Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last minute tasty gifts

Hi Friends,
You might have noticed that I did not get around to posting any more gift guides.  The holidays totally snuck up on me this year!  If you're anything like me, you've run out of time and don't have gifts for everyone on your list.  Here are a few easy, doable, last minute foodie gifts. 

Herb Salt

This is a method more than a recipe but here we go. 
1 Cup Coarse Sea (or Kosher) Salt
¼ - ½ cup of herbs or other flavorings (depending on the strength of the flavors)
I'll give you the method and then a couple of suggestions on flavor combos.
Blend up the herbs in a small food processor for 30 seconds and then add ¼ c of the salt and blend for another 15 seconds or until everything looks uniform.  Remove this from the food processor and stir back in with the other ¾ c of salt.  Lay the salt out on a sheet pan to allow the herbs to dry (if necessary) and then pour into small craft bags or ball jars with cute gift tags.   

Here are some suggestions for flavor combos:
Rosemary, Parsley, Thyme
Mushroom, Thyme (use dried porcini mushrooms)
Mushroom Truffle (use dried porcini mushrooms and 1 tbsp of truffle oil)
Rosemary Grapefruit (any citrus zest would work here)
Cilantro Garlic (use pre-dried garlic powder or granules)
These are so pretty in tiny ball jars and are great for non-cooks because they really dress up pasta, plain meats and anything else you can think to put them on.

Holiday Chocolate Bark

This one is SUPER easy.  Melt down some good dark chocolate (I like Trader Joes extra dark 72%) and some white chocolate separately.  Pour the dark chocolate on a sheet tray lined with a silpat or greased parchment paper.  Let it cool for a bit in the fridge and then drizzle the melted white chocolate randomly over the top like you're some crazed Julia Child/Jackson Pollock hybrid.  

After you're done with this, you can sprinkle anything your little heart desires on top.  I'm partial to crushed up candy canes and pistachios but you could do anything.  More citrus zest, any sort of nut, a bit of sea salt, m&ms… To quote the fake movie inside the movie home alone, "I could go on forever, baby".  Shove this whole shebang back in the fridge, let it cool (or let it sit on the counter – the cooling will take longer but it will be less likely to get those white spots that cooled chocolate can sometimes get), and then break it up into pieces and wrap it up in a little gift bag.


This recipe from Winnie at a Healthy Green Kitchen for Thai Cashew Brittle looks amazing!
As does this one from gastronomy blog for Bacon Almond Brittle (Though I would add a little rosemary to it for an extra savory touch.)

Hope that helps!  Now get cookin' slackers!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Hi Friends!
I’m back with day two of my holiday gift guides.  Today is for the man you love, be it your husband, pops, boyfriend, best friend, or weird uncle that gave you booze at holiday dinners without your parents knowing it.  I guess I would not call these gifts standard or even exclusively for men but they’re definitely suitable for many of the dudes I know and love. 

Most of the men in my life are relatively outdoorsy.  Or, at least they think they are.  This is why this gift is perfect.  All The Knots You Need is a book that teaches them how to tie all the knots they say they already should know how to tie if they’re out and about in the wilderness, or hiking, or climbing, or on a boat somewhere.  Plus it is really cool looking and makes a perfect coffee table book. 

 100% of the men I have to shop for this Christmas own iphones.  100% of the men I have to shop for also own ugly wallets and/or money clips.  A simple calculation shows that this wallet is perfect for 100% of the men I have to shop for. 

It has enough slots for a few cards and some cash, a back pocket to protect the precious iphone and seems to be still slim enough to comfortably fit in their pocket.  It’s also hot when a dude has a nice wallet.  So there you go.

In general, I think dudes look hot in scarves.  It can be a challenge to find a masculine looking scarf that is still nice and cozy.  This scarf is awesome.  It looks incredibly soft and not at all itchy.  It’s in manly colors (is that a thing?) and it is exceptionally borrowable!

This is a hand crafted slingshot that comes with seed bombs that can be fired away.  Guerilla Gardening.  Weaponry and saving the planet in one perfectly packaged present?

I think this one is pretty self explanatory! 

I’ve found that most of the guys I know actually like chocolate more than any girl I know.  Also, in general, I think it’s safe to say that guys generally like bacon.  Well Vosegs has perfectly combined these two things into a holiday gift set that almost no one I know could resist. 
These chocolates go amazingly well with a nice, smoky scotch. 

Oh and one last thing.  This one is still a prototype but if you are a moderately big spender and have no clue what to get for your tech obsessed giftee, check out this amazingkickstarter project.  If you donate at a certain level, you get a prototype of this awesome keyboard and mouse, and provide us non-moneybags with a better chance of getting this as a gift next Christmas!  Yay commerce!

Well, hope that helps at least one person out there pick out a dude gift! 

See you guys on Thursday with another go at the gift guide.  Eep!  We’re running out of time.  Only 10 days till Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gift Guides – The Yogi(ni) in Your Life

Since pretty much everyone who reads my blog either knows a yogini or can discreetly send this link to their loved one because they are the yogini, I thought I'd start here.  There's been a ridiculous increase in the amount of “luxury yoga goods” that are on the market as of late.  I tried to not just link to everything on the lululemon website for this for two reasons – 1. There are some non-yoga things that I think many yogis would actually love and 2. There are a lot of great items that are not ridiculous expensive out there.
And away we go!

Let’s just get the lulu stuff out of the way first.  Everyone knows they make pretty awesome products so I’m just going to show you my absolute favorite thing they make.  Their wunder under crops are seriously the most perfect yoga pant ever made.  They do amazing things for your practice and your butt!

The next two items aren't specifically for yoginis but most of the people I know who do yoga tend to get cold out in the real world.  This may be why we tolerate those hot rooms so much better. 

This blanket looks amazingly soft and would keep anyone perfectly warm on a cold winter night. 

These slippers from LL Bean are awesome for wearing around the house while keeping your feet toasty.  They're also great for in the yoga studio where shoes are not welcome. 

This top from LUCY is great for coming and going from your studio on those fall and spring days where it’s too warm for a coat but too cool to head out in your damp yoga clothes.  It’s amazingly soft and has a hood/cowl neck that will cover up your sweaty mop head!

Mala beads are sacred necklaces that have been worn for thousands of years by practitioners of yoga.  Tiny devotions has beautiful malas that would make any yogini happy. 

Another fun and interesting option is a body soap based on your yogi's dosha.  You'd have to know their dosha to know what soap to purchase for them however they all smell amazing so even if you don't know, you can't go wrong.  
Finally, if your yogi(ni) has embraced the yoga lifestyle (especially enough to own the aforementioned dosha soap), they might appreciate a subscription to a magazine like Whole Living.  This magazine covers topics ranging from healthful cooking to living green to overall wellness.  

Whole living is a great magazine with interesting fitness tips, tasty recipes and discussions on finding balance in your life. 

Welp, that's it for today.  Check back tomorrow when I will have some suggestions for the men in your life.  Happy holidays!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Disconnecting to Connect

Hi all!  I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving.  Are you getting ready for the upcoming holidays?  If you need some help, I'll have a few fun gift guides on here for you beginning on Monday.  
Our family has a pretty standard Thanksgiving tradition.  We generally spend the night at my parents' house with my sister and then we all wake up, have coffee and breakfast, start the sauerkraut and watch the parade.  Slowly but surely we start to cook and prepare things for dinner as we watch a local high school game that is always on thanksgiving.  By the time the NFL games start, our kitchen is in full swing (even if most of us are still in our pajamas) and it smells amazing.  Around 4, we set out snacks and cocktails and my aunt and uncle and their five kids show up and everyone relaxes in for the evening.  It is truly my favorite day of the year. 

This year however, two things happened to change up this routine.  1.  The Ravens had a thanksgiving night game and the people we tailgate with were planning to have thanksgiving on the lot.  2. A good friend offered to let my family use her rental cabin in Deep Creek Maryland for a long, relaxing weekend.  I was honestly upset that regular Thanksgiving would not be happening, even though I had these fun events to look forward to.  So on Thursday, we went off to our tailgate and my parents went up to my Aunt and Uncle's for a relaxing and delicious Thanksgiving dinner (my uncle is a chef and an amazing one at that.) 

On Friday we packed up a cooler full of ingredients for a traditional thanksgiving dinner, including a heritage turkey that was AMAZING, threw some clothes in a bag and headed up to Deep Creek with my parents, my sister and her friend, and two not-so-little pups. 

Friends, the weekend was fantastic.  If you are in need of relaxation and decompression, PLEASE rent this house out for a week or even a weekend and just enjoy.  There is limited cell reception and no real internet access to speak of.  If this sounds like your idea of Hell, dip a toe in and start with a weekend!  I think you'll find that you really enjoy it.  It makes it so much easier to relax.  If you're interested in renting the house, rental information can be found here.  The fireplace alone is enough to make the trek.

We cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner on Friday when we arrived and it was awesome.  We had our turkey, gluten free cranberry and sage sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, truffled creamed spinach, cranberry blueberry sauce, roasted root vegetables and homemade giblet gravy.



It was FANTASTIC.  So good, in fact, that we didn't even break into the other food that we brought, we just ate leftovers for the next three meals.  We also made a delicious onion and turkey soup using the turkey carcass for dinner on the last evening (I'll put the recipe of sorts at the bottom). 

We did do more than eat on the trip.  There were some outdoorsy type activities and a lot of relaxation and family bonding time.

We took the dogs out on runs, sat in the hot tub and took a small hike out to Swallow Falls State Park to see some rapids and do some yoga on the rocks. 

It was such a relaxing and fantastic weekend.  As type-A as I am, I could get used to this new tradition. 


Leftover Turkey & Onion Soup
(please don't judge me for my "recipe" writing skills)

Remove large pieces of leftover meat from the carcass and then put it in a large soup pot with a halved garlic bulb, a halved large onion (skin on), a few ribs of celery, a few carrots with the greens attached, a bundle of fresh thyme, two Parmesan rinds and a splash of vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and then turn it down a bit and let sit just below a simmer on the stove for a minimum of four hours.
About an hour before the stock is finished, chop 5-6 large onions into a large dice and begin to brown them in a pan over medium high heat with equal parts butter and oil (about 1 tbsp of each).  Be patient here, you want them to slowly come to a deep brown color - here's a great tutorial.  
When the stock is finished pull the carcass and strain the broth through a fine sieve and return it to the stove to warm.  Shred the meat that you pulled off the carcass as well as any remaining meat that was left and return it to the broth along with caramelized onions.  Add about a cup of red wine and let simmer for about 20 more minutes before salting to taste and serving.  Serve in a bowl with some croutons or a piece of crusty bread and gouda cheese on top if you like or throw a tbsp of fresh parsley in at the last minute.