Tag-Archive for » cooking «

Small Business Saturday – supporting local businesses

SBSLogo.jpgThanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses. American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27. They’re offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for “Likes” of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook. Join the celebration by clicking the “Like” button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.

One thing I love about San Diego is the variety of small businesses we have here. You can find almost anything you’re looking for. It’s great to have so many choices available. When I want to avoid the big bookstores, I can go to Warwick’s in La Jolla. For fantastic, locally brewed coffee, I would definitely hit up Caffé Calabria (I just wish they were open a little longer in the afternoons!). If you look hard enough, you’ll find a local alternative for so many things.

Dining Details

Like personal chef services. I know that may sound strange coming from me, as much as I go on and on about hubby and I cooking things at home. But when I heard about Dining Details and got to know some of the services they offer, I was amazed. First off, Chef Julie Frans is a fellow mom and is quite active on Twitter. She has a fairly new baby girl who’s cute as a button. And she knows her stuff. In just the past couple of weeks, she offered cooking classes geared toward Thanksgiving – and it sounded like both the novice and experienced home cook could learn something.

But what I love most about what Julie does is her passion for fresh, healthy ingredients. Last spring I got a chance to see her in action as she demo’d several dishes for a group of local mom bloggers. She gave us great tips and advice about preparing amazingly healthy and tasty food for our families. It was fun and I learned several new things, including how to make a homemade alternative to store-bought creamers.

Chickpeas

The other thing that’s great about Julie’s biz is her enthusiasm for getting healthy lunches in the hands of school children. And that’s where Dining Details’ sister company, Chickpeas, comes into play. Chickpeas offers organic and all-natural lunches to kids in schools. Some schools have Chickpeas actually handle their lunch service — how awesome is that? I would absolutely love to have such well-prepared food in the hands of my kids when they’re in school.

It’s local businesses like this that I love to seek out and try. What’s your favorite local San Diego small business? Please feel free to share in the comments – even if you have more than one! I’m always looking for a great local place to give my business to. (PS – Julie doesn’t even know I’m featuring her biz – she has not asked me to do so and has not asked to be included in this post. I just really love what she does and hope others hear about her and do, too.)


Small Business Saturday

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Category: other writing  Tags: , , ,  Comments off

More Thanksgiving – Cranberry-Lime Salsa

One more bonus recipe for you – and it’s one of my favorites. Hubby makes it nearly every year and it’s perfect on the turkey, or on leftover turkey sandwiches. Cranberries with just a hint of heat. Divine. Yes, it has salsa in the title. And yes, we found it originally in a California cookbook, of course. It’s worth trying and super-easy to make. And when you take the seeds out of the pepper, it’s not that hot. Leave the seeds in if you want some extra heat. Try this and you’ll never go back to canned cranberry jelly.

Cranberry-Lime Salsa

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
3 scallions (green onions), chopped finely
1 jalapeño, seeded & minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste

1. Take a medium saucepan and add your cranberries and some cold water – enough to cover. Bring it to a boil & cook for a couple of minutes — just until the cranberries begin to pop. Drain.

2. Grab a large bowl and combine the lime juice and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the cranberries and the rest of your ingredients. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Flavor is best when you let it stand at least 30 minutes before serving. Better yet, make it the night before and put it in the fridge to let the flavors meld even more. You can serve it cool or room temp – depends on your preference.


A stress-free Thanksgiving

Maybe Thanksgiving can’t be totally stress-free if you’re cooking for a large group, or even just your family. But you can take steps to reduce your stress. Choose simple side dishes that are flavorful, but not time-intensive. Use a crockpot. Or two. Or even have your guests bring several sides while you concentrate on the turkey and gravy.

Last year, I made dinner for us, the daughter and her boyfriend, and the bro- and sis-in-law. That’s not a large group for most people, but it’s about the max we can fit in our small place. And with a small kitchen, large meals aren’t easy. But it can be done.

The rolls I love to make (Pioneer Woman’s No Knead Dinner Rolls) can be started a day or two ahead of time and stored in the fridge. My candied sweet potatoes can be partially done the day before and refrigerated until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. And you can cook your dressing and green bean casserole in crock pots. Just get things ready early, pop them in the crockpot, and you’ve got two side dishes with minimal fuss.

Speaking of dressing, my mom usually makes hers from scratch using stale bread and homemade cornbread. It’s really good. And I need to learn how to make it. But to shorten things, I use a box of stuffing. Yes, I do. But to make it more my own, I sauté an onion and some celery and add it to the mix. I also add dried sage (I really like a lot of sage in my dressing). Add those things, and use chicken broth for your liquid and it’ll taste just as good as homemade!

Here are a couple of recipes for some tasty side dishes that aren’t too hard to make. I really like the carrots, while the entire family just LOVES the sweet potatoes. I believe I originally found these recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens CookBook. I have a newer edition (the pink plaid one), but I actually prefer the recipes in the much older edition my mom gave me. I need to put it in another binder, though, as it’s falling apart. There are some seriously good recipes in there (the cinnamon rolls are amazing) and it’s a great reference. I’m constantly looking up cook times for meat and veggies – it has several references based on the type of cooking you’ll be doing.

On to the recipes!

Candied Sweet Potatoes

4 med sweet potatoes (~2 lbs)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c tiny marshmallows
(you could also use chopped nuts, but we all prefer the marshmallows – it really makes the dish, trust me)

1. Peel your sweet potatoes and then cut into 1 1/2″ chunks. Cook them in just enough boiling water to cover until tender – about 10-12 mins or so. Drain. (You just barely want them tender, or they’ll overcook later.)

2. Transfer to 2-qt baking dish. Add melted butter & brown sugar, stir to combine.

** Now, you can stop here if you’re doing prep the day before. Just cover and chill up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to start again, uncover and bake as directed in step 3. Don’t forget to let it come to room temp before putting it in the oven. Cold dish + hot oven = broken dish & a big mess. **

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 mins or until potatoes are glazed, stirring gently twice during baking. Then sprinkle on the marshmallows and bake an additional 5 mins more.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots

1 lb. med carrots peeled (baby carrots will also work just fine)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Cut carrots in half, cross- and length-wise.

2. In med. saucepan, cook carrots covered in a small amount of boiling salted water for approx. 8-10 mins or until crisp-tender. Drain and remove from pan. (You definitely want the carrots on the crisp side so they don’t get mushy.)

3. In same pan, combine butter, brown sugar, and salt (a dash). Cook and stir over medium heat until combined, then add carrots. Cook uncovered, about 2 mins, until glazed. Stir frequently. Then season to taste w/black pepper.

There you go – a couple of my Thanksgiving standbys. If you want the green bean casserole recipe, it’s always on the side of the french-fried onions can. And yes, I do make it every year. Total comfort food for us.

What’s YOUR favorite side dish for Thanksgiving?  

I think I’m slowly becoming a foodie

We’ve been watching Top Chef tonight. I’ve learned a lot about food, cooking, and a variety of techniques by watching it. I’m not sure I could duplicate any of them, but it has definitely showed me what’s out there.

It actually makes me want to learn more, too. I’m more particular about my food. I want good, flavorful food. We don’t have a big budget to eat out a lot, so we’re trying to eat more at home. With our budget, we’re not going to be able to eat at places like The Godfather (one of my favorite restaurants – I usually request that we go there for my birthday, but didn’t this year) all the time.

Face it, when you have an Applebee’s or Island’s budget, you’re not going to get blow-your-mind food. You can occasionally get decent food, but it’s nothing that makes you melt into your seat with the incredible flavors. And I want GOOD food. So we eat at home. Admittedly, I’m not in the mood to cook amazing food every night. But at least here at home we have spices and actually use them.

I’m trying to slowly document my food experiments more. Occasionally, I might like to recreate some of my dishes. But I never write anything down. So I am changing that. And really enjoying the process of playing with my food. I’m not into presentation at all (yet), but more into good, solid, simple food. I have a long way to go. It’s fun to enjoy the process though. (Even if I still don’t enjoy doing the dishes.)

Category: babbling, me, me, me  Tags: , , ,  Comments off