Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 7 Donna Hay: Spiced Grill

This has been the ultimate summer and cooking weekend.  I had friends over and bar-be-queued on Friday night for Girl's Book Club.  Then Saturday was gardening and a Donna Hay lunch for Mother's Day.  Sunday was my dad's side of the family luncheon before my and my sisters big trip to Ireland!  Did I mention I am going to Ireland and leaving in a week?!  I am so excited and of course will post pictures from my trip.

But now, let's get down to week 7 menu from Donna Hay's Instant Entertaining book.  Here was the menu: (all photos credited to my sister via iPhone.  Click HERE for her blog.)

grilled eggplant and white bean salad
(grilled eggplant, white beans, spinach leaves, and tomatoes in a parsley dressing)

spiced lamb with tahini dressing

(lamb rubbed with chili powder and cumin grilled with a tahini and lemon dressing)

mint and feta tabbouli
(mint, parsely, scallions and lemon mixed into bulgar)

date and almond cakes with orange syrup
I have to say this was one of my favorite meals so far.  I enjoyed everything!  Now for my notes.  

Starter: I am not an eggplant fan but I am going by the book for each meal the first time I make it and honestly the dressing flavors actually made me forget it was even there.  The dressing was vinegar, olive oil, pine nuts, parsley and garlic processed in the food processor.  Delicious!  My tummy does not really like raw garlic and I did get some hits of that so I think next time I will cook the garlic a bit in the olive oil and then process.  But to each his own. Oh, and did I mention that some of the parsley leave were celery leaves?  My sister planted celery in our backyard right next to the parsley.  I mean who does that?  I went into our backyard Friday night around 11pm after book club to get the herbs for the next day so needless to say I was tired and was not really observing the slight difference in leaf shape.  Oh well, it tasted great to me.

Main: Grilled flat bread, yes please. Used baby spinach leaves instead of rocket as my grocery store did not have and I couldn't tella difference, plus spinach is one of my favorite foods. Spice rub, tasty.  Lamb, I love the flavor but I think the cut was too thick.  I was lucky my grocery store even had lamb loin as that was all they had.  Grrr, why is lamb not more prevalent in grocery stores?  I have to wonder if lamb is to Australia as beef is to America?  I ponder this at night.  I admit I rarely, and I mean rarely eat beef or red meat but I cannot help but wonder if more lamb were in the stores if that would change.  My mother says lamb is seasonal so perhaps summer will show me differently. Now for the tahini dressing.  Umm...I had to swap one of the ingredients, you know, the tahini.  I have a problem with tahini.  I went through a phase where I was trying a bunch of different hummus recipes and we all know classic hummus calls for tahini.  So being true to the first time doing a recipe do it by the book philosophy I bought tahini.  A $10 jar of tahini in which I used about a tablespoon per recipe.  Let me tell you, I could not taste a difference in better flavor and actually felt like tahini was wasted on me.  Plus, how I make my hummus it turns out really creamy so no need to add the extra expensive ingredient.  That jar of tahini sat in my refrigerator for a very, very long time.  I gave up with tahini so when the recipe called for it I just could not concede to buying a jar and having it be wasted.  Tahini is close to creamy peanut butter and I had the perfect amount of almond butter left over so I gave myself a pass and did not buy the tahini.  Guess what?  That dipping sauce was amazing! Donna Hay must eat a lot of lamb and eating a lot of lamb she must have tried a million different sauce recipes because everyone I have made of hers is fantastic!  Even my vegetarian sister who had large slices of grilled eggplant had more sauce.

Side: Okay, forgive me again.  This recipe called for bulgar.  If you have not had bulgar just know it is super healthy and easy grain to make.  And well, the last time I had bulgar I realized I did not love it, but if it was accompanied with good flavors that I would not mind.  So again, grocery shopping around 11pm I could not find bulgar anywhere in the store.  I went up and down every isles when I finally gave up and came across barley grains.  Bulgar, barley, they both start with "B" and look pretty similar so why not?  Ha! The barley, in my opinion, actually had a better flavor than bulgar.  The downside is that it needs to cook a little longer.  It was slightly al dente.  I actually liked it that way but the consensus as the table was to cook a little longer.  All that to say, still really good.  Also, I am a sucker for scallions which this dish had plenty of.  Tons of mint and tons of parsley/celery leaves.  Healthy, good, and most likely going to be in my lunch box.

Dessert:  Donna Hay, you have done it again!  Date and almond cakes with orange syrup, yes please! So wanting my dessert to look like the pictures in Donna's book I cut off the top of the muffin and turned the desserts upside down to assemble.  Not wanting to waste I but the tops in a little bowl for my family to enjoy if they chose so.  I am glad I did because I got to taste the dessert with or without the orange syrup.  The almond date cakes on their own were, to quote Paula Deane, out of this world! Moist, soft, and in each bit you get hints of almonds and dates which become one flavor.  The orange syrup, well I haven't met a citrus syrup I didn't love, very good.  My oldest sister said that next time less syrup because she couldn't tast the cake flavor was well.  Noted.  Next time the syrup might just go on the bottom of the plate so each person can sop up as much syrup as their palate desires.

All in all, this had to be one of my favorite meals.  But now that I think about it I did like Bistro Basics, and the Greek Inspiration one, and who can forget the Asian Fusion or the Mediterranean Meal?  Then there was Easter brunch.  Who knows? That are all so good and I have plenty more too cook still! Bon appetit!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Currently Wearing

Still loving my StyleBook app. My sister is currently taking pictures of everything she owns to pack for our trip.

Had to share!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Had to share a blog I found

Do you ever find that you will be searching through Pinterest and come across a picture that leads you to a user that leads you to a blog that you can't help but think you are long lost best friends?  Just me?  Well that happened last night when I was *ahem* wasting time on Pinterest.  I came across this blog called Can You Stay For Dinner.  I started reading her entries (not just looking at the fun pictures) and felt I could totally relate to her.  I can honestly say I spent more than an hour reading her past blog entries.  Reading about her food journals and hatred of running, counting calories, hearing magazines say that shedding pounds is so easy and wishing someone had the guts out there to say that it is the hardest thing you will ever face and it is not just a 30-day venture but a life-long struggle.  Anyway, she was previously severely overweight and now weighs half of what she did previously and continues to live what I deem a normal life and to share her journey with others. Here are some things I can remember off the top of my head reading and thinking ME TOO!

1. Running sucks and I don't like being sweaty.  Walking is so much more fun and enjoyable and more likely to last as a habit.
2. I love to eat a yummy salad everyday at lunch.  It is just a bonus that it counts of being "healthy".
3. Writing down my food and calories everyday is what works for me and learning what actual portions are is very handy.
4. If you put a dessert in front of me I am going to devour it even if it means I feel stuffed and sick afterwards.  Still working on this.
5. I have gone to Italy and fallen in love with their natural foods, flavors, and joy of life.
6. I can reflect on my life and think to myself that I have never, not once, considered myself skinny.
7. I have taken pictures and tracked my daily calories and even posted about it a few times.
8. Apples are the best snacks!  I have one everyday and I haven't gone to the doctor in a while. *wink*
9. I too live in San Francisco...oh wait, I don't but I would love to!

Any way I just had to share and hope you enjoy her blog too.  Oh, and her food pictures aren't too shabby either.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Just can it!

First I have to say that I had the best weekend ever.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt so relaxed and just enjoyed life. Sadly, I only have pictures from yesterday.  On a plus side, the pictures are great and I am glad to share.

I spent the day with friends canning and pickling.  I recently watched a bit of the Barefoot Contessa making marmalade and pined for the time I could do that.  I mention this to some friends and we made a date for Sunday to get together and let our culinary skills soar.  I made Ina Garten's Orange Marmalade, they brought kumquat marmalade to the table as well as spicy pickled green beans and carrots which I had tasted before and demanded the recipe.  We sipped wine and cooked and canned until it was hard to stand any longer.  Two batches are the marmalade turned out exquisitely, one, well let's just call it a future marinade as it just didn't gel.  The beans and carrots smelled amazing and we have to wait at least two weeks to eat them.  TWO WEEKS??  How can anyone stand it?!  In the mean time though, enjoy these pictures.

Next time I am making BACON JAM!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Don't you just love the app store?

Have you ever read "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie"?  It kind of reminds me of this past weekend.  Saturday morning my sister was cleaning her room and asked if I had anything to donate to the Goodwill as she was going there later.  Hmm.... I have currently been in a funk about wanting to throw out my entire wardrobe and start over.  So I started flipping through my closet for Goodwill nominees which lead to me thinking about what to keep, which lead me to thinking about my styling, which lead me to fashion apps in iTunes and trying to find an app that would help me utilize my closet and to make it more fashionable.  So I researched and found a few contenders before I settled on this lovely gem, StyleBook.  OH MY GOSH!  After watching the video on it and committing to purchasing the app for $3.99 (I hate paying more than $.99 but so worth it!) I spent the next several (understatement) hours going through my closet.  I made a good size pile for the Goodwill drop off and set to  taking pictures of my clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry, etc in my closet as well as doing my laundry to take pictures of those items.

It is amazing once you categorize your clothing in an app to find out that you own 5 gray dresses and have an inkling for military style jackets. That you have 3 blue tank tops you seem to neglect, 12 white tank tops you wear under everything, and 3 vintage green purses you forgot all about.  I had just purchased a sleeveless navy blue top from Banana Republic only to find I already had 2 that looked very similar. Luckily my sister was there to assure me that they could all be worn in different genres and the app allowed me to specify evening verses day, and cotton verses silk. 

I have to admit I did not make it through my wardrobe this weekend and the project has continued on this week as well.  I cannot tell you how much I love this app and how it has already been utilized this week.  I have gotten 6 compliments on my outfit today alone and 10 on my necklace I finally wore.  The app allows you to save outfits, track outfits worn on certain days, add to your wish list, send pictures of the outfit you assembled, and make you co-workers jealous of your fabulous style.  In hind sight, this app makes me appreciate the things I already had in my closet and challenged me try some new combination now that I had all of my wardrobe at my finger tips.  On a downside, I now see the need for purchasing more belts and jewelry and am going to try to wear scarves more.  Let the great experiment begin! (Arrested Development reference)  Here are a few outfits I have started putting together.  I highly encourage getting this app and taking your wardrobe to the next level!