Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WDW - the $15 salad

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You've all heard of the $6 burger, right?

Well, this is the $15 salad.

I call it the $15 salad because I planted $15 worth of assorted lettuce starts a few weeks ago. There were high hopes of fresh garden lettuce all winter long. Every day I went out and watered and admired my 36 little growing heads of lettuce. Life was lovely.

But, then, the gopher came. Much to my dismay, entire heads of lettuce started disappearing daily. One day, as I stood looking at what remained in my pitiful little garden, a whole head of lettuce was actually pulled underground right before my very eyes in a matter of seconds! So, I hastily went out and gathered what was left in the once hopeful garden, and made this very expensive salad.

I figured due to the cirucumstances (and to cheer myself up), I should just go all out with this salad. So, I decided to make one of my favorites - Roasted beets, oranges, and goat cheese salad. Whenever I am at Whole Foods, I like to pick up some of their fresh, lovely golden beets and roast them myself, but Trader Joe's has cooked whole baby beets in their refrigerated produce section and they taste great and provide a major short cut to this recipe. If I am fortunate enough to have a ripe avocado (like today), I always add it to this salad, too. Enjoy!

Roasted Beet, Orange, and Goat Cheese Salad

3 medium golden and/or regular beets, trimmed
½ c. olive oil
1/8 c. walnut oil or olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1 T. finely chopped shallot (or 1/2 tsp. fresh minced garlic)
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper

5 cups arugula or baby greens
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
½ c. toasted walnuts or pine nuts
2-4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Arrange beets in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in a 400 degree oven 45-60 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1” pieces; set aside.

For vinaigrette, in a large screw top jar combine oils, vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper. Shake well.

Toss greens lightly with some of the vinaigrette. Arrange greens on 4-6 salad plates. Arrange orange slices and beets atop greens. Spoon a little more dressing over, and sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts.


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Monday, October 26, 2009

Chicago!

I love Chicago! It's funny because all my life I always wanted to go to New York, never even giving a thought to ever going to Chicago. In fact, I had never even set foot in the mid-west until a year ago, when Rich asked me if I wanted to go along with him to Chicago on a business trip. I loved it so much that I jumped at the chance to go again this year, and we brought Emma along this time (thanks, Dad for the f.f. miles). In many ways, Chicago is like New York - a wonderful, big city - and in many ways it is even better. It feels to me like a smaller, more manageable New York. More condensed. And, I daresay Chicago is much prettier and cleaner and architecturally pleasing than New York. Add Lake Michigan and the Chicago River which flows through town - gorgeous!

The weather was such a surprise! We had been looking on weather.com the week before and we were expecting weather in the 40s. Well, the weatherman was wrong! When we arrived it was a balmy 65 degrees! The next two days, it dropped to the low 50s - brisk and refreshing - and not cold at all when you are wearing a coat and scarf. The last day, it dipped into the 40s and was quite chilly. Of course, then we came home to 90 degrees - I didn't like that! After our little taste of winter, I was ready for something other than a heatwave.

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Merchandise Mart

The hotel we stayed at was cool! It was connected to a building called the Merchandise Mart right on the Chicago River. The Merchandise Mart is the world's largest commercial building - 4.2 million gross square feet! It is 25 stories high and spans two whole city blocks. Our hotel was connected to the mart by a indoor bridge (see left of photo). It was fun to walk through and see the beautiful showrooms, and there was even a Starbucks, a food park, and retail shops. Very cool.

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Emma & I at "the Bean" (real name: Cloud Gate)

Wednesday upon arrival we took the El (elevated train) down to Millennium Park and then walked over to Navy Pier. Emma was so impressed with the scenery that she got desperate and used Rich and I as her subjects for a photo session! (see below) After snacking on the amazing Garrett's popcorn (you have to get some if you are ever in Chicago - the cheese corn/caramel corn mix with macadamia nuts is SO good), we then grabbed some deep dish pizza at the classic Pizzeria Uno for dinner. It takes 45 minutes to get your pizza and it is oh-so-worth it. Mmm.

Here are a couple photos Emma took of us with the beautiful fall foliage.

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Rich's workshop was held Thursday and part of Friday morning. Alone in the city, Emma and I started off Thursday with a stop at one of my favorite coffee places - Intelligentsia (if you didn't read my blog entry on my visit there here in L.A., click here). Emma got what she said was the best hot cocoa ever. And, I tasted it - she was so right. Great flavor and richness, yet not too sweet. She also grabbed a croissant, I got a coffee and a slice of chocolate zucchini bread. I didn't taste the zucchini as it was pure, rich chocolate, but I didn't mind. Breakfast in hand, off we went to shop. We went to all the usual faves, hitting the sale racks, and then found a fun place called Filene's basement - a big discount store kind of like a Marshall's but nicer. We each got a pair of shoes there - one of us got a pair of 4" black pointy-toed pumps, and the other a pair of Naturalizers. Can you guess who got what? Ha.

After a fun day of shopping, we met up with Rich at the hotel, changed into something a little nicer, and grabbed a cab to dinner at Morton's of Chicago. Very swanky. Very yummy. If you ever go, be sure to go to the original location - classic Chicago steakhouse.

The next day, after Starbucks at the Merchandise Mart, we hit a little more shopping...then met Rich for lunch. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Some friends from Chicago gave us the best insider tip! The 95th floor (yes the 95th) of the John Hancock building houses a restaurant called the Signature Room. The restaurant has all glass walls and we were fortunate enough to get a window table. So, basically, next to me was an unobstructed, breathtaking view of the whole city. The clouds kept rolling in and out, and it was so cool when they would blow away and the full city would come into view. It was like someone lifted a curtain and revealed a masterpiece. It was awesome! Surprisingly, the restaurant had good food and was not pricey for what kind of ambience you got with your lunch. The menu had salads and sandwiches for around $10, or you could get the lunch buffet for $18 which was really quite nice. It was a great experience - highly recommended if you ever go to Chicago. Forget paying $18 apiece to go up in the Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) - for the same price or less you get lunch and a view! Thanks Justin and Katelyn- that was a superb tip.

OK, now what you've all been waiting for. The part of the trip where Rich takes us to one of Guy's "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives." Last time we were in Chicago, he took me to a breakfast place called the Cozy Corner for an amazing skillet breakfast. Never mind that it was a 45-minute voyage from downtown. I try to be good-natured about the journey that always seems to accompany most of Guy's locations, which to be honest, are often in really scary neighborhoods.

Well, this was no exception. We had seen Guy's episode where he goes to this joint called The American Depot diner that has this amazing homey food - pot roast, turkey dinner with all the fixings, and the like. Rich wanted the pot roast, but I had my heart set on that turkey dinner. Well, the place wasn't exactly easy to get to (to say the least), but the thought of that turkey dinner waiting for me kept me going. We took the following transportation to get there:

5 minute cab ride to train station - $6.

20 minute train ride to Oak Park - $2.50 each = $7.50.
(we missed the first train by literally seconds and had to wait 1/2 hour for the next)

20 minute cab ride to the restaurant - $16. (incidentally, it was only 3 miles but somehow took 20 minutes.)

We had no idea it would cost that much but at that point what could we do...

And of course, we had to do the whole thing in reverse to get back to the hotel. Ugh.

So, anyways, I have to admit I was struggling a bit to be cheerful after all that. But I was hanging in there. I knew this meant a lot to Rich to go to this place and by golly, I was going to be happy.

So, we finally arrive, in a really not-so-nice and not-so-safe neighborhood, and enter this kind of dingy and dead-looking diner with about 2 tables full of people. I immediately got the feeling that I didn't want to eat there, but I kept that to myself....

We got our table and Rich immediately recognized the cook as the guy from Guy's episode (the owner). He struck up a friendly conversation with him, telling him that we saw him on Guy's show and teasing him that we came all the way from California just to eat his food. Rich is having a blast - I'm still slightly grumpy, but starting to forget the whole travel thing/scary neighborhood thing and loosen up. The waiter then comes to our table, and says very plainly, "Uh...I just wanted to let you know that we're out of turkey." I could not believe my ears. I was like, ARE YOU KIDDING??? I must have unknowingly said that out loud about 4 times until my family assured me that he wasn't kidding and encouraged me to STOP IT. Well, if ever a straw broke a camel's back, that was it. Long, expensive ride, dingy diner, no turkey - aaargh!! And, did I mention, we were now totally pressed for time - because the ride there took so long, we only had about 45 minutes until we needed to turn around and head back - the last train was at 8:25 pm!

So anyways, I must say, we did end up with some decent food - but I do also have to say that Guy's show made it seem MUCH better than it was (all around). On the show, the diner was bustling with people, you don't see the outside of the diner or the neighborhood, and of course turkey dinner is on everyone's table! But, Rich loved his pot roast and enjoyed the whole experience, so in the end it was all good. Our cab was late picking us back up again after dinner, so we almost missed the train back - we had to run all the way up to the platform to make it! (good thing I had my Naturalizers on.) Needless to say, I was happy to arrive safe and sound back at our hotel.

Here's the youtube of the place we went - if you have a few minutes to watch you can see the food I almost had... and we were in such a hurry to get our cab that we didn't remember to order the donuts!! Bummer!!

On Saturday morning, Rich made up for the lack of the turkey dinner and took us to the Original Pancake House. Boy-oh-boy did he make up for the night before. We even had to wait in the 40 degree cold to get in and it was still worth it! I had the house specialty -the most amazing Puffed Pancake drenched in a cinnamon sauce with sauteed apples - truly divine and one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. And, the good news is - I found out there are locations in California -in Redondo Beach and Anaheim! Yippee!

So, I hope you enjoyed a little taste of Chicago. Not much sightseeing this time - as usual, it really is more about the food for the Harasicks! And Chicago is a great town for that and so much more. Go if you ever get the chance.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WDW - Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie

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Here's a great fall appetizer! While we were in Carpinteria last month, my friend Luci made this (in her trailer!) and brought it down to the beach. A swarm of people (me being one of them) descended on her immediately and it was demolished in like 1 minute! A few poor husbands were in the water at the time and missed it entirely!

I happened to love melted cheese, and Brie is one of the yummiest melty cheeses you can eat. This dish has major WOW potential, and, it is so delicious and easy to make -you gotta try it soon.

Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie
modified from Cooking Light

(8-ounce) round Brie cheese
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tsp. fresh thyme
honey

crackers - we used Wheat Thins

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a serrated knife, remove topmost rind from cheese; discard rind. Place cheese, cut side up, in a small ovenproof baking dish; sprinkle with cranberries, nuts and thyme. Drizzle with honey. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until cheese is soft and warm. Serve immediately with crackers.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This week I'll be...


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Eating stuffed pizza at Giordano's...


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Having a latte at Intelligentsia...

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Enjoying the view from the Signature Room (95th floor) of the Hancock Building...

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Shopping on the Magnificent Mile...

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Eating a cinnamon roll at Ann Sather...


Can you guess where I'm going??

I'm going to Chicago!!!
(Don't worry, I've got a WDW pre-scheduled for tomorrow for you.)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WDW - Pumpkin Pancakes

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So, can you stand just one more blog post about pumpkin?

If not, I would totally understand if you wanted to click onto someone else's blog instead of continuing on. Have a great day, OK?

But, if you love pumpkin like I do, stick around - you're gonna love this little gem. Pumpkin Spice Pancakes! These are really, really good. I made these Monday morning, since Rich had the day off, and got thumbs up from everyone. They are light and fluffy, with the perfect spice balance. Emma had chocolate chips in hers, of course.

So, make these soon. That is, if you can find a can of pumpkin in your grocery store. Can someone tell me what is up with no pumpkin on the shelf mid-October?? Hello, Libby's? I have literally only found 6 cans of pumpkin (the large 29 oz size) thus far and I have been checking everywhere. If I don't find some more soon, I might have to do something drastic, something very Martha Stewart-y, like MAKE MY OWN PUMPKIN PUREE {shiver}. I really hope it doesn't come to that. I really don't like sticking my hands inside pumpkins.

And, sorry, no pic. We gobbled these pancakes up too quickly to take any pictures.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

makes 6-8 pancakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon
nutmeg pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves

1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

Whisk together flours, salt, spices, sugar and baking powder in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin and vegetable oil or melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Don’t worry if you have a few lumps. You don’t want to over beat the batter, it’ll produce tough pancakes.

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while you heat the skillet. Cook pancakes in a greased pan until done.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WDW - Fall baking

It's fall! In fact, the feeling of fall, when it comes into the air, is all I need to cure me of any leftover summertime blues. The past few years, I have taken to decorating the house a bit for the season. It makes the house feel so festive. Each year, I try to find a little something to add to my decoration collection. Here are some of my favorite finds:


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Love these big "faux" pumpkins from Twigs 'n Things in Montrose...this one greets you at my front door.

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...and I love these little ones too! I have three of them with different sayings that remind me of God's goodness!

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I found these "thankful" blocks at Home Goods (love that store) this year. I skip Halloween and go right to Thanksgiving! (nice pic...see me? duh.)

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Fall would not fall for me without these. And yes, candy is a completely legitimate decoration!

Fall means candlemaking time, too!

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Pumpkin, apple-cinnamon, vanilla....I could eat these.

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And here are some yummy pomegranite ones, too. I love the color!

And, of course what is fall without baking? I simply ADORE pumpkin everything! I have been making pumpkin-spice lattes, baking pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin-cream cheese muffins (a couple WDW's ago), and I know Drew is going to be wanting some pumpkin pie soon!

Here are a couple of my newest faves. I was happy to recently find a really good recipe for pumpkin bread. I have had recipes in the past, but they weren't exactly what I was looking for. This one is nice and moist and has just the right amount of spice. It makes a nice tall loaf and is great cut into fat slices. Recently, I made a couple loaves, and a few mini-loaves too, for some college dorm-living boys who came for dinner recently(my son being one of them). Emma and Rich like chocolate chips in their pumpkin bread, so I always sprinkle some in to one of the loaves for them. But I'm a purist. No chocolate chips or nuts for me - I like my pumpkin bread soft and not crunchy. Whatever way you like yours, this is a great recipe to try.

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Pumpkin Spice bread

2 cups canned pumpkin

3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat oven to 350.

In KitchenAid, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil and eggs.
Beat until well mixed.

Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves into mixer. Beat until combined.

Grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans or one 9 x 5 loaf pan and 3-4 mini loaf pans. Evenly divide the batter between the pans.

Bake for 60-70 minutes (40 min. for mini loaves) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans by inverting onto a rack and tapping the bottoms.

Slice and serve plain, buttered, or with cream cheese.


This Apple Streusel is a new find, too (sorry no pic - I've made it twice and both times I was so anxious to eat it that I forgot to take a photo!). It is so good, I keep wondering where it has been all my life! I have discovered that I prefer the topping of a streusel (butter, flour sugar, spice) more than an apple crisp-type topping (usually contains texture like oats & nuts). The streusel topping is softer and reminds me more of the taste of pie crust. This recipe takes only around 10 minutes to get into the oven and it is so delish. A scoop of good vanilla ice cream makes this the quintessential fall dessert.

Apple Streusel

3 good-sized fresh fall apples
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Topping:
1/2 stick cold butter (4 TB.)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Peel and core the apples, slice and place in a bowl. Top with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, toss to coat. Set aside while preparing topping.

Make the streusel by cutting the cold butter into a bowl, adding flour, sugar and cinnamon, and rubbing it through your fingers until the streusel is a coarse, sandy/pebbly texture. Put the seasoned apples into the pan, top generously with the streusel, and bake at 350° about 40-50 minutes, until the streusel is golden brown and the apple is starting to bubble up through the topping. Test an apple for tenderness before removing from oven.

Serves: 3-4
Double the recipe for an 8x8 pan, quadruple it for a 9x13 pan



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Monday, October 5, 2009

dimanche matin avec Riche

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For those of you who don't know French, the title means "Sunday mornings with Rich". I love French, so that is my title for my new feature about Rich cooking breakfast on Sundays.

Yesterday, he made us a splendid breakfast. First, I have to say, the man went grocery shopping by himself last Friday after he got off work. Yes, my cute little husband, who has never ONCE done the grocery shopping rarely shops alone, took himself to Whole Foods and came home toting a cute little brown bag, a bouquet of flowers for me peeking over the top, no less, and a big smile on his face. If that's not total cuteness, I just don't know what is.

So, what was in his bag? Special ingredients for his Sunday breakfast! Fresh maple-blueberry sausage, a lovely artisan loaf of cinnamon-walnut-raisin bread for French toast, and a pint of fresh blueberries. I was impressed. Very impressed. He liked it that I was impressed, too. But oh, I can't tell you how much the practical shopper side of me wanted to ask, "so, how much did this little shopping spree cost?" but he was so happy that I could do nothing by throw my arms around him and praise him. (However, later, when I actually did ask him how much he paid for the blueberries, he nonchalantly answered, "Oh, I didn't look." Love it.)

But no matter. When Sunday rolls around, and he cranks out the above masterpiece, I don't care how much he spent. Having the cutest husband in the world and that yummy food in front of me had so much more value than the cost of the groceries. And, somehow he knows how to make French toast like, 10 times better than me. Go figure. Maybe it was the sugar-in-the-raw which he says he threw into the egg/milk mixture, for "caramelization" purposes. I love it - caramelization purposes. I may have laughed out loud when he said that, I'm not sure.

Did I mention how cute I think this all is yet?

It's like, really, really cute.

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maple-blueberry sausage - delish.

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