Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pan Roasted Chicken with a Mushroom Cream Sauce

Pin It Now!

I think I'm starting to know how to cook!  I say that because just a few years ago even if I followed a recipe exactly I would still mess something up somehow.  But now I'm able to experiment and it
actually turn out!   The more I cook, the more I learn what herbs and spices blend well together.  What vegetables make good accents to a dish. And I know how to make a roux!!  I also learn things NOT to do.  Like confuse my powedered sugar and flour jars.

The more I cook, the more I realize how creative I can be.  The more I realize why culinary art is an ART.  The plate is my canvas.  Spices, vegetables, meats, herbs, broths and so many other ingredients are my "paints" and my kitchen utensils are my brushes.  I love being able to take a clear plate and an empty skillet and create something beautiful.  Though, I mjust admit, there have been many times my art looks and tastes more like a pile of goop than a picasso.  But I have learned.

This dish was inspired by Tyler Florence's Pan Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms and Rosemary.  I needed a reference point to start and then went out on my own.  I created my own version and it was delicious!

4  bone-in chicken breasts with skin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Whole head of garlic, top chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 shallots, halved
1lb mushrooms (portabella are my fave with this recipe)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Flour (eyeballed)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the chicken on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place a cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Drizzle the pan with the oil and lay the chicken in the hot fat, skin-side down. Cook for about 5 minutes until the skin begins to set and crisp. Throw in the mushrooms, shallots,garlic and rosemary. Stick the whole thing in the hot oven and roast for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked, and the mushrooms and shallots are soft and roasted.

Let the garlic cool a bit and gently squeeze it out of it's shell.  The last thing to make is a quick sauce using the flavors left in the bottom of the skillet. Take all the stuff out of the pan and arrange on a dinner plate to keep warm while preparing the pan sauce. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered chicken fat and return the skillet to the stovetop. Add flour (eyeball it) to desired thickness.  Keep whisking the sauce as you slowly add the flour.  Cook the liquid down for about 5 minutes. Drizzle the pan sauce over the dish, season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year’s Eve Table on a Budget!

Pin It Now! This year will be rather tame compared to years past.  We have two babies now and no grandma to stay overnight and babysit.  Even though there will be no fancy party dress, fun venue to attend or loads of friends surrounding us to ring in the new year I still plan to make it special.  Now since it's just the family this year, it would be wasteful to splurge on a bunch of party decor.

So my inner budget spirit came out today and here's what I created:

New year's Eve Table Decor

I love the colors blue, purple and silver for NYE.  I found the ornaments for sale for $2.50 and I had the tissue paper at home.  I made a table runner out of tissue paper as well as place mats.  I put some ornaments in a tall vase to give the table dimension.

Then I had a genious idea.  Lighting is crucial and so of course I wanted candles on the table.  However white candles would be too boring.  I read a tip in a book I'm reading, Lulu Powers Food to Flowers (an awesome entertainment/party planning book btw!) to add tealight candles to water for a simple yet chic decoration.  So I did that and then also added blue food coloring to the water.  Simple!  I do still need to verify if that is safe.  I don't think food coloring is flammable.

New year's Eve Table Decor

I then printed some Happy New Year Tags to use as namecards and it came together nicely.  Now if I were actually hosting dinner I would glam it up much more.  I would use a black table cloth (maybe white),  add silver tinsle to the table, use silver charger plates, blue or purple colored wine glasses and find some pretty napkins to match the theme.  I'd also add party hats and such to the table for some fun.

I REALLY like what Chris at Celebrations at Home did for a backdrop for one of her beautiful parties:

I think the clear beads would look really cool hanging from my table or even laid out on it as well.

Hope everyone has something fun and special planned for New Year's!



New Year, New Mind-Resolution Part I

Pin It Now! Going into the new year I have resolutions for both physical and mental health.  For my mind I want to make a conscience effort to be mindful of my actions and thoughts.  I am going to pay attention to feelings of lust, jealousy, insecurity, anger, impatience and even ignorance.  These are very toxic emotions that for me create a very unhappy and unfulfilled life.  It will take practice, but whenever I feel one of those emotions I want to analyze the feeling and decided how to rid myself of that emotion.

Impatience and Ignorance
I often feel impatient with Little Wright and even ignorant of her feelings and actions sometimes.  It’s a challenge to understand her temperaments.  Not only that, but she’s a smart kid and I think I have higher expectations than I should.  When it comes down to it she is a tiny little human being still learning about the world around her. I want to be more compassionate of her needs and less ignorant of the fact she is 3 years old and will have melt downs and even do mean things.  Mr. Wright and I are her teachers.  It is our job to show her otherwise and I want to make that my train of thought. 

When I feel impatient I will stop and think: how important is this to make me feel upset?  Is me getting impatient or annoyed going to help Little Wright in anyway?  How can I better react?  I’ve practiced being more mindful the last few weeks and it really has helped.  It makes me feel more calm and in turn actually makes her feel more calm.  I am her parent and it is from her parents she is learning how to behave and act.  I want her to be a sweet person.  A patient person.  A happy person.  I am the one that needs to set that example.  So going into the new year I will practice controlling impatience and ignorance.

Another emotion I want to combat is anger.  I don’t have anger issues.  Honestly!  However there are certain discussions or topics that get me heated because I am so compassionate and passionate about them.  Like gay rights for example.  That discussion gets me riled up and makes me want to be mean to the people who are being mean.  But really all it does is make me bitter and it’s toxic to feel that way.  Instead I want to come from a place of understanding (which is super hard!) so I’m not ignorant for one and for two so I can understand how to more efficiently discuss my opinion.

The only way to teach or change people to be more compassionate towards gay rights is to be that way myself.  Take something negative and be positive.  You don’t have to agree with or like a homosexual lifestyle, but be compassionate in the fact that all humans deserve the fundamental right to happiness so long as no one is being harmed.  Me getting riled up just puts other people on the defense.  And as soon as someone becomes defensive they lose all sense of logic and become emotional and just want to be right or prove a point.  I’d much rather not put someone on the defense and make them think.

Lust, Jealousy and Insecurity
Lust and jealousy are emotions I don’t feel very often, but those too are poisonous.  I do sometimes feel blog envy of people who seem to be able to do it all.  The mom that makes breakfast, lunch and dinner all from scratch.  The woman who has a perfectly decorated and clean home, is the perfect hostess and attends all the social events and oh by the way has the perfect marriage.  Yeah, it can make me feel a little jealous sometimes.  But I’ve come to realize a few things.  One, to let that feeling go.  And instead of feel jealous feel appreciative.  Being jealous makes you stagnant.  Being appreciative allows you to learn and improve your own self.  Another I’ve come to learn is a blog is a place for people to showcase something there are the good at.  Of course people want to display their talents and best ideas and work.  But the truth is we are all human.  We all feel a little insecure at some point and overwhelmed and frustrated even.  But as with the other emotions I will feel jealousy and lust from time to time.  It’s normal.  It’s up to me to control it.  If there is a person or situation who constantly makes me feel like that (the on uppers ) then I will remove them from my life.  One of my favorite sayings is “If it doesn’t bring you joy, beauty or happiness, get rid of it”.

I am going to practice meditation to help reflect and analyze any faults that have developed  so I can inhibit more favorable and positive qualities.  I’m reading Becoming Enlightened by the Dalai Lama and one of the daily practices he suggests is reciting the following mantra in the morning:

“Destructive emotions will arise, but I will not voluntarily rush into them.  Today I will do whatever I can to read texts, reflect on their meaning, and work at developing wisdom.  I will also do whatever I can to generate altruistic intention to become enlightened and implement compassion in my behavior.  May whatever obstructs the generation of these practices be pacified.”

Looking forward to hearing what others are committing to for the new year :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Wright Christmas

Pin It Now!

I would have to say this was the best Christmas I've had so far.  The entire month of December was just really fun, festive and crazy busy.  And now I'm pooped.

I'm very happy to report that my Christmas Eve dinner turned out amazing.

Christmas Eve Dinner

I grilled some filet mignons and made Ina Garten's Gorgonzola Cream Sauce.  *drool*.  It was perfection.  Absolute perfection.  Gorgonzola has a very pungent flavor, however in this sauce it's not overpowering at all.  I did use a little less gorgonzola and a bit more parm cheese though.  It was the perfect compliment to a perfect cut of meat.  Perfect perfect perfect!  Did I mention how perfect it all tasted?

 Also made steamed crab legs (tradition to have crab legs for Christmas Eve dinner), scalloped potatoes and homemade apple and sausage stuffing. 

Then Paula Deen's pumpkin pie for dessert.

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie

Her recipe really is the best pumpkie pie recipe.  Ever.  The end.

We decided this year that after Christmas Eve dinner we would open all our gifts, except for the ones from Santa.  That's how they do it in Europe and if you think about it, makes more sense.  Jesus' birthday is on the 25th.  Let that day be about the celebration of him, right?  So technically I should have opened my gift from Mr. Wright on Christmas Eve. 


 I've got mad negotiating skills and a severe problem with patience.  So after a few hours of begging, I got to open my gift a tad bit earlier :)

Mr. Wright did VERY good this year and got me the best gift.  I didn't even know how much I would love it.  I call it my super duper fancy new cookbook.  But most people call it an ipad.  I found the COOLEST app for those us foodies out there.  It's call My Recipe Book (click the link to see an overview).  Basically you can import any recipe you find online into the app.  You can also manually add recipes from your own cookbooks.  I think it can pull recipes from ebooks too, though I haven't tried that yet.  You can organize all your recipes by catergory, modify recipes to how you like them, add notes and my favorite feature?  You can select all the meals you would like to make for the week and add those recipes to the grocery cart.  It then provides you with a grocery list that you can email to yourself!  You can also search your own recipe database for a meal you'd like to make in 20minutes.  I think they make this app for iphone too!

I love that I can bring it anywhere with me. 

There are some seriously cool apps.  I downloaded an Elmo book that is a visual audio book.  Meaning there is someone who reads the book aloud as we turn the pages.  But that's not what is cool about it.  What is cool is  I can also read the pages of the book and record my own voice!  Which is really neat in the event I'm ever away.  Which is basically never b/c what reason do I have to ever be away?  BUT.  If the occassion ever did arise, my babies could have a story read to them by "me".  Or if Mr. Wright ever leaves for a work trip or something he can do the recording too.  OR!  Maybe if I get to meet Obama one day I could ask him to record one page for me.  Hmmm.  See this gift really is the coolest gift ever.  Only problem is Mr. Wright and Little Wright also think it's the coolest new toy.

 I am now on the ipad lovers bandwagon and can see why so many people love em'.  The sweet thing about this gift is hubby used some of his bonus check to buy it for me.  Awww.

Then, to top if off we had a very snowy, white Christmas! 

I really can not remember the last time I had a white Christmas.  Or if I've ever had one THIS white.

Honestly, the best part of this holiday season though is that I have a happy and healthy family.


This is the first picture I've posted of Mr. Wright!  Yup, that's the man I'm stuck with forever :)

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday!  Oh and Happy Kwanzaa!



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Three frogs are sitting on a log

Pin It Now! One decides to jump.

How many are left?


The frog made a decision but took no action.

This is a buddhist philosophy that speaks loudly to me these days.  With the new year coming next week (yikes!) I'm trying to change my way of thinking.  To focus more.  To be more brave. More patient. I want to cultivate my dreams and make them a reality one way or another.  I want to make decisions and act on them.  I want to put myself out there and be a bit more true to who I am.  I want to make the decision to overcome a few fears.

I read so many blogs where people are very comfortable with sharing personal information with the whole world wide web.  I use a lot of descretion and am hesistant to share or say things I really think and feel.  It's nothing drastic, but I have a fear of being judged.  I need to get over it, I know.  There are several things I'm passionate about and would love to write about, but I don't.

It's my blog and I can say whatever I want.  I know that.  But then I think what if someone gets offended or doesn't agree with me?  Or what if down the road when I go back to work an employer finds my blog?  Does anyone else also hold back on things they really would want to share?

I have so many opinions and ideas that I want to talk about.  This is the one place I should voice an opinion, right?  A place where I should express my ideas, curiosities and questions.  So going into 2011 I made a decision to be more brave.  Now I just need to act on that :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vin chaud for when it's cold

Pin It Now!

Vin Chaud recipe
In Germany they have glühwein. In France they have vin chaud (warm wine). I'm sure there may be technical differences between the two, but when I was in France I loved the vin chaud much, much better than glühwein. It reminds me of a winterized sangria. It's quite delicious and is sure to warm you from your head to your toes. And make you feel really happy too!

Vin chaud

Ahhhhh. C'est la vie!

I just eyeballed the amounts, but here is what I used:
bottle of dry red wine (cheap works great!)
brown sugar
clementines very thinly sliced
apple chopped into small pieces
dash of cinammon
cinammon stick for garnish (optional)

Place all in a pot and bring to a simmmer.  Add a little bit of each ingredient at a time, taste and adjust.  Serve warm and enjoy life as the french do.  Enjoy!



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas in Germany and France

Pin It Now!
German Christmas Market

Magical. Cold. Festive. Charming. Quaint. Beautiful. Warm-cider-wine-that-warms-your-soul. Breathtaking. Memorable. Colorful. Twinkley.  Delicious. Surreal. 

Just a few words to describe Christmas in Europe.  I've been to 4 different markets this year and each one has gotten better and better.  It's a very different experience to be in Europe for Christmas.  It feels more special.  Less commercialized.  More memorable in some ways.  Perhaps it's just the novelty of cobblestone streets or being surrounded by an array of foreign speakers with lovely accents or the ancient architecture of nearly every building reminding you of the rich cultural history or the street performers playing their accordians and clarinets. 

[caption id="attachment_1022" align="aligncenter" width="518" caption="Noël à Strasbourg"][/caption]

 European countries in and of themselves are oozing with cuteness and charm.  But add Christmas sparkle and music and it's just dreamy. 

 Nearly every city and town in Germany participates in a Weinachtmarkt, or Christmas market for us English speaking folk which takes place outside.  Where it is cold.  Freezing cold to be exact.  (about 20 F tonight) And there is nothing better to warm your hands and your soul then a steaming cup of Glühwein. 

[caption id="attachment_1024" align="aligncenter" width="412" caption="Glühwein, cheers!"][/caption]

If you've never heard of Glühwein (vin chaud in France) or even tasted it, you are missing out!  It tastes like warm red wine mixed with apple cider.  I believe that is essentially what it is.  

Of all the markets I've been to thus far Strasbourg, France is by far my favorite.  I think I may be bias in a few ways.  For one I understand the language better.  I took 5 years of french once upon a time and remember enough to get by and converse decently.  (Except for the one time I told a guy I am a toilet.  I'll share that story another time).  But also the wine is much better than German wine in my most unprofessional sommelier opinion.  I could guzzle the vin chaud in France.  But aside from all that the city is just beautiful.  And even more so during Christmas. 

[caption id="attachment_1026" align="aligncenter" width="491" caption="Noël à Strasbourg"][/caption]

 The buildings, streets and churches are dripping with seasonal decor and the city is illuminated at night by the pretty glow of thousands of Christmas lights. 

[caption id="attachment_1031" align="aligncenter" width="491" caption="Noël à Strasbourg"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1032" align="aligncenter" width="491" caption="Noël à Strasbourg"][/caption]

The vendor huts (for lack of a better term) offer so many different types of trinkets and goodies.  From ornaments and candles to chocolate and woodcrafts. 

[caption id="attachment_1028" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Noël à Strasbourg"][/caption]

Check out what I bought.

 You put little tea light candles inside them.  So pretty! 

 I am offcially warm and fuzzy inside with Christmas cheer.  And not just because of all the vin chaud I drank :)

Hope everyone is having a Happy Holiday season!  Christmas is only 12 days away!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peppermint Nutella Cookies

Pin It Now!

I have a few confessions.

1) These cookies are semi-homemade

2) Despite the fact they are semi-homemade they were still yummy.

3) It only took me 2o minutes to make these and only 2 dishes to clean! (the cookie pan and a knife)

4) It's noon and I'm still in my pajamas.

Ok.  I feel better for being honest.

I've mentioned before how I suck at baking.  But that was before I started using my food processor.  Which seems to be a magic machine that mixes all the ingredients together to create perfect pie crust and sugar cookies. (And salsa, pesto and soup, but those have nothing to do with baking of course).

Yesterday when I was strolling through the frozen section and I saw a tub of Otis Spunkmeyer Sugar Cookie dough.  Even though I don't fear baking so much anymore, I still couldn't resist the idea of a super easy cookie. 

I considered them for a minute and then thought, nah I'll make my own from scratch.  But right as I was about to walk away I saw boxes of candy canes. 

And then I had an epiphany. 

I've been wanting to make a cookie involving nutella somehow.  Because nutella is just one of the greatest foods to exist in my opinion.  Sugar cookies, nutella and candy canes?  How could that not taste heavenly?

So the verdict?

Yup.  They were good.  And they were easy.  And the fact that there were only 4 left this morning, says it all. 

You could of course make a homemade sugar cookie.  But for those of you in a crunch for a time or who don't have a baking cell in your body, the premade stuff works nice.

All you need is:
Sugar Cookie Dough
Crushed candy canes or peppermint sticks

Bake cookies according to directions.  Let cool for 5-10 min.  Spread nutella on each cookie.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermint.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homemade hand print ornament…easy!

Pin It Now!

Now that I have two little ones, the holidays seem even more special.  As we get older as a family I want our tree to be a reflection of memories of years past. 

I remember making a handprint ornament when I was a kid and thought it would be fun to do with my own kiddos this year.  Something we can put on our tree each year to remember how small they were when we lived in Germany. This is such an easy way to create a memory and a keepsake for your Christmas tree!  It would also make a great gift for grandparents.  I found the recipe here.

I didn't use food coloring, but instead just painted the handprint after the mold had dried.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mein Deustch ist nicht sehr gut

Pin It Now! So I've lived in Germany for a year and a half now.  I would say I know maybe 50 words.  Maybe more than that.  Rosetta stone taught me "Das auto ist rot" but really when will that ever help me?  And I can count to 11.  You know...really important stuff.

It's interesting how much I am able to pick up from mannerisms and body language though.  For example when I first went to the german grocery store, they would always ask a question after I would pay. 

After the first time they asked me a question I realized they were asking if I would like my receipt.  I couldn't even tell you what it sounded like or what the question was.  I just knew based on previous experience and body language they would ask if I would like my receipt to which I would always reply "nein".

After awhile I started to recognize the word for receipt which is "rechnung".

There was another  time when baby Wright was only 5 weeks old that some older lady had stopped me asking about the baby and all I picked up out the the sentence was Mädchen and Junge.  She was asking if he was a girl or a boy.(you can never tell with a newborn)  And then just based on her tone of voice and body language I could tell she was saying how tiny and cute he was.

Most people I know say german is the hardest langauge to learn.  I've also been told it's the closest to english.  I really think a lot of the words and sentences sound like english to me.  I've always been weird like that though.  Things most people get, I'm clueless. And then the things most people don't get, like german, I don't think is so difficult. 

The hard part about trying to learn and speak german where I live is that most people speak english.  Even when I try to speak german, like at a restaurant for example, the people just come back to me in english. 

There are many, many times when knowing german would have been highly beneficial to me.  But for the most part when I say "Mein deutsch ist nicht sehr gut" (my german is not very good) people will either respond in english or we will point and signal our way through conversation.  I haven't had any really rude encounters.  I've dealt with the occassional person who seems annoyed, but that is to be expected. All in all the people are far more friendly that I would have expected.  I know back home spanish speakers or people with a thick indian accent aren't treated so nicely.  Ever seen the fb page that says to like "I live in America I shouldn't have to press 1 to speak english"?

So glad it's not like that here.

But today was one of those days where I really wish I knew how to speak and understand more.  Two repair men came to my house and didn't speak any english at all. (duh I live in Germany!)  They were here to fix our heaters because it has been freezing.  (side note: We don't have central heating here.  We have radiators in each room.  I actually like that better.  Saves money to centralize the heat in the rooms you spend time in).  I knew a few words like "kaput" and "danke".  And that's how we communicated.  I pointed to the radiator and said "kaput".

They kept saying something to me in german even though I said I don't speak it and then would speak louder as if that would somehow magically make me understand.  Thank God for internet because I was able to have the guy type into google translate. 

And then tada!  I learned why the heat wasn't working.

So lesson of the day: I won't always have google translate with me.  Wifi doesn't work everywhere.  I should learn to speak the language of the country in which I live.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Breakfast Burrito Buffet for the Holidays

Pin It Now!

I have a good idea for a breakast brunch this holiday season!  A breakfast burrito buffet!

It could be as fancy or as simple as you like.  The reason I like the burrito buffet idea is because it's simple and doesn't take much time at all.  Here's what I included in my buffet:
Homemade salsa made the day before (store bought is ok too, but I highly recommend homemade!)
Breakfast sausage
Breakfast Potatoes
Shredded Cheese
Flour tortillas
Saricha hot sauce (best stuff ever)
Orange juice in fun champagne glasses

Guests can add whatever they like, roll up and enjoy.  MMM!

I set the table up first. It makes things much less stressful this way. If you want to create a festive holiday table, gather items from around your house or even purchase a few pieces for your buffet table.  This can be as fancy or simple as you like.  But I do recommend at least having some fresh flowers.  Flowers and brunch just seem to go together.

Arrange the plates and servingware where you'd like them to go.  I put out the shredded cheese, salsa and tortillas on the table ready to go while I prepared the potatoes, sausage, bacon and then the eggs.

I recommend cooking the eggs last because everything else can hold up fine for 30min or so whereas eggs get cold.  And cold eggs are just not good.

Next time I will add avocados and jalapenos though.  Some fresh fruit on the side would be nice too.

A burrito buffet is so versatile and can easily be made into your own.  For example add sauteed vegetables like red and yellow peppers with onions for vegetarian guests.  The world is your oyster.

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season!



Cast Iron Breakfast Potatoes

Pin It Now!

If you want to take your breakfast burritos to a new level add some seasoned potatoes!  It really makes a difference and they are so simple.

3-4 baking potatoes
3-4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped parsely
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat.  While pan is heating, chop potatoes into bite size pieces
and then chop parsely.

Melt butter in the cast iron skillet.  Once butter has melted add potatoes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir potatoes frequently with a wooden spoon so they don't burn.

Cook through until potatoes are nice and brown.

Remove from heat and toss in the parsely.  Add more salt/pepper if needed.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snowy Days the German Way

Pin It Now!

Winter in Germany

It's been snowing since Thanksgiving Day.  Not a whole lot.  Maybe 2-3 inches at the most. But enough to add some extra charm and a sense of novelty to the holiday season.

Except for when it's enough to require the driveway and sidewalk be shoveled.

You see, here in Germany there are very specific and direct laws in regards to snow removal or Straßenreinigungssatzung (street cleaning statute).  Say that 1 time fast.

As soon as it starts to snow, you’re supposed to shovel and keep your walkways clear.  Especially between the hours of 7am and 8pm during the week.  Even if you are sick or out of town, you are responsible to have someone clear the snow for you. 

Most people oblige because if anyone falls on the snow or ice in front of your house, you can be sued and are liable.  Even as a renter.

Soooo since hubby had to be at work early this morning and since I was awake anyway and since I have a pound or two or five to lose, I decided to go ahead and shovel the sidewalk and driveway. 

I made a very specific point to start shoveling while it was still dark.  It’s kind of like parallel parking.  I know I suck at it and I’d prefer no one watch me make a fool of myself as I hack and scrape at the sidewalk. (It had been snowing since last Thursday and since we had not shoveled since today there was a nice thick layer of ice underneath the snow). 

It was sort of fun except my toes and fingers were frozen and I realized if this is to become my new responsibility I definitely need some new boots.  Preferably these beauties

[caption id="attachment_979" align="aligncenter" width="165" caption="Sorels Cate the Great"][/caption]

A friend introduced me to Sorels today and now I just can’t get these out of my head! Seriously.  I must get these.

So the lesson learned today was if we want to avoid a lawsuit I need these boots. 

Oh and also that I suck at shoveling.

Our driveway is on the bottom.  My neighbor’s is on the top.

 Hehe.   :)



Monday, November 22, 2010

Prettify Your Thanksgiving Table in 20 minutes

Pin It Now!

It has taken me longer than I intended to finally create the designs for my Thanksgiving table.  I've been a busy little bee.  But better late than never, right?  So  friends if any of you are looking for a simple, inexpensive way to jazz up your Thanksgiving look no further.  Simply print my pdfs on cardstock using a color printer (a home printer works just fine) and then cut.  Easy peasy. 

You'll need:

2" scallop or circle punch (if using the tags). 
Double sided tape or glue(for candle label)
Card Stock
Color Printer
Hole Punch and Ribbon (for banner)

Here's the ThanksgivingPrintable.  If you have Adobe Pro you can insert text for the name tags.  Otherwise use a fine tip permanent marker.

Included in the package:

12 circle tags with saying "Thankful", "Grateful" and "Blessed
Candle Wrapper
Name tags (can be used as labels for your food and dessert)
"Thankful" banner

Hope someone can find a use for this :)  and if you do, please let me know! :)



Friday, November 19, 2010

Salmon Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

Pin It Now!

Dear Ina Garten,

I love you.

Every Ina Garten recipe I have ever made has turned out delicious.  Her choice of ingredients and equisite taste makes her recipes just simply divine.  I've had a bag of frozen salmon filets in my freezer for a month or so and was trying to figure out what to do with them.  My good friend, Mama with Flavor (who is an amazing cook btw) suggested I make salmon cakes.  It sounded interesting and I've always wanted to make crab cakes, but just never had the confidence to do so.

Since I've been cooking seriously for over a year now, I thought I could handle this challenge.

And I am so glad I did.  These were delicious!

My changes to the recipe were as follows: I used 1lb versus 1/2 lb salmon. I sauteed half a white onion instead of a red onion (didn't have a red onion on hand).  I only had a red pepper (no yellow) and I used store bought bread crumbs and panko crumbs instead of homemade bread crumbs. I didn't use capers because I'm not a fan of them. I also used dried parsely instead of fresh because I didn't have fresh on hand. When it came time to mixing all the ingredients together I mixed in 1/2 cup of green onions.   Even despite all these modifications they were amazing!

The red pepper aioli comes courtesy of Giada de Laurentis and I followed that recipe exactly.  The aioli was sooo wonderful and was a great compliment to the salmon cakes.  I'd use it again for many things, included garlic toast as Giada suggests.

This is a wonderful appetizer and can be made ahead of time and frozen.  If you want to freeze these, do everything except fry in the pan.  Form into balls and slightly flatten and then place them in a freezer bag.  Use within one month.

Ina Garten's original recipe:


  • 1/2 pound fresh salmon

  • Good olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)

  • 1 1/2 cups small-diced celery (4 stalks)

  • 1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)

  • 1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained

  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)

  • 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed

  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the salmon on a sheet pan, skin side down. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until just cooked. Remove from the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and refrigerate until cold.

Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Break the bread slices in pieces and process the bread in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. You should have about 1 cup of bread crumbs. Place the bread crumbs on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 5 minutes until lightly browned, tossing occasionally.

Flake the chilled salmon into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into 10 (2 1/2 to 3-ounce) cakes.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven and serve hot.


  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, drained, patted dry

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the aioli: Finely chop the garlic in the food processor. Add the peppers and blend until almost smooth. Blend in the mayonnaise. With the machine running, blend in the oil. Season the aioli, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the aioli to a small bowl. (The aioli can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)




Sunday, November 14, 2010


Pin It Now! In life, it seems it’s always when we find ourselves consumed with stress or suddenly feeling  unstable or unsure that we start to look for ways to strengthen our mind.  This past weekend I’ve had each of those feelings and it led me to realize many things.  One of them being I lack focus.  Whenever I do something, I’m thinking about the next 50 things I need to do instead of giving the task at hand my 100%.  Of course I can’t always do that because there WILL be interruptions with little munchkins around.   But still.  For the most part I don’t focus.  I don’t give my entire attention to a task or activity.

But this past weekend I had a lot more on my mind than usual.  More personal stuff than usual.  And it actually helped me to have more focus.  For dinner tonight, I took time to really enjoy prepping my vegetables for dinner instead of trying to rush it.  I gave myself some extra time, turned on Miles Davis and let myself just get in a zone.  Instead of doing a subtle cleanup in the kitchen, I decided to actually spend time and do a more thorough clean (including under the toaster and microwave!) 

This weekend I had the urge to work out for once.  Usually I’m constantly checking the clock to see how much more time I have left.    But this weekend I just gave my workout my all.  I focused on 45 minutes of me time to relieve stress, to think and to work out some things I was feeling.  I focused on my workout and my thoughts the entire time instead of when I’d be done.  I left thoughts of “what else do I have to do after this?” just go.  Actually I didn’t even let them enter my mind.  Because for that short time in my day that’s all I chose to focus on.

This weekend I tried to just focus.  To pay attention to what I was doing and to enjoy the little details instead of be annoyed by them. By practicing the art of focus and concentration I was able to have more control over my thoughts and I feel more calm and more at peace with things going on in my life.

In turn I think I was able to strengthen my mind.  I still need to practice.  But by doing so, I think it will help me become a better version of ME.  And also to see things as they really are.

So for practice this week:

I need to focus on having a schedule.

I need to focus on preparing my Thanksgiving plan.

I need to focus on preschool stuff for Little Wright.

I need to focus on working out and being healthier.

I need to focus on the things I want and don't want in my life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More Thanksgiving Table Ideas & Printables!

Pin It Now! Gosh.  I just love creative people.  I love designs.  I love pretty things.  I love people who make pretty things that I can look at and want.  Isn't this kids Thanksgiving table just too cute for words?   It comes from the creative mind of Paula at Frog Prince Paperie.

 A big part of holidays are the memories that stem from childhood.  We always remember Grandma's pumpkie pie or someone's traditional dish.  But I bet kids would also always remember how festive and beautiful Thanksgiving was.  And this is a wonderful (and easy!) way to create the ambience.

The best part of this party display is how easy it is to make yourself.  In the comfort of your own home.  You just need card stock, scissors, a printer and a 2 or 2 1/4"  puncher, either scalloped or round. These are readily available at any craft shop, or anywhere scrapbooking supplies are sold.

I am in love with this Giving Tree as a center piece.  So adorable and fun for kids to share something they are thankful for!

Paula has more details on how she created the table and craft ideas on her website.  She also has several creative printable party ideas!  Definitely worth checking out :)



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Free Thanksgiving Printable Party!

Pin It Now! A month or so ago I hosted a brunch birthday for one of my friends. Lots of the little details like the cupcake toppers, banner and cupcake wrappers were printed at home. It is so simple to create a unique and festive party! If you are hosting Thanksgiving at your house or having a kids Thanksgiving party of any sort you MUST check out this party kit from Paper Glitter.

Gorgeous isn't it?  This entire kit is free!  FAH-REE people.  All you need is a few craft supplies and you have a fabulous party.  I have ordered from Paper Glitter and even won a free kit.  She includes all the instructions on how to print and assemble the party supplies.  It doesn't get any easier than this.

I'm going to use this for a preschool Thanksgiving get together in a few weeks!  I'll be posting pics of course :)  Hope everyone is having fun planning for the holidays!



Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup

Pin It Now!

Thank you Paula for another wonderful recipe!  My one and only complaint about this soup is that I didn't make enough.  Paula's chicken noodle soup recipe is....





Food for the soul. 

Make-you-feel-better-when-you-are-feeling-sick soup.

And everyone in my house is sick this week.  I think everyone everywhere is sick right now.  It's definitely that time of year for colds.  

It's also that time of year when it starts to get dark early.  Super early.  4:30 in the afternoon early!  Which is not good if you're a foodie photographer.  Most days in the fall and winter are gray  in Germany.  So that in conjunction with dark evenings make for really terrible lighting.  This was my soup picture last night:

I can fix it up a little bit in photoshop:

But it's still not as nice as natural lighting.

And here's leftovers, pictured during the day.  So much prettier in my opinion.  Speaking of leftovers.  This soup is wonderful leftover.  All the flavors mingle overnight and make it even more fabulous.

  I think this recipe will be the soup my kids think of some day when they grow up and are off on their own living down the street and not feeling good.  Mom's homemade chicken noodle soup.

This one is a keeper!

Note* I followed this recipe exactly except I didn't add mushrooms, sherry or parsely (didn't have any fresh on hand).  I used half and half instead of heavy cream because it's what I had. Also didn't add parmesan, but only because I forgot to get some at the store.  Though this recipe tastes great without, I think parmesan would have made this soup even more amazing.  It seems to be a versatile recipe that can be made your own.

The Lady's Soup via Paula Deen



  • 1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) fryer chicken, cut up

  • 3 1/2 quarts water

  • 1 onion, peeled and diced

  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 2 cups sliced carrots

  • 2 cups sliced celery, with leafy green tops

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles

  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/3 cup cooking sherry

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, optional

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, optional

  • Seasoning salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Crusty French bread, for serving


For the stock: add all ingredients to a soup pot. Cook until chicken is tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool. Remove and discard bay leaves and onion. You should have approximately 3 quarts of stock. When chicken is cool enough to touch, pick bones clean, discarding bones, skin, and cartilage. Set chicken aside.

For the soup: bring stock back to a boil, add carrots, and cook for 3 minutes. Add celery and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add egg noodles and cook according to directions on package. When noodles are done, add chicken, mushrooms, parsley, sherry and rosemary. Add Parmesan and cream, if using. Cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if needed, by adding seasoning salt and pepper. Enjoy along with a nice hot crusty loaf of French bread.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Parfaits

Pin It Now! Pumpkin Parfaits

I haven't made a dessert in a really long time.  Most desserts I want to make involve flour.  And anything that involves flour is an automatic disaster in my kitchen.  I can't bake.  One of these days I think I will try and learn.  But until then I'm cool with stuff that doesn't involve much flour.  Like these grogeous, beautiful and very pretty pumpkin parfaits.

They really are so simple to make.  As long as where you live they sell canned pumpkin.  And where I live canned pumpkin is scarce.  Thankfully my good friend Mama with Flavor was nice enough to give me one of her cans of pumpkin!  I owe her my life now :)

Wouldn't these be beautiful on a Thanksgiving dessert table? Ooooh or for a fall brunch!  Or dessert for a dinner party!

Please make these :)




  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/4 tsp)

  • 1/4 cup cold water

  • 1 (15-oz) can pure pumpkin

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 1/4 cups chilled heavy cream, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided

  • 20 gingersnap cookies, coarsely crushed

  • Equipment:

    8 (6- to 8-oz) glasses

  • Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan and let soften 1 minute. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring until gelatin has dissolved. Whisk together gelatin mixture, pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl.

  • Beat 1 cup cream with 1/2 tsp vanilla until it holds soft peaks, then fold into pumpkin mixture gently but thoroughly.

  • Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream with remaining 1 tsp vanilla until it holds soft peaks.

  • Spoon about 1/4 cup pumpkin mixture into bottom of each glass, then sprinkle with some of cookies and top with about 2 Tbsp whipped cream. Repeat layers once, ending with cream.

  • Chill until set, at least 2 hours.

Cooks’ notes: Parfaits can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.

Recipe by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez via

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lentil Sausage Soup

Pin It Now!

I lived in Hawaii for a year and theoretically living in paradise seems like a grand idea.  Unless you're someone like me who loves seasons.  Especially the changing of the seasons.  Summers are lovely in Germany and fall is simply picture perfect.  I love the change in scenary as the trees and plants transcend from summer to winter with gorgeous shades of oranges and browns and reds and yellows taking over.  The crisp, clean earthy smell that consumes the air makes you crave hearty, warm dinners.  It all constitutes cozyness.

[caption id="attachment_889" align="aligncenter" width="575" caption="Fall in my town"][/caption]

I love that even though colder weather means bone chilling mornings it also means warm comforting foods.   Soups are wonderful for the tummy and the soul this time of year.  While cruising the web for a new recipe I found this from Ina Garten.  (Who, by the way, is my new favorite chef).

Not only was it delicious, but there was a TON left over.  Perfect for freezing and using on a day I don't feel like cooking. And  Lord knows there are many of those days ahead with the holiday season here already!

This is a must try soup.  Serve it with a nice crusty carb :)

Lentil And Sausage Soup via Ina Garten

  • 1 pound French green lentils (recommended: du Puy)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving

  • 4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)

  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks)

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)

  • 3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)

  • 3 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock, recipe follows, or canned broth

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick

  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar

  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

*My changes: I just used the lentils available at my grocery store.  The soup did taste wonderful without the sausage, but as soon as I added the sausage it gave it a yummy smoky flavor.   I pureed the soup and then added the sausage.  I definitely recommend you puree the soup in a blender, food processor or with a hand blender.  Also the addition of red wine seems optional, but I did notice the flavor was much better after I added the wine.




Saturday, October 16, 2010

Birthday Brunch Party

Pin It Now! I'm really lucky and grateful to have made some amazing friends while living in Germany.  Lifelong friends.  This past week was the birthday of one of those friends.  She is definitely a special friend because when I went into labor with Baby Wright, she watched Little Wright for me.  And she brought Little Wright to the hospital to meet her little brother for the first time.  And she took this picture which will forever be one of my most favorite and treasured pictures:

Love, love love this photo.  Makes me heart melt.

So for her birthday I thought it would be fun to get our friends together to celebrate.  Especially since our group hadn't hung since the school year started. 

Since it was during the week and since we all have crazy schedules and crazy  sweet little kiddos I thought a brunch would be perfect. 

I went with a bright, happy, sunny brunch theme.  Pretty colors galore.  Yellowish orange, light pink, fuschia and orange.  I like the idea of using fallish colors, but with a girly twist. 

Here's my inspiration board for the party:

The party image featured in the inspiration board is from Angela at Simply Sweet Pastries.  She did a fabulous job and was an inspiration to my party.

And here is how it turned out.

I kept the menu simple and hip carb friendly: ambrosia fruit salad (in martini glasses for extra ooomph), blueberry muffins, apple cinammon muffins, doughnut holes and bagels and cream cheese.  And then orange juice (in wine glasses), lemonade and coffee to drink.  Everyone LOVED the onion bagels with spinach artichoke cream cheese.  Lenders Onion bagels and Philly cream cheese.  Genious!  And delicious! 

Oh and of course cupcakes.

I don't having a baking gene in my body. When it comes to baking, things need to be precise. Measurements need to be exact and there are so many factors (like oven temperature or high altitude) that influence the final product. As soon as it goes in the oven, there's no going back. I'm more of an "improvise on the spot" kinda gal. Soooo.... instead of mastering fondant to make my cupcakes pretty, I made cupcake wrappers and toppers. This is a big trend in the party planning world right now.

Here are the details of the party:

1) I made the design for the cupcake toppers, birthday sign and wrappers in Adobe Illustrator, printed out on cardstock, cut with a 2" scallop punch, taped the cutout to a toothpick and stuck it in a cupcake. Voila! Simple, right? If you'd like a printable pdf copy send me an email. If enough people show interest I'll include a free printable for this party (including happy birthday banner, cupcake toppers, cupcake wrappers, goodie bag labels and food labels).

1) DIY tissue paper pom poms.

3) Bright pink, light pink and orange ribbons laid on the table.

4) Fruit salad served in martini glasses for extra oomph.

5) Orange juice served in wine glasses. (Mimosas would have been great! But we had like 10 kiddos runnin' around.)

6) Bagels were placed on a platter with cream cheese in ramekins.

7) Cupcakes, doughnut holes and muffins were placed on top of tissue paper lined cake stands. (made my own cake stands)

8) All food items had labels.

9) Used a white bed sheet as a table cloth.

10) Included a vase of seasonal flowers.

I think that's everything.  It was a lot of working planning.  Especially since I did it in a week and a half.  I think next time I'll give myself at least 4 weeks :)  It was a wonderful time though and can't wait for another party!

DIY Cake Stand

Pin It Now!

A do it yourself cake stand has to be the coolest craft project I've ever seen! I love cake stands. It's one of those things I've always wanted, but never really had a use for and never got around to buying one. But now that I am starting to love entertaining and planning parties I have a definite need. Not sure where in Germany I could go and definitely find a cake stand. And sure I could probably eventually find one somewhere, but it might cost more than I want to spend and who knows if it would look cute.

There are tutorials galore on how to do it.  It's easy and super fun. I'm addcited to spray paint now btw. I plan on making one in every color that spray paint is available!

I used this tutorial from eat.drink.pretty.

I turned a little tiny vase and a plate

Into my very own cake stand.  So cool!

This is how Michaelangelo must've felt after carving the Staue of David.