Friday, January 29, 2010

Valentine's for Him or Her

Valentines can be such a fun holiday. Really the hardest part can be finding that perfect gift. As usual, my ideas center around great food. So I thought I'd share some gift ideas that anyone would love, male or female.

How fun would it be to sign up for couples cooking lessons? There are numerous places around the Salt Lake Valley that offer them. Try Les Madeleines (I hear great things about them), Sur La Table, or Caputo's Market & Deli, to name a few.

For a fun and creative gift, head on over to Color Me Mine and paint a pretty plate, then top it off with some homemade sugar cookies. Trust me, they'll notice all the effort that went into this gift. Or even better, make a date of it and do both projects together!

I love this idea I found over at Stephmodo - Print up a t-shirt declaring your love for your Valentine, but wait for a big reveal by keeping it under wraps (hide under your coat) until you go out to dinner (may I suggest Stoneground) and when you sit down take off your coat. I bet they get a kick out of it!

I know a box of chocolates is a bit cliche, but if you were to give me a box from Condies Chocolates it would be worth every calorie. They really are the best, and I happen to know the family that runs it. Trust them when they say that they really do hand dip every chocolate (they even taught me how).

If you want to keep it simple, cook a great dinner at home and avoid the long waiting lists at restaurants. I've been dying to try this simple french meal from Stephmodo (can you tell I love her blog?). Instead of spending a bunch of money on gifts, try giving your Valentine a thoughtful card and let them know how much you love them.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cooking Lessons

My husbands parent's live a few hours South of Chicago, so we made a quick road trip down to see them. It has been a year since I visited, so it was nice to give them a big hug. Before they knew we were coming out they had asked a family to come and teach them how to make tamales.
It turned out to be a fun cooking lesson for everybody.

Making tamales is quite the process, and I now understand why you only make them for special occasions. I also quickly realized why you wouldn't be able to just follow a recipe and figure it out on your own.

Just to give you an idea of the process; first you boil the meat for 2 hours, then you spend another 2 hours prepping and assembling the tamales, then another 2 hours to steam them. It took up all of Saturday morning, but it was really fun and the final product made it totally worth it. Can you believe this was my first time eating a tamale? I have a feeling I won't be able to eat one from a restaurant because I know it just won't be the same.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicago Style

My first adventure in Chicago was tasting Giordanos Famous Stuffed Pizza. The waiter told us that they put 4 pounds of cheese on every pizza! Seriously?! That means that in my one piece of pizza I ate a 1/2 pound of cheese. I kind of wish I didn't know that, but it was totally worth it! Guess what? They'll ship a pizza any where in the US! For a special occasion that would be really fun.

If you ever find yourself in Chicago, try Rosebud for an upscale Italian meal. The restaurant was beautiful and the food was amazing.

Now, if only I could get to Chicago when it's warm!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I just returned from a quick trip to Chicago. The Husband had to go for work, so at the last minute I decided to tag along and enjoy the city while he sat in meetings. This was the view from our hotel room window looking over Michigan Avenue. It was breathtaking!

The white circular building at the bottom center of the picture is Crate and Barrel, which was four stories of heaven! Why can't we have great shopping like this in Utah?!

My quick weekend consisted of shopping, museums, great food, and then a drive further South to visit the in-laws. Don't worry, my next post will be all about the food, including some surprise cooking lessons.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Valentine's Day Prep

Seriously so cute. What a great Valentines day gift for your friends/neighbors/loved ones. Cute heart shaped brownies found via Twig & Thistle.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sweet as pie...

You all know my love of pie. In fact, I've been dying to make my mini pies just so I can use these cute boxes found via Twig & Thistle. I'm thinking I could find a fun reason to give these out, say......Valentines Day?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jam Labels

I previously posed the question asking if anyone had ideas on a pretty way to package jam and I finally found the answer with this free download found on Creature Comforts Blog via A delightful blog. This would make a great hostess gift or favor at your next dinner party.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Picnic

I have a birthday coming up and this gave me an idea. Wouldn't it be fun to get a bunch of friends together for some cross country skiing and we can pack a winter picnic? Hopefully it would be like the one Sweet Paul suggested on design sponge, consisting of homemade cookies, hot chocolate and great sandwiches. The sandwiches above are filled with greens, chicken, avocado, tomatoes and aioli. I think you could get me all the way around the trail if I knew I could eat this at the end of it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I covet

Everything about this home is amazing! It's rare that I find photos of a home where I love every room (not just the kitchen)! Found via here, and check out the rest of the home while your'e at it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I love serving this recipe because I know it will please the masses. It a rich, moist, decant chocolate cake and it's so easy to make! Whenever I'm in a hurry I whip this up and you can't mess it up (my favorite kind of recipe). It's from the "101 thing to do with a Cake Mix."

Death By Chocolate
1 chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1 small package instant chocolate pudding
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat eggs, sour cream, water, and oil together in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add cake mix and pudding mix. Stir in chocolate cihps. Place batter in a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-55 minutes until a fork comes clean. Cook cake in pan. When cool, sift powdered sugar on top of cake, or kick it up a notch and pour chocolate frosting on top.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stress Less Dinner Party Ideas

Real Simple has some great tips on a "Stress Less Dinner Party." I especially like the idea of skipping the formal tablecloth and using a roll of brown craft paper for the tablecloth. Not only does it look great, but makes for easy clean up. To add to this already great idea, I would place some crayons on the table if your guests include small children. It would provide the kids with some entertainment so the adults could actually carry on a conversation! I'm also really loving the simple place cards.
Take a look at the menu Real Simple provides, it looks tasty. If you try it out let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Party in a box

I have a couple of nephews with birthdays coming up, and I thought this was a great idea.

Seriously, why haven't I thought of this? This esty seller has created a "party in a box." Talk about cutting your party planning time in half! Check it out here. How fun would it be to sell customized party kits? Almost as fun as the little chef's party I posted here.

This would be a great way to make it look like you put a lot of hard work into your child's party without any of the hard labor. And for $30 it's not a bad price.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Perfection! Chocolate Chip Cookies

I feel like for years I've been searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I was starting to believe it didn't exist. Even when I did get a recipe, it was always hit and miss. I know I promised this recipe a while ago, but I wanted to make sure that it really was a "no fail" recipe.

This recipe came from a good friends mother who passed away. I wish I knew her better, especially since she must have been an excellent cooks because all of her recipes always turn out to fabulous!

Deanna's Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream shortening, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Sift flour, soda, and salt separately, and add to mixture. Stir in nuts and chips. Scoop and roll into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 32 cookies.

I've made this recipe probably a dozen times and every time they come out crisp on the edges and fluffy in the middle.
Tip: try the cookies frozen, they are really good.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year

It's a new year and I feel like it would just be wrong to start off without giving you something healthy. I wouldn't even call this a recipe, but it's my go to quick and healthy dinner. You can find the chicken strips and vegetables from Costco in the frozen food section.

On medium high heat pour about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a frying pan. Place frozen chicken in pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden, about 15 minutes. Steam vegetables in microwave. Mix chicken and vegetable together and you have a very good, very healthy meal.

Since I like to eat this meal several times a week when I'm trying to lose those extra holiday pounds I try to finds ways of making it interesting. For example: add some garlic and purple onions in the frying pan, or try different kind of seasonings. I also like to have this with a red potato with about a tablespoon of fat free sour cream. Really, there are so many options, but trust me, it's really tasty.