to make your Thanksgiving more festive! The two recipes I am sharing today are for Apple Cider Margaritas and Lingonberry Royales. Both are drinks I have successfully served at previous Thanksgivings. The Lingonberry Royale has been a recurring Thanksgiving drink whereas the Apple Cider Margarita was inspired by my initial discovery of Pinterest!

Apple Cider Margaritas
This recipe is modified from the recipe on How Sweet it Is. Photo credit also goes to this site as I was too busy drinking margaritas to take a photo! I changed this recipe due to cost of ingredients as well as simplicity in serving for a large crowd. The margaritas in the original recipe would need to be individually made and at an event with over 20 people that was not realistic. The portions below are for one drink so multiple for the quantity of drinks/size of pitcher.

1 ounce Citronge
1 ounce gold tequila
5-6 ounces apple cider (I used both Trader Joe's Spiced Cider and their Pear Cinnamon Cider and thought both were great.)
orange wedges
sugar (coarse preferred)

1. Mix Citronage, tequila and cider together in a pitcher. I recommend having the cider chilled in advance.

2. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and place on a saucer. This will be used to rim the glasses. I did a 50/50 mixture.

3. Take a glass and rub the lip with an orange wedge. Dip the glass lip into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Squeeze the remaining juice from the orange into the glass and toss the wedge into the bottom of the glass.

4. Fill the glass with ice and the tequila mixture. Enjoy!

Lingonberry Royale
This is a take on the classic Kir Royale. If you have never tasted a lingonberry before, I like to say that they taste like a cranberry and a raspberry had a baby but in reality it is probably more like a tiny cranberry. Sounds perfect for Thanksgiving doesn't it!?!? I get the lingonberry concentrate from IKEA however if you don't have an IKEA handy you can order from Amazon. I think an unsweetened cranberry juice (or at least a naturally sweetened - NOT cranberry juice cocktail) could probably work in a pinch as well.

lingonberry drink concentrate
sparkling wine

1. Mix 1x lingonberry drink concentrate to 2x water. Keep in mind that you will end up with 3x the amount of lingonberry so choose your proportions carefully. The water is key in order for the concentrate to mix with the sparkling wine. Otherwise it is too heavy and does not mix well.

2. Place lingonberry mixture in a champagne flute (to taste) and top with sparkling wine. Serve!

NOTE: Not an actual photo of a Lingonberry Royale however a close approximation.
What will you be serving with your Thanksgiving dinner? Do you have a favorite seasonal cocktail?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thanksgiving Tablescapes - 1 Set of Decor, 2 Ways

While we are still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, it is never too early to start thinking about your holiday tablescape! The past two years I have been a host/co-host for the big Thanksgiving dinner and figuring out the plan for the table has been one of my primary tasks. Here are two examples of how I took the same basic items and created two very different tablescapes.

Tablescape #1 - Classic Meets Childhood Nostalgia

Items purchased from Michael's:
  • Silk Autumn leaves (since in California ACTUAL leaves are difficult to come by)
  • Clear votive holders
  • Pine cones
  • White banner paper
  • Crayons
Items purchased from Trader Joe's:
  • Assorted mini pumpkins and gourds
Thanksgiving this particular year was a large group that did not know each other well (multiple friend groups) so we wanted to make sure the table was festive but also fun. We also had a lot of table top to cover so we wanted to get the most bang for our buck. We used folding tables which are not as wide as a standard dining table so the best use of space was to do a "runner" of decor down the center of the table. As you can see in the photo below, we alternated the various elements to create variety along the center of the table.

So what about these crayons and the childhood nostalgia? Do you remember back to your early educational years when you made Thanksgiving turkeys by tracing around your hand? Yep, we brought them back! Since we wanted to mix up the group and encourage people to get to know each other we thought this was a fun way to do our placecards! Then once you were done eating (or taking a break) you could use the crayons on the table to decorate your bird. I wish I would have taken some photos of the finished products - this was a very creative group!

While our group was a mixed bag of ages, this idea could work for the "kids table" even if you plan a more formal tablescape for your Thanksgiving.
Tablescape #2 - Eclectic Chic
When year number two rolled around and I looked to repurposing our Thanksgiving decor, I was dealing with a very different venue and group size. Dinner was for just six around the dining table at my home. I wanted to go with something a bit more formal but still fun. Items I used from the previous year include:
  • Silk Autumn leaves
  • Clear votive holders (I used some with texture that I picked up at a garage sale for just $.25 each!)
  • Pine cones
  • Mini pumpkins (Purchased new)
To this I added a printed tablecloth (borrowed from a friend) and a modern white vase (also from a garage sale though originally from CB2) with flowers from Trader Joe's. My original vision was with a white tablecloth and while that would have showcased the decor a bit more, I do think the table came together nicely with the addition of the lime green napkins.

Last year post holiday I picked up these great mini ceramic pumpkins from Crate and Barrel on sale for just a couple dollars each! They are meant to be used as a vase but could just as easily be used as a candle holder or even just on their own! Unfortunately they are no longer sold online but I did see them last month at the Crate & Barrel Outlet in Carlsbad and they ship! I believe they were just $3 a piece.

Crate and Barrel does have a great product that is available this season - dried Gourds. These are perfect if you want stick with reusable products. They come in the two colors in the photo below.


I hope these ideas have helped inspire your own Thanksgiving tabletop! Please let me know what creative ideas you are incorporating this year.

Coming later this month - Thanksgiving Cocktails!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Halloween on the Cheap

Happy Halloween! This is my favorite time of year - costumes, scary movies, and candy! What's not to love about Halloween?! Next weekend will likely be the big weekend for Halloween parties and I have got some great accessories to share with you that will make your bash chic on the cheap!

We all know what a gem Target is for our regular household needs, inexpensive DVDs, etc. however they are really outdoing themselves at the "Dollar Spot" these days. The following items can all be found there or in the Halloween section for just $1!

Halloween Coasters - The perfect way to keep your furniture safe from the libations you are brewing in your cauldron. At 8 for $1, you can pick up a bunch and not feel guilty about recycling them at the end of the night!

Bottle Labels - Printable bottle labels are all the rage. You can download them online (some are free, others may charge a small fee) or simply pick up these great labels for $1! They come either in a set of 4 wine bottle labels or a set of 8 assorted bottle labels

Favors & Accessories - Target has a great selection of party favors and accessories at that low low price of just $1. My personal favorite is the set of 8 glow in the dark fangs. Let's be honest - this is an item that is fun for all ages. Who DOESN'T want glow in the dark fangs?

Of course everything magical can't cost just $1 but Target doesn't disappoint with a few other great finds for a bit more coin.

Fancy Pumpkin Decorating Kit - Pinterest is full of clever ways to decorate pumpkins beyond the traditional carving. Thankfully Target put this kit together for just $5 that takes the guess work out of fancy pumpkin decorating! You too can fool your friends into thinking you are the next Martha Stewart!

Chris Marsh Big Fun Wigs - Chris Marsh (of Project Runway fame) has designed the crazy foam "wigs" featured below. With each wig priced between $15 and $20, they are very affordable. With a wig like these, you can probably find something simple in your closet to complete the look! My personal favorite is the pink one titled "Pink Afro".

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg at Target. Please let me know if you pick up any of these great items for your own Halloween bash or find another gem!

Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Carefully Curated Collection Flavored Olive Oil

Yes, Product Placement Wednesday is back! Think of it as a recurring character in the cast that is my blog rather than a series regular. Too many things to blog about and not enough time to do it! For this "PPW" I have a GREAT item. One you will not want to miss!

Trader Joe's Carefully Curated Collection Flavored Olive Oil

Our friends at Trader Joe's are starting to fill their shelves with their fall seasonal items (pumpkin lovers take note!) and one of my favorites from last year is on the shelves ahead of schedule! I was told that this just arrived this week which was perfect timing as I am running dangerously low on all three flavors. So what are these wonderful flavors? Included in this pack you received Basil, Lemon & Hot Pepper. You can see some of Trader Joe's recommendations via the link above but here are some of my favorite uses:

Basil - Toss with whole wheat pasta, fresh tomatoes and your cheese of choice.

Lemon - Drizzle on a salad of butter lettuce, Parmesan cheese, avocado and blueberries.

Hot Pepper - Try this oil with the Jalapeno Chicken Sausage, brown rice, sauteed tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Keep in mind these are finishing oils - not cooking oils. I have experimented with all of them and the combinations are endless. I recommend adding a bit of nice salt to bring your dishes to life.

You can find the Carefully Curated Collection Flavored Olive Oil either in the olive oil section and/or in the new product section depending on your store. These oils have a great date on them (mine is 2015) so if you cook for a crowd you may want to pick up more than one! They would also make a great gift for the chefs in your life.

What are your favorite combinations with the flavored olive oils? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Picnic Season!!! - Part 3

Okay, so in many parts of the country "picnic season" might be starting to wind down but if you live in a warm weather state like I do it is basically picnic season year round! This is the third in a series of posts that were originally posted in 2011. You can find the previous posts here and here.

I am excitingly planning a picnic item or two for this coming weekend and wanted to share some great picnic sandwiches I have created since my last picnic post. I hope you enjoy them be it on a picnic, at the beach or in your lunch box! Also, I apologize for the quality of the photos. These are rather old and I have upgraded my camera since then. Future photos will be of much higher quality and even if the food does not look appetizing I promise it is delish! Let me know if you make any of these sammies and what you think!

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
My favorite tea sandwich is always the cucumber one so why not pack it for a picnic?! Makes for a refreshing bite among heavier picnic fare.

1 loaf of dark rye or pumpernickel bread
1 container of boursin cheese
2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin to medium
dried dill

1. Cut the crusts off of your bread for that tea sandwich feel. (You can give your neighborhood birds a treat or turn them into homemade croutons!)

2. Spread boursin cheese on two slices of bread. Top the cheese layer on one piece of bread with a layer of sliced cucumbers and a healthy shake of dried dill. Place second slice on top cheese side down and slice sandwich in half.

3. Repeat until you have made the appropriate amount of sandwiches or are out of ingredients. Please note that when I make these sandwiches I am usually making in "bulk" so I continue until I run out of cheese (usually first) or bread.

Turkey, Apple & Wasabi Sandwiches
Trader Joe's used to carry a wasabi arugula that was used in this sandwich. I found that it didn't give it enough wasabi flavor so you will not miss it. I am recommending a wasabi mayo or aioli as an alternative which you can either purchase or make to taste. This recipe calls for 4 oz of turkey per sandwich - feel free to adjust as needed depending on your preferences.

8 slices of dark rye or whole wheat bread
16 oz deli turkey breast, roasted
2 large avocados
1 large green apple, thinly sliced
2 cups of arugula
2 tablespoons wasabi mayo or aioli

1. Cut the crusts off your bread if you desire.

2. Mash 1/4 an avocado on one slice of bread and top with the following (in this order): 4 oz turkey breast, slices of apple, and 1/2 cup of arugula.

3. Spread wasabi mayo/aioli on a second slice of bread and place on top of the sandwich. Slice sandwich in half. Repeat for remaining ingredients. Makes 4 full or 8 half sandwiches.

Healthy Turkey Club Sandwich
Toasting the bread before assembling the sandwiches helps keep them from getting soggy.

8 slices of whole wheat bread, toasted
16 oz deli turkey breast, low salt
2 large avocados
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
6 slices turkey bacon, cooked
2 cups butter lettuce
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
garlic olive oil

1. Mash 1/4 an avocado on one slice of toasted bread and top with the following (in this order): 4 oz turkey, tomato, turkey bacon, and 1/2 cup butter lettuce.

2. Combine Greek yogurt, garlic olive oil, and salt to taste to create an aioli. Spread aioli on a second slice of bread and place on top of sandwich. Slice sandwich in half. Repeat for remaining ingredients. Makes 4 full or 8 half sandwiches.

Mediterranean Style Chicken Lavosh Wrap

1 large whole wheat lavosh (I purchased mine from Trader Joe's)
8 oz grilled lemon chicken, cut into strips (Again, purchased prepared at Trader Joe's)
1 red pepper, roasted (The kind that come in a jar are fine.)
2 cups butter lettuce
4 tablespoons Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

1. Divide lavosh in half. Cover 2/3 of each half in the Spinach & Kale Dip.

2. Top dip with remaining ingredients in this order: lemon chicken, roasted red peppers, and butter lettuce.

3. Roll lavosh starting with side covered with dip. Slice and serve. Makes 2 full or 4 half sandwiches.

Sorry no photo of this sandwich.

Beet & Goat Cheese Sandwich

1 olive roll from Trader Joe's (or your favorite hearty roll)
4 oz chevre with herbs
2-3 baby beets, steamed & peeled (Trader Joe's has these in the refrigerated vegetable case)
2 cups arugula
lemon olive oil
good quality salt, if desired

1. Slice olive roll in half lengthwise. Spread chevre on bottom half of roll.

2. Thinly slice baby beets and place them on top of the chevre. Top with arugula.

3. Drizzle with lemon olive oil and salt if desired. Top with the upper half of the roll, slice and serve. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Sorry no photo of this sandwich.

Monday, August 26, 2013

She's Crafty! - DIY Personalized Name Art

Today I'm sharing a simple, personalized art project that makes a great gift for friends and family. I made my first one about 10 years ago and over the years made them as the "inspiration" struck. About a year ago my friend Joy insisted that you would all love this idea as much as she did and that I should do a blog entry to share. So nearly a year later I'm finally doing it! This project doesn't really have a name so we'll call it "DIY Personalized Name Art."

So the heck is DIY Personalized Name Art you may ask? Here are some samples of some of my past projects.

Ben, Whitney & their Wedding Date - I originally created the "Ben" for my brother for Christmas. His fiance (now wife) liked it so much that she had her sister create the other two pieces to match. They displayed them at their wedding reception and now have them hanging in their dining room.
Gina - I created this for Gina's birthday last year. Gina is actually an Emmy nominated hair stylist so the "Gina's Beauty Salon" was a perfect fit! The first "Gina" was actually from another salon called "Gina's of Beverly Hills" which is located on Crenshaw - so very far from Beverly Hills!

Megan - When Megan saw the "Ben" piece she had to have one too. Megan isn't the easiest name to find naturally. I drove across town to find the "Megan" at the top of the piece - it was on a realtor's sign. "Pic-a-nic" was on the Yogi Bear movie sign and is one of Megan's nicknames so it was a perfect addition to the piece.

How to Make Personalized Name Art

1. Find signage with the names you are looking to use. It's actually quite simple to make these pieces - finding the names themselves is the most difficult part! When I see names of friends or family, I generally take photos of them regardless if I plan to make them a piece in the near future. You never know when the inspiration or occasion will strike! When I traveled to Australia last year, I took a ton of photos "just in case" since some names are more common there than here.

2. Take the photos. I always take photos of each sign from a variety of angles to give me the most options when laying out the piece. As you can see, I favor "Dutch" angles but like to include one that is straight on when I can. Usually the structure of the sign dictates which photos ultimately look best.

3. Choose your frame. All of the frames above are RIBBA frames from IKEA however you can utilize any frame design or size you desire. I like these frames as they are inexpensive but are also clean lined to not distract from the piece itself. Please note that the openings in this frame are not standard 4x6" in size. I usually purchase 5x7" photos with the white border and they fit perfectly.

4. Edit the photos. I usually end up editing multiple photos of each name to find the best combination. While your preferences might be different, I make the photos black & white and generally crop in tight on the person's name. Sometimes I leave more of the sign in the photo but it has to fit properly and add something to the piece. "Gina's Beauty Salon" is a great example of this. I also really liked that there was a Ben Avenue so I left that one too.

5. Print photos & assemble. This part is pretty self explanatory and is the best part because you can see your vision come to life!

I hope this will inspire you to create simple yet impactful personalized art for your friends and family! If you make a piece, please share with me below. I would love to see your interpretations!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Celebrity Wine & My CNN Debut

So I'm sort of a wino and while some people might consider me a wine snob, I would prefer to say that my palate has just matured over the years. Last month I was invited by my local wine store, K&L Wines to participate in a blind taste test of some celebrity wines. Free wine caught my eye but the opportunity to be interviewed by CNN sealed the deal. I did not have any major expectations one way of another - I figured some of the wines would be good, some not so much. I was wrong, so very wrong.

We tasted 10 wines all in paper bags as to conceal the I mean winemakers. We were also given a sheet with the list of varietals we were tasting on one side and a list of celebrity winemakers on the other. There were more winemaker options than there were actual wines so the matching game was virtually impossible. My friend Katie joined me for this event and due to her ferocious reality tv watching, she knew that one the of Pinot Grigios was a match with Ramona Singer of the Real Housewives of New York. I thought it was a match for Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck. The rest were a total mystery though we made some guesses for fun. The only wine that was really palatable was my nemesis (well, nemesis to my ears) Dave Matthews' Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm pretty sure Fergie and Savanna Samson were trying to poison us with their wines.

The video below showcases my strong feelings about Fergie's wine in particular. Katie and I have two sound bites in the video though I would have loved to see the parts that didn't make the cut. There was probably enough footage of us to have a new show called "Wine Chat with Gretchen & Katie".

Have you tried any of the celebrity wines mentioned in this post of the video? Are there some great celebrity wines out there that we should have tasted instead?

If you can't view the video above, please utilize this link.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Bachlor Pad Dinner - Parts 2, 3, & 4

So I am a crazy recipe hoarder. If you follow me on Pinterest or have seen my collection of cookbooks, this is not new news. However I've been hoarding several recipes from all of you for nearly two years! So cruel as they were all delicious!

They are from back when Amie and I did our Monday night dinners while watching any number of shows from The Bachelor family. These three meals were from Bachelor Pad from 2011. I promise they will be just as delicious this summer as they were then. I apologize in advance if some of the recipes are a little vague - if you have questions I will do my best to recall the missing details! I promise that these were all very simple to assemble while delivering maximum taste!

Unfortunately you won't be able to enjoy them during Bachelor Pad this year as they decided not to have a fourth season. We can only hope that the train wreck is back summer of 2014.

Dinner #1 - Arctic Char with Miso Glaze, Ginger Cilantro Rice & Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry

Arctic Char with Miso Glaze
2 servings of Artic Char
1 tablespoon red miso
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grain mustard

1. Mix all ingredients together with the exception of the Arctic Char to create the miso glaze.
2. Top Arctic Char with miso glaze and bake. Unfortunately I don't have the temperature or time but I would recommend using a 400 degree oven for 12-15 min. The fish should flake easily with a fork.

Ginger Cilantro Rice
2 cups white rice (brown can be substituted)
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup onions (we used a combo of brown & red but any would be fine), chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (approx)
Trader Joe's Smoked Sea Salt

1. Cook rice according to package instructions.
2. While rice is cooking, you will "sweat" the onions in the olive oil. Place the olive oil in a non-stick pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook the onions in the olive oil (add a turn of the Smoked Sea Salt for added flavor) over low heat until they become translucent and have a soft texture. It's important to stir occasionally and keep the lid on when not stirring.
3. Combine rice, onions, cilantro and ginger.

Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry
Trader Joe's Asian Stir Fry (You can find this in the refrigerated fresh vegetable section. If you do not have access to a Trader Joe's, the ingredients were onion, bamboo, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, red pepper, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and snow peas.)
1/2 - 1 cup edamame, shelled (adjust to your tastes)
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt, to taste

1. Stir fry the vegetables until nearly cooked.
2. Add edamame to heat through.
3. Dress with remaining ingredients.

Dinner #2 - Marinated Albacore Steaks, Curried Cauliflower & Broccoli; Garlicky Kale & Tomatoes, & Faux Lemon Tarts with Gold Kiwi

Marinated Albacore Steaks
2 servings albacore steak
1 teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt & pepper to taste

1. Mix all ingredients together with the exception of the albacore to create marinade.
2. Pour marinate over albacore and set in the refrigerator for 30 min.
3. Unfortunately I don't have the temperature or time but I would recommend using a 350 degree oven for 20 min. The fish should flake easily with a fork.

Curried Cauliflower & Broccoli
(This recipe is one of the most vague I have so you will need to experiment on proportions! It was really delicious though so I had to share!)
Olive oil
Yellow ginger
salt & pepper

1. Combine all ingredients and bake.

Garlicky Kale & Tomatoes
(This recipe actually appeared in an earlier post served over pasta. I felt like it would also make a great side dish if you left out the pasta! Thanks to Real Simple for this great recipe!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon jarred crushed garlic
4 large handfuls kale, washed & torn
2 handfuls grape tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped roasted almonds
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Add the kale and cook, tossing frequently, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook, tossing frequently, until the tomatoes begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes more.
3. Top the kale mixture with almonds and parmesan.
Faux Lemon Tarts with Gold Kiwi
8 Trader Joe's Lemon Cookie Thins
1/2 - 3/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon
1 package of Equal (or your favorite artificial sweetener - or you can always use real sugar!)
1 gold kiwi, peeled & sliced
16 raspberries
mint, for garnish
1. Mix yogurt and lemon juice. The consistency will thin out but should not be runny. Add sweetener and mix well.
2. Top each cookie with yogurt topping, a slice of the kiwi and a couple of raspberries.
3. Arrange on a plate with mint as the garnish.
Very important to note - the cookies get soggy fast so you will want to assemble just before serving.

Dinner #3 - Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps & Modified Caprese Salad

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Amie found this great recipe on Epicurious and we basically made it as is with only a few minor adjustments. This was a wonderfully refreshing summer meal!

1. Cucumber was added as a garnish afterwards instead of being mixed in with meat. Same for mint.
2. We also added cilantro as a garnish and I think some sweet chili sauce.

Modified Caprese Salad
3 handfuls cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fat free feta cheese
4 basil leaves, chiffonade
olive oil
fresh ground sea salt

1. Combine tomatoes, feta and basil in a bowl.
2. Dress with a couple splashes of olive oil and dashes of salt.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we did! They are all very quick to assemble and perfect for summer!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Product Placement Wednesday - Nylo-Tape Friction Free Drawer Slide Tape

It has been forever since I posted a Product Placement Wednesday but this week I was inspired!

Nylo-Tape Friction Free Drawer Slide Tape

As you may recall from a previous post, I am now a homeowner! This is both a joy and a ton of work. My home was built in 1931 which makes it full of projects. I have a slightly updated kitchen - original cabinets but new appliances and countertops. This was a big selling point for me as it looks great but I wasn't paying for someone else's expensive (or substandard) kitchen remodel. Of course anyone who has older kitchen cabinets can tell you that they don't have modern rails on the drawers. This means it is wood rubbing on wood which creates wood shavings to fall on any dishes positioned underneath the drawers. At my old apartment (where I also had this problem), my solution was for the handyman to put a thin layer of wood underneath the rail to catch the shavings. This was not going to be an easy solution for my current kitchen so I started looking on the internet for answers. A lot of people mentioned "soaping" the wood or using candle wax. Apparently this is a very old way of keeping anything wood on wood from rubbing (drawers, windows, etc.). Forget the old way! I found this great Nylo-Tape from Rockler and it is amazing! I just wiped off the wooden bar that stretched across the drawer cabinet and when it was dry applied the tape. Simple as that and the drawers glide like they are brand new! Rockler is available for ordering online if you do not live close to one of their stores.

Monday, April 8, 2013

On the Tart Side's New Look!

So after nearly a year of occasional posts, it seemed like a good time for a fresh start to the look of my blog. I'm really into chevrons right now (just like everyone else!) and I think this background from Mamma Rachel really brightens it up. I "Warholized" my photo online and added the fun and appropriate quote. Of course everything is purple as that is my signature color! What do you think of the redesign?

I have got a great post headed your way later this week and I'm really excited about some of the new content I'm planning to debut. Stay tuned!