Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Cookware! ;)

One of the best places to go to for the best cookware and easy recipes, is my all time favorite Williams & Sonoma. Every time I go into that store, it is almost as if it is Christmas once again. I always wish that one day I miraculously had mass amounts of money handed to me just to spend in that store. I am very interested in cooking and the atmosphere that tags along with it. Not only do they sell the most amazing, beautiful cookware, but they also sell original butters, jams, jellies, and any other dip, topping, or ingredient that could give a whole meal have its own extra pizzaz. I went there recently, and noticed that they were selling many Holiday themed specials such as cookie cutters, easy pumpkin bread making mixes, and special plates and cuttlery designed for the holidays.
Another notable holiday event going on is at Albertson's. They are advertising this seasonal special that for every $10 spent, you receive a sticker. After collecting a certain number of stickers, you may turn these in for one expensive cook pan or pot for the price of 1 cent. For example, one pan may cost 70 stickers. This offer continues until the first week of January (the 11th) so start saving up! I mentioned this because it is something that my dad and older brother are determined to take advantage of... and are succeeding tremendously! They have already achieved enough stickers for two pans and are working on the third. (Out of about 7 or 8 to choose from). This is such a great offer and is highly recommended, especially with all of the holiday shopping ahead of you. This is such a rewarding offer to take care of because finally, after spending hundreds of dollars on groceries for the holidays, you will actually be getting a reward back after all that hard work! And it is something that you will probably use anyways. I thought this was an especially good idea to market because when people are tight on money, the last thing that they want to be spending their extra cash on is new cook ware. However, this is a problem because cooking with damaged or old cookware can pose as a health risk to a certain degree. I recommend that you check this out and start collecting for the next two months!

On another note, I cannot stop thinking about Thanksgiving next week. I hope that everyone has an enjoyable turkey day, no matter what you end up doing. I know that a lot of people are not big on cooking,  but there are so many options out there that can provide the easiest, most cook-free thanksgiving ever. There are places that will cook your turkey/ham, and there are easy bread making mixes, that only require adding milk and eggs. Don't let this year's Thanksgiving go uncelebrated! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quick & VERY Easy Holiday Appetizers!

For my famly, Thanksgiving is one of the most exciting parts of the year, along with Christmas Eve. This is because those are the two holidays that our whole family gathers at our house for dinner. I am especially excited for Thanksgiving this year because my brother and I are going to be cooking for everybody. I am not sure as to what we are cooking yet but previous years (ever since I was very young) I have been in charge of making appetizers (and most likely will be again!). So, I'll post a few quick, easy recipes for you to share with your families this holiday season!

Homemade Mac and Cheese

This is not the recipe I use when I make it, but it is pretty close to it.This one that I have posted takes about 50 minutes to make, including preparation and cooking time. In this recipe, it asks for Parmesan cheese and sharp cheddar cheese-- I usually use extra sharp cheddar cheese and sharp cheddar cheese. I highly recommend this recipe because it is extremely simple to make and is enjoyable for everyone! Another suggestion I have is to double the recipe; Everyone usually loves it so much that it's gone before the blink of an eye. I have tried making this with pepper jack cheese-- not so tasty.. Sharp and extra sharp cheddar is exquisite and the bread crumbs on the top make it all the more tastier.

Deviled Eggs 

I make these every year simply because they are SO SIMPLE! They are great, delicious snacks to eat before the big meal when your stomach cannot possibly wait any longer to put something in it. They are healthy, as well, if you are looking to steer away from those store-bought vegetable trays. When I make these, I do not use a recipe, but I have posted one for guidance. This recipe has listed two mustards to add: I do not use those, I use pure ground mustard. When making the filling, it is usually easiest, after crushing up the yoke, to just keep adding the mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip salad dressing, light) until it tastes right to you-- some prefer more or less creamy than the recipe may request. After I create the consistency I want, I add the ground mustard, salt, and pepper until I get the taste I want. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread has always been a holiday favorite for me. Another suggestion is pumpkin soup, but that it a little bit more difficult to make. Pumpkin bread only takes 15 minutes to prepare, and the rest of the magic is all done in the oven! I love cooking this because it can be shared by a lot of people, and is seasonal. Try this recipe out.

Mom's Dip
I'll call this one mom's dip because it's something that my mom always makes on any occasion we have at our house. It's good for nice dinners, but is also very delicious at BBQ's or just for sitting out by the pool. This one is guaranteed gone by the end of the night! This one is the EASIEST one to make. All you need is block cream cheese, cilantro, and Harry & David's Pepper & Onion Relish (,r:0,s:0 )

Step 1: Unwrap the block of cream cheese and lay it in the middle of the plate.
Step 2: Dump the bottle of Pepper & Onion Relish on top of the cream cheese, letting gravity do the work.
Step 3: Cut the stems off the cilantro. Dice the cilantro. Sprinkle the leaves on top of the cream cheese and relish creation from Step 2.
Step 4: Enjoy with tostitos or restaurant chips! :)

I promise, it's SO delicious! I usually use a different "relish" or sauce to put on top, but this one is another alternative-- a little bit sweeter though. If you would to try like the kind that I typically use, it is called Chili Sauce and is sold at Ralphs or Albertsons. It will not be in the salsa or sauce isle, but in the ketchup isle. It is a round, clear, glass bottle with a white lid!!

I hope that these simple recipes will make your holidays more enjoyable :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


There is always that one time of year that most people look forward to: GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SEASON! This is the season that could match an other holiday season's amount of weight gain. Me being enrolled in Girl Scouts as a child was my mother's excuse  to support the Girl Scout Nation by buying about a million boxes of girl scout cookies. The amazing thing about these delicate morsels is that they will satisfy nearly anyone's taste buds. The flavors of these cookies can range from a sugary perfectness, to a peanut-buttery heaven, or even to a chocolate fantasy. When I was young, I was always shy, but for some reason I could always step up to that doorstep and sell those cookies like it was my job; it was my duty to deliver what these hungry customers anticipated all year for. 
My personal favorite is, and will always be, Thin Mints. They are the perfect combination of flavors mixed into one dessert that makes it impossible to stay away from every year. Throughout all of the 3 years that I was a Brownie (1) and Girl Scout (2), beginning in 3rd grade, the flavors had never changed. The only thing that changed in those glorious cookies was the PRICE. When I first began Girl Scouts, the cost was two dollars a box; how cheap!! At the time, of course, that sounded rediculously expensive. However, as my duty dragged on, it became tougher and tougher to sell those cookies for three dollars a box. Get this though-- the year after I threw in the towel, the price bumped up to FOUR DOLLARS A BOX! I could not believe my eyes... what once was an innocent fund raiser helping millions of little girls across the entire nation has become something that has corrupted these young girls to meet up to the failing economy's standards just to sell a box of cookies. And if you thought the price was rediculous, let's discuss the competition. Each year there was always a rush to sell the cookies at a local grocery store before another troop got there. If too many Girl Scout troops were concentrated in one area of the city, then it was tough to get people to buy the cookies. Another thing that made it tough to sell cookies for me was the fact that I lived in the same neighborhood as most of the girls in my troop! It was always a tough contest to get to the neighbors before the other girls did. If I took too long to get out on the streets selling them, then I would have missed my chance to sell anything. My biggest hope of selling the cookies would end up being my family. However, every year the cookies got sold in one way or another, and families would no doubt be stocked up for the holiday season with their fix of cookies. In the end, everyone wins.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Never Thought I'd Say This, But...

So, after eating in the dining hall constantly for the past couple of weeks, there comes a point where I truly start to miss the little snacks that I had the convenience of eating when I lived at home. There are only so many types of  foods I can bring into my dorm before the ants start to march in. The only food that is truly safe is those foods that I can leave in my mini refrigerator, or canned food (soup, for instance). Other than that, any pantry food is fair game for the ants. As I walked through Ralph's the other day to buy cookie dough, I strolled down the aisle of canned food on the way to the refrigerated section in the back of the store (This is very dangerous, especially when you're hungry, because you'll end up putting half of the store in your basket before you even get what you originally came for). As my eyes wandered amongst the shelves, they quickly halted at a can of SpaghettiO's with franks. My first instinct told me to buy them, not even caring if I had the appropriate tools to prepare them when I returned to my dorm. So this morning, a week after purchasing them, the can sits in the center of my desk (still un-opened) as I stare hungrily in my chair without a can-opener. 

Today, I acted upon my suffering and drove home (which is about 20 minutes away). My mother was fond of my dilemma via facebook, so she told me to take our canopener from home; gratefully, I did! As my mom and I were getting into the car to drive away for lunch, my brother frantically runs out of the house and hallows, "Where is the can-opener?!" I made a face as though I had been caught red handed. He then shouts, "I knew it!! I knew it was you!!" (he had seen my facebook posts as well, which ranted on about how desperate I was for a can-opener). They let me take the much-needed can-opener back to my dorm, and when I walked into my room, I quickly opened and heated up the can of SpaghettiO's, and enjoyed them once and for all. I don't think I have ever been so reluctant and grateful to have a bowl of SpaghettiO's before... and it was the best bowl of SpaghettiO's I have ever eaten in my life.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Personal Favorites

Throughout my life I have become extremely fond of certain restaurants that I cannot help but constantly return to. So, I have created a list of some of my favorite restaurants:

1. Lucille's BBQ-- the food is absolutely to die for. They are most famous for their Ribs and other barbecued meals. Another must-have on the menu is their grilled artichoke. It is not a true Lucille's experience if you don't order the artichoke! It is grilled and marinated with their famous barbecue sauce and another spicy mixture to create the perfect artichoke. Also, their before-dinner bread rolls are pretty tasty!
2. Outback Steakhouse-- Outback is similar to Lucille's, but with a touch of a Australian, down-under atmosphere. The food is extremely flavorful, ranging from the famous Blooming Onion, to delicious steaks and marinated chicken. By far, Outback Steakhouse has the BEST dinner rolls of all time. I can always expect a delicious, hearty meal when I visit Outback.
3. Mangia Mangia-- Located in Huntington Beach, Mangia Mangia is my favorite Italian restaurant. The atmosphere is very friendly and the food is authentic and unique. Mangia Mangia (meaning eat, eat! in Italian) is a place that my family always finds pleasuring in coming back to. My favorite dish from there is an original plate of angel hair pasta!

There are so many other restaurants out there that I have made notable, but these three are restaurants that never fail me for an amazing meal on any given occasion. 

(I'd truly have to say, that one of my favorite places to dine is my own house on Christmas Eve. My relatives always come together on Christmas Eve and cook one big meal to enjoy together. Nothing can replace the spirit of a blessed, loving family sharing an amazing home-cooked meal!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Family Tradition

Ever since I was a very young child, I always took a large interest in cooking and baking with my family for the holidays. My grandma and dad would always show me what they were cooking and how to make it since I was always so interested. They taught me how to make many different meals, but the one recipe that stuck around was meatballs. For some strange reason, it is a tradition for my dad and I to occasionally make meatballs. I passed it on to my best friend, who is basically family, and sometimes we'll get together and make a batch. Since I moved out to go to school, and everyone else is busy carrying on with their lives, it is rare that we get to come together and cook, but when we do it's always a good time. My Italian family always appreciates time spent together so it's always comforting to get to come home to that warm atmosphere. It's funny, because when we go to Italian restaurants we order meatballs to see how they compare to our homemade meatballs.. and on a rare occasion will one even remotely compare with our recipe. It's a fun and ongoing tradition throughout our family and I will probably end up teaching my kids how to make authentic meatballs too! 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Perks of Cafeteria Food...

One of the things that I was a little curious about going into college was how I was going to get through the year eating cafeteria food five times a week. I knew that it wasn't going to be absolutely delicious, but I wasn't sure whether or not it'd be manageable. My first time walking in there, I was amazed at how much the foods varied. I didn't expect to see an international food bar, which featured different cultured food each day. For those of you who have never dormed before or been to our school cafeteria, the food changes from breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Sometimes, you'll get the best luck of finding a good-tasting meal by getting a little of everything served that meal and finding what tastes good. A lot of times the food is pretty good, but every once in a while you'll come in on a day where nothing is good at all. No hard feelings on the cooks, but there are some meals out there that are not satisfactory when cooked in mass quantities. However, my favorite thing that I have eaten at the dining hall so far is their plum-sauce meatballs. This may sound a little strange, but trust me, they are to die for. Overall, the cafeteria food is definitely not my favorite, but compared to other cafeterias I have eaten at, this one isn't all that bad.