Sometimes I have thought about what to open that night before 8am...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coconut Shrimp

I read a post last night from a dear friend, about comfort food. And it got me thinking about what I consider comfort food. For me it is anything that I have made, with love, for my family. While Coconut Shrimp may not seem to belong in this category, this night it was...
A couple of weeks ago, Karen Ray had a friend sleepover, and she really wanted Coconut Shrimp. Never one to shirk a challenge, we went for it. The part that made it challenging was that it needed to be Gluten Free, and when it comes to fried foods, that can be a little intimidating! The results were spectacular, and the substitution was simple. Sometimes a change of perspective is all that's required.

Coconut Shrimp

20-30 shrimp (the bigger the better)
2-3 cups buckwheat flour
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3-4 cups shredded coconut
5-6 cups vegetable oil

Pour oil in a saute pan and heat over low to medium heat. If you have a candy thermometer you want a temperature of about 350.

In a shallow bowl whisk together eggs and buttermilk. 

Shell, devein and rinse your Shrimp.
Prepare the assembly line: Buckwheat Flour, Egg and Buttermilk Mixture, Fresh Coconut, and a sheet pan covered in wax paper.

Pretend you're Henry Ford.

Cover shrimp with another sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and fry in small batches.

Tell me the new camera doesn't take GREAT pictures!

Drain on paper towels.
And all that is left is to eat them! We served ours with grilled artichokes and asparagus. The chipotle aioli on the side was for the artichokes.

These were a big, big hit! And quick and easy. And now that I think about it, you could totally make these the night before and then fry right before serving. Wouldn't that be nice if you were having company on Friday night?! Crispy, crunchy, and delicious!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Because I am a Big Fat Liar

Everyone has hot button issues. Mine is Hunger. No one should be unable to put food on the table.

Last month I had the opportunity to volunteer at the San Diego Food Bank. We were packing food boxes for seniors. The San Diego Food Bank distributes 10,000 food boxes to seniors in the San Diego area each month.

10,000 households of Senior Citizens who are unable to put food on the table.

The number is staggering. And it is just the tip of the iceberg on services that The San Diego Food Bank provides. Their mission is great, and their hearts are huge.

I bring this up because while this last weekend kicked my butt, I am unable to waste food. Nothing lights my fire quite the way throwing out food does. Who am I to throw food in the garbage when so many people go without?

So tonight, when I opened the fridge, and I realized that I had produce that was on the verge, I cooked it.

Grilled Artichokes, Bucatini with Eggplant and Roasted Peppers, and Zinfandel. More on that later.
I am so blessed to be able to provide food for my family. Food that I cook with love, and that I serve with joy. Being tired is no excuse for me to forget how lucky we are...and how very, very thankful I am to be able to provide a healthy, delicious dinner!


1. Tonight's dinner was not my creation, but it was delicious. As usual, it came from Cooking Light. You can find the recipe here. The vegetables that I found in the crisper in need of use were the eggplant, the peppers, and the artichoke.

2.  The contents of a Senior Box at the San Diego Food Bank: 2 boxes of bran cereal, 3 cans of evaporated milk, 2 cans of salmon, 2 cans of spinach, 2 cans of tomatoes, a bag of pasta, 2 cans of apricots, and a bag of dried milk. This is provided once a month.

3.  If you live locally and would like to help The San Diego Food Bank you can find out more information on their website. Whether you contribute financially or volunteer your time, you are needed.

4. If you don't live in the greater San Diego area, where do you live? How can you help? What can you do? What keeps you up at night? There are ways we can all make a difference, big or small. What is your heart leading you to do?

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's On My Plate

Post Easter Edition

Can you say food and cooking coma? I'm in one. So much so that I am boycotting my kitchen for the next 3 days. If it isn't a leftover, you better be able to make it for yourself.

And I promise, I'm not kidding.

My goal this week is to make a little time for myself. I need to regroup and recharge. It was an excellent school vacation week and I have much to share with you over the next few days, but I am ready for a return to normalcy!

Did you menu plan? Link up below!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Buy and Drink a Bottle of Opus One - Check!

It's about Ray. As it so often is.

We are sitting at dinner, the San Diego skyline is sparkling in the distance and I have just been gifted with the most incredible bottle of wine, a check for the Life List, and a question.

Opus One?

The answer is so much simpler than the feelings behind it.

For Rays' 70th birthday, a group of friends took him out to dinner and bought him a bottle of Opus One. And then they drank it... right then.

Ray wasn't really a wine drinker. He liked Crown Royal, on the rocks. This man, whom I loved and respected above all others, and who normally drank Crown Royal, thought Opus One was a great wine. A wine to celebrate your 70th birthday.That fact, made an impression on my 21 year old, no wine knowledge self. A mere three years later he was gone, and I made a note:

Buy and drink a bottle of Opus One.

Memories. Tucked away and stored like the silver spoon Nanny's Mama buried in the back yard when those damn Yankees came.

My memories.

And that night, a new one.

This is my nephew Joe and his terrific girlfriend Katie. Joe goes to a great college here in San Diego and it is for that reason that we get to see much more of him... and his family!
Next we have my nephew Luke and Karen Ray. Could there be cuter cousins? I'm not entirely sure. My nephew Sam isn't pictured because it is Baseball Season. There are no vacations during Baseball Season. Or trips from college for a family dinner. Which is why you don't see my lovely Megs and Erin...
And then we have Nancy. I am lucky to call her my Sister. There are so many people in my life that I am blessed to know. Nancy tops the list. Her equally awesome husband Mark is not pictured, because he is in the CIA. I'm just kidding. Mark was unable to make the trip this time, but next time... LOOK OUT San Diego!
So the story is this. Nancy and Mark decided that I needed another check for my Life List (which is amazing and wonderful and kind and thoughtful)... And because they love food and wine as much as Tim and I, they bought me a bottle of Opus One.

I'm sorry, I need to repeat that.

They bought me a bottle of OPUS ONE!!!
I nearly fell over.

And then I teared up.
Joe asked me why Opus One.
And I told my story.
We ate.
We laughed.
I loved every single drop and every single minute.

And I am pretty sure Ray was there with us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

7 Ingredient Beet and Orange Salad

I serve this just about every year at Easter brunch. The salad is beautiful, delicious, and a snap to prepare.

3 large Beets (boiled or roasted, your choice)
3 large Naval Oranges
1 Fennel Bulb (shaved)
2 bags Mixed Spring Greens (rinsed and dried)
1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
Cracked Black Pepper

Slice beets and set aside. Peel your Naval oranges, slice into circles, and set aside.

Place your spring greens on a large platter. Arrange beets and oranges in alternating slices around the perimeter.  Mound your shaved fennel in the center. Just before serving, whisk together mustard and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the top of the salad. Garnish with fresh cracked black pepper.

Serve and Enjoy!

1. It is very important that you shave the fennel. Fennel's flavor is very strong, and unless you really, really want your salad to taste like black liquorice, you need the fennel to be in very thin strips. I am not a liquorice fan, and yet I love the fennel on this salad. Shaving it is the key.

2. This is a great make ahead salad. Cook and slice your beets up to 2 days before. Peel and slice your oranges 2 days before. Arrange the entire platter first thing in the morning. Then at brunch, all you need to do is drizzle the dressing and serve!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boston Creme Cupcakes

I am a firm believer in not over thinking things. Karen Ray wanted to bring Boston Creme Cupcakes to school for her birthday, and she wanted them to be Gluten Free. One of her dearest friends has Celiac's and Karen Ray wanted her friend to be able to have the same treat that the rest of the class was having, instead of being singled out for having something different.

Those are the parenting moments that I cherish.

Back to the cupcakes. I have to admit that Gluten Free baking is intimidating to me. While I am quite comfortable making substitutions and cooking a Gluten Free dinner, I do not have that same confidence when it comes to baking. Probably because baking is such a science. One small mistake, and the results can be disastrous to your dessert.

So I opted to create them out of products readily available at the store, and which I knew to be Gluten Free. Why recreate the wheel?
Jello Sugarfree Vanilla Instant Pudding, Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix, and Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

Karen Ray and Ashlyn were the chefs for this creation.
Following the package directions, they whipped up a batch of cupcakes.

Hot out of the oven, golden, and looking delicious!

After they cooled, the girls cut a circle in the middle of each cupcake. The size hole is up to you.
Just remember: Bigger whole=more filling. Smaller hole=less filling.

Set aside the pieces you cut out of the cupcakes.
Make the pudding according to the package directions. Spoon into cupcakes. Trim a little bit off the pieces of cupcake you had set aside and replace on top of filling in the cupcakes.
Frost with Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

I know I have said it before...

So cute, and scrumptious!

Three Cakes - A Story

We had the birthday trifecta for probably the last time this year. Karen Ray's party was on Sunday. Her birthday was on Monday, which meant cupcakes for school and a cake for after dinner. 3 cakes in 24 hours is a huge undertaking. Especially when you are creating the World...
Karen Ray's party cake was incredible.
The party was a Mother Earth theme, and so when she asked for the World,
Tim gave it to her.
The cake was made using a soccer ball shaped pan from Michael's. Tim baked two of them, spent hours frosting them, and then glued them together using a combination of dowels, frosting and a cardboard circle.

                                               He used toffee bits for the mountain ranges.

The cake sat on the bottom of an upside down bowl, on top of a lazy Susan.
That way it could spin...
Yes, we are that dorky.
For school Karen Ray wanted Gluten Free Boston Creme Cupcakes.
While I used baking mixes, I thought a little guidance into the process might be helpful.
I am posting instructions this afternoon for anyone that would like to make them.
Finally, the family cake. My inspiration came from Karen Ray's obsession with Skittles.
I used a large bag of Skittles to decorate the outside.

The inside rainbow cake recipe was adapted from several recipes online. I tend to try to keep things simple, so  I paired down the instructions tremendously.
If you want to make one of your own, this is what I did.
1. Prepare a white cake mix according to package directions.
2. Divide into 6 cups, and color with 6 shades of food coloring. You want to have the most red, and the least purple, but that was as specific as I got during the process.
3. Grease a large bundt pan.
4. Pour the colored cake mixes into the pan one at a time. The red should cover the entire bottom of the pan. The orange should cover all but a thin perimeter of the red. The yellow should cover all but a thin perimeter of the orange, and so on. That way when it bakes, you end up with a rainbow shape and not just a crazy colored cake!
5. Invert, frost, decorate.
If you would like a more complete tutorial, the best one I have seen is from Not Martha. You can find her recipe here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Mother Earth Birthday Party - for under $100!

Before I had children I was a party planner. Sometimes I miss the creativity and excitement that goes along with throwing a good party. This means that when an opportunity comes along to plan a party, I throw myself into it heart and soul.

Karen Ray wanted an Earth Friendly theme for her birthday party this year...

We cut an old cardboard box we had lying around from Christmas into postcard size pieces.
We were not precise as we wanted them to look recycled.

Then we printed a picture of a recycle symbol, cut it out and used it as a stencil.
After I traced them onto the cardboard Karen Ray painted them.

I hand wrote the information on the back.
Our next decision was to go Letterboxing. Letterboxing is a great family activity. It is like a treasure hunt. The gist is this: You follow a set of clues that will lead you to your letterbox. It is like a hike with a prize at the end! In the letterbox you will find a notebook and a stamp. You write your name and put your thumb print in the book, and you use their stamp to leave a mark in the book you bring with you.

I made letterboxing journals for the girls. They were made out of reversible scrapbook paper. The paper sheets were 2 for $1 and I needed 2 sheets. The filler pages were white computer paper I already had in the house. The pens were in 5 packs and they were $1 per package. 
We made our own letterbox in honor of Karen Ray's birthday, but you don't  need to. There are so many great letterboxes available in towns all over the world! Follow this link to check it out.
 When we returned to the house, the girls painted frames.

We used moss and butterfly decorations to give them a nature theme. The frames were $1 each. The decorations were $8 total. I already had the paint and paint brushes in the house.
We kept them at our house to dry. That gave me time to print a picture of the girls from the party and put it inside. It also gave Karen Ray time to write her thank you notes and tape them to the back!
 Karen Ray requested the Earth for her cake. Fortunately for her, Tim is her daddy!
The Earth was made out of 2 ball shaped pans. You can pick them up at Michael's.  Tim connected the two halves with dowels and a circle of cardboard in the middle. The base is an upside down bowl. The divet in the bottom was the perfect size for the Earth.
Finally, the favors, I should tell you that I am not a fan of goody bags. In fact, you could say goody bags make me crazy. It is filled with candy and toys that will either end up in my trashcan when my kids aren't looking, or stepped on in the middle of the night because I didn't manage to throw them out in time. I try to come up with a fun party favor instead.
The favors:

Water bottles purchased at Marshall's for $3.99 each. I bought a couple of boxes of Propel packets and divided them amongst the bottles. Total cost per favor: $4.57, which is under the average cost of $5 for a goody bag!

All right, let's break it down.

Invitations:                 $ 0
Letterboxing journals: $ 3
Frames:                     $16
Cake:                        $22 (this includes the pan, cake mixes, frosting, etc)
Snacks/Paper goods: $17
Favors:                      $37
Total Party Cost:     $95

Showing your daughter that she lights your world on fire?

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's On My Plate

Notes for this week:

I am trying to make the Spring Pappardelle again. It slipped through the cracks this week, but the picture on Cooking Light looks so good, that I just have to try to get it made. Plus it has morels. Enough said.

You might be wondering what the Empty Bowls event is on Thursday night. According to their website, "Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was created by The Imagine Render Group. The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity." I am blown away by the concept. The High School in my town is hosting the event. The bowls were crafted by students. It should be a spectacular evening! To learn more or to find an event near you, visit The Empty Bowls Website.

I think that is all. If you have a menu planned and you would like to post it here, you can do it two ways. 1. Post your picture on your blog and link to it below. or 2. Join the What's On My Plate Flikr Group and post it there and then link to it below.

Let me know if you have any trouble.  Oh and if you have any killer recipes we should all try, leave them in the comments.

P.S. I am including a goal for myself in the note section of my pad. Maybe if it is staring me in the fact, I will actually do it...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WOMP - A Makeover

Yesterday I talked a lot about doing the things that make me happy. Food, nutrition, menu planning and sharing all of that with you adds to my joy. Taking a picture of what I cooked? Not so much. That isn't because I'm not proud of my food. I'm just not proud of my food pictures

Up until about two weeks ago, my camera was pathetic. My family rectified that situation on my birthday. I was given an amazing camera so that I can better document my culinary adventures! I am blessed and overwhelmed by their generosity and thoughtfulness. I can not wait to start posting pictures that show my food to be the incredible, delicious, vibrant  food that I know it to be! Look for those pictures starting later this week.

That wasn't the only issue though. Taking a picture of dinner every night was stressful. Sometimes things get crazy around here. Kids and adults are on different schedules and headed in different directions several days out of every week. Getting  a shot of a perfectly composed plate isn't always possible. 

It isn't that I want to give up on WOMP. 
I just need to make it work in my life.

So I give you: WOMP (What's On My Plate) - A Makeover
Each week, on Monday, I will post the weeks menu. This gives me the opportunity to menu plan, and document culinary adventures. I will also post links to the prior weeks recipes, if they were hits. Anything that is a Deadly Zin creation will be documented in it's own post, and I will link to it in the next weeks WOMP.

For example, I am very excited to share with you my incredible Chipotle Smashed and my Healthy(er) Huevos Rancheros.

I am also revamping the linking process so that you can link a picture of your weekly menu even if you don't have a blog. Maybe a WOMP Flikr group? Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

And who knows, maybe seeing what everyone else is cooking will inspire us to travel in new culinary directions! I would love knowing what's on your plate!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Taking Stock of What's Most Important

You may or may not have noticed my absence in the last month. I have been struggling. Struggling with motivation, inspiration, energy, and joy. It is hard to post when you are unsure of what makes you happy,

You see, I was struggling with my image both on my blog and in my life. I tackled a diet trying to get back to who I wanted to be, and that only made matters worse. Adding deprivation into uncertainty can never yield a positive result.

So for the last few days I have been taking an inventory of what makes me happy. Blogging is one of them, but it is not number 1 on the list.

Number 1 is my husband. Tim is where this amazing life began, and without him it would be nothing.
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are a 4 way tie with number 1, and those are my kids. Loving them and making them feel loved is paramount to my happiness.
Number 5 is my family and friends and in many instances those things overlap. I am blessed to be able to call much of my family my closest friends, and many of my friends are my family of choice.
Number 6 is volunteering. Having the opportunity to make the world a better place and then doing it, is a gift.
Number 7 is food and wine. I was shocked to see that it falls this far down the list, but it does. It is still ahead of all other extracurricular activities, and finding a way to enjoy it both as a healthy lifestyle choice and make it affordable are what drive me. Expect to see more of this here on the blog.
Number 8 is being outside. When I spend too much time indoors, or sedentary, I am miserable. Being a part of the world around me is a vital part of my soul.
And lastly,
Number 9 is exercise. When I am more active, I feel better. And when I feel better, I have more energy for the first 8 items.

So that is it. I would love to wrap it up in a nice and neat 1-10 list, but there are no bonus points for neatness here. Being real and valid are much more important.

You should expect to see some changes on the blog over the next week or two. I am excited to get back to it, and include more of the things I am passionate about.

Sophia Loren said it best, "After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It's better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life."

The first makeover starts tomorrow.