Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pretty Potato Salad

Potato salad reminds me of summer - excited shrieks through the sprinklers, cherry pit spitting contests off the deck, brightly colored picnics with plenty of laughter to share.

Prep: 15 minutes (depends on how fast you chop)
Cook: 15 minutes
Chill: a few hours
Yield: ~8 side dish servings

2-3lb red potatoes, scrubbed clean (I used 6 small/medium sized potatoes)
1/2 red onion diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 small apples, chopped
1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T stone-ground mustard
1 T celery seeds
1 T dried dill
1 T granulated sugar
some salt (don't go crazy)
some pepper

*All measurements are approximate....I didn't actually measure anything. Just add amounts to your taste preference!

Place potatoes in large pot of slightly salted water. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are barely tender when poked with a fork. While potatoes are cooking, prepare the onion, celery, apples. If you're a super chopper and finish early, go ahead and whisk together the dressing as well. When 15 minutes is up, drain potatoes in a colander and let sit while you either start cleaning up your mess or finish the dressing. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, quarter into bite-sized pieces and place in large bowl.  Pour in dressing and stir gently. Add the bowl of chopped ingredients and raisins. Stir gently until all ingredients have touched each other. Cover bowl and refrigerate for a few hours so the ingredients can get to know each other better. Serve cold (or at whatever temperature you prefer).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Flourless)

There's little in the world of sweets better than the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Whether a firm believer in natural, creamy, chunky, or super chunky, if you're a peanut butter lover, you'll love these cookies. No crazy ingredients. Very easy to pull out of your bag of tricks if you ever need a quick dessert for guests, something to bring to a potluck, or just something to make out of items in your pantry on a lazy Saturday afternoon!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: ~14 minutes per sheet
Yield: 2 dozen


  • 1 cup peanut butter (I prefer no sugar added, the chunkier and the better)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix ingredients together with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  4. Spoon 1 tablespoon of mixture about 1 inch apart onto parchment lined baking sheet (should fit 1 dozen per sheet).
  5. Flatten mounds with fork (imprint won't be as apparent as peanut butter cookies without chocolate chips but the idea is there...).
  6. Bake until golden around the edges, about 14 minutes.
  7. Slide cookies (while still on parchment paper) off onto cooling racks.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of milk!

Library Book Bag

Love those Saturdays with nothing penciled in. With some house cleaning to do, but not pressing, I made a list (because lists are my thing) of what I wanted to enjoy today. First, I cleaned up the kitchen in case I wanted to try out any new recipes (can't cook in a dirty kitchen!). Then, I took up a cozy spot in the living room with crochet hook in hand and some 100% cotton yarn (so much nicer to work with compared to acrylic and wool yarn when it's so hot!). 6 hours later....

Monday, July 25, 2011

Palette of the Desert

When we have a free moment at the same time and it isn't too hot, my husband and I enjoy exploring the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The name is slightly confusing because it isn't a museum in the sense of a museum one expects when visiting an art museum or history museum. It is much more like the botanical gardens...desert style. However, when you look up "museum" in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition states the following: an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value; also : a place where objects are exhibited. So maybe "museum" DOES make sense.... Regardless of the name, we enjoy going. There's inspiration around every corner!

There are well over 300 species of hummingbirds, all native to the Americas. The vast majority live in the tropics, where flowers abound year-round. Only a handful of hummingbird species reach the United States, and Southern Arizona is home to more than a dozen of them, which include a family of birds that are the smallest in the world.

This has inspired me to create. I don't know what I'll be creating but I will create something inspired by this hummingbird's nest.
Vibrant colors and the most intricate of lines.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chocolate & Vanilla Checkerboards

Looking for something exciting and easy to bring, (and won't melt at a BBQ) I dug through my cookie books and came up with "Chocolate & Vanilla Checkerboards" (recipe adapted from The Little Guides: Cookies).

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
Baking Time: 8 minutes per batch
Yields: ~5 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder; beat till combined. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Divide dough in half.
  2. Knead melted chocolate into half of dough until it's an even color (warning-MESSY!). Shape plain and chocolate halves of dough into 8 inch logs. Wrap each in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill for 2 hours, or till firm. Using a long and very sharp thin blade, cut each chilled log lengthwise into quarters; reassemble logs, alternating chocolate and vanilla quarters. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm. 
  3. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place on ungreased baking sheets (I used parchment paper). The cookies won't spread much so you can space 1/2 inch apart. Baked in preheated 375 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes, or till edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Remove cookies and cool on a rack.
To take this recipe to the next level... I'm thinking it would be fun to make the vanilla and chocolate sections different flavors that play together... like cinnamon chocolate vs vanilla bean or hot chocolate vs marshmallow (not sure how to make that flavor without changing the cookie consistency completely...) or chocolate vs gingerbread or pumpkin latte! ... The possibilities are endless!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bottle Sweaters

Thanks to an ingenious friend, the koozies I have been crocheting are to now be known as "Bottle Sweaters!" Isn't that delightful? I've been inspired to create a set based on a fruits and vegetables theme. They're deliciously cute AND they keep your purse (or desk) from getting wet due to condensation on the outside of a cold water bottle!

Happy Hats

I love yarn. I love the feel of yarn. I love all the different colors. I love that a simple ball of yarn can grow into so many delightful creations! Go wherever your imagination takes you!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Basil Mint Lemon-Limeade

When the temperature reaches triple digits, I look for anything to cool down.... So with basil overflowing in the garden, mint thriving by the side wall, and limes and lemons ready to be used, Basil Mint Lemon-Limeade was born!

Refreshing. Cooling. Minty Sweet. 

Squeeze juice from lemons and limes, strain out seeds. In the bottom of a tall pitcher, use a wooden spoon to gently mash the mint and basil leaves. Add the strained juice and simple syrup (I used mint-infused simple syrup available in my pantry). Add cold water (and ice if serving immediately). Taste for sweetness. Chill before serving.

Desert Monsoon

What is a "monsoon?" The term "monsoon" comes from the Arabic word "mausim" meaning "season" or "wind shift." I have never lived anywhere that even used the word, "monsoon" in everyday conversation. Now, calling Arizona home, I have learned that the monsoon season here officially starts June 15th and ends September 30th. During this time, there are strong winds, dust storms, thunderstorms, and higher chances of tornadoes. With high volumes of downpour, the streets often flood. Most areas here are not designed to drain water quickly since rain is too rare to justify the extra costs of constructing an elaborate drainage system. Thus, there are road signs "Do Not Enter When Flooded" to warn motorists. Arizona has a "Stupid Motorists Law" making drivers responsible for the costs and damage caused if they drive into flooded areas. My husband and I stayed off the roads last night and enjoyed a quiet but electrifying show off in the distance. Below are some snapshots from the backyard taken by my husband.

Per the National Geographic News, lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the United States. Most people do not realize that they can be struck by lightning even when the center of a thunderstorm is 10 miles (16 kilometers) away and there are blue skies overhead. The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000Lightning detection systems in the United States monitor an average of 25 million strokes of lightning from clouds to ground during some 100,000 thunderstorms every year. It is estimated that Earth as a whole is struck by an average of more than a hundred lightning bolts every second.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Sangria

What's more refreshing and fun than fresh fruit, white wine, and Italian soda?? ... All of the below mixed together with great company! This version of white wine sangria was concocted by my two lovely sisters during a recent adventure in San Francisco.

Ingredients (no real measurements, everything was eye-balled):

  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • 1 bottle of Italian soda, chilled (we used tangerine ... prefer blood orange but the store was out)
  • variety of fresh fruit, sliced (we used lemon, orange, strawberries, nectarine, and apple)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • granulated sugar (for rims)

Fill carafe half full of white wine. Add sliced fruit and cinnamon sticks. Top off carafe with rest of white wine. Cover and let the ingredients get to know each other in the fridge overnight. When ready to enjoy, rub edge of glasses with lemon or water and rim with sugar. Pour wine with fruit into glasses, top off with Italian soda. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

A really simple, delicious, and refreshing side dish is zucchini ribbon salad!

Yield: 2 side dish servings
Prep: 10 minutes

1 large zucchini (from our garden!)
red wine vinegar
olive oil
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated or thinly shaved
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt

1. In a medium bowl, use a peeler or mandolin to transform zucchini into ribbons.
2. Drizzle red wine vinegar and olive oil over bowl of ribbons.
3. Add cheese, black pepper, and salt to taste.
4. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature!