This post might include affiliate links for your convenience.
Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year in Hawaiian)

I'm heading off for a brief trip to Oahu and will be back on January 2nd, 2008. I may or may not be posting about my trip here, but probably will be posting about it for Epicurious. You can always check out my daily posts by clicking on the Epicurious button on your left. If you have any hot tips or favorite restaurants on Oahu, please feel free to post them in the comments section. Aloha! (and Mele Kalikimaka to my readers celebrating Christmas) Amy...
Thursday, December 20, 2007

Upping the Ante--It's the bomb!

Only 6 tickets have been purchased for the "Cozy Comforts" prize (code UW30), so I'm upping the ante. I'm adding several more must-have items for your Winter getaway--a mini Tiger Balm sports rub for sore muscles, a Natural Ice SPF 15 lip balm, and three snack packages of delicious and healthy Sensible Foods crunch dried snacks in Cherry Berry, Organic Sweet Corn and Orchard Blend. I should also add that the "handful of chocolates" in the prize package is over a half pound! The contest ends tomorrow, so please, won't you buy a ticket today? + The Ski House Cookbook : Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun + Fondue for the most classic Alpine indulgence + Hot Drinks : Cider, Coffee, Tea Hot Chocolate, Spiced Punch, and Spirits + A tin of Chocolate flavored tea from Lupicia + A handful of mini chocolate squares and bars from Scharffen Berger , Charles Chocolates and Vosges to sneak into your parka pocket (over 1/2 pound!) + A snuggly eco-...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Gift Guide--Deals and Splurges

Last year I posted a holiday gift guide with many of my favorite products. I am still enjoying those goodies and continue to give them as gifts to friends and family. But this guide is all-new. No matter what your price range, there should be something here to satisfy. Don't forget! Today is, generally speaking, the last day to order online for Christmas delivery... Sometimes you need a gift in a hurry. Not only does it cook up in 3 minutes, Al Dente pasta is something you may even be able to find in your local grocery store, and it is really delicious. It's the closest thing to freshly made pasta and it would fit wonderfully well in a gift basket. Most packages are only $3! You can't find a much better bargain than a one year subscription to Saveur magazine (9 issues) for less than $5! Be sure to use the code DCMPS15D to get the discounted price. If you are looking for a bargain, look for wines from Portugal. They are often fairly inexpensive, food friendly and...
Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Gift Guide--Books I Love

I've reviewed so many terrific books this year, it's hard to choose just a few for my gift guide. There are plenty of books out there that fall into the "gift" category, they are big, bulky, written by important authors, but I'm only recommending the ones I have used again and again and really love. It's up to you to decide if they are gift-worthy. Personally I don't need any more coffee table books, no matter how excellent they are. I also don't necessarily need any "how to cook" books, I have plenty already. But if you want recommendations for those, both Cooking by James Peterson and Jamie Oliver's latest book, Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook are excellent for the novice or the expert. Here are my favorite books of the year, and why I chose them: 5 Spices 50 Dishes : Simple Indian Recipes using Five Common Spices For reminding me that Indian food can be made quickly and without a ton of ingredients I'm...
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Gift Guide--Chocolate Edition

Returning to college from Christmas break I was always loaded down with broken chocolate Santa's. The benefit of restocking the Christmas candy in a specialty food store was that I could take the damaged goods for myself. Eating all that broken chocolate helped me develop a taste for fine quality. At a certain point, if it wasn't really good, I just skipped eating it entirely. Ruined for life, you might say. Now I get to try lots of chocolate, most of it very good. But not all the chocolate I tried made the cut this year. All of the chocolate on this list was personally consumed by me, very recently. See you at the gym in January! CONFECTIONS Charles Chocolates makes beautiful and delicious confections. For the holidays, the boxed chocolates make very impressive gifts. The brown and turquoise packaging is as modern and gorgeous as can be, and the chocolates in edible chocolate boxes are like nothing I've ever seen before. The chocolate covered caramels were a big ...
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Did you get it?

Just a quick note to say the monthly email newsletter went out today. If you didn't get it, feel free to sign up for it and I'll send you a copy. It is a double opt-in system, so after you sign up you'll be asked to confirm your subscription. In other words, if you don't confirm, you are not subscribed. The newsletter provides links to some posts from the prior month, a sneak peek at what's coming up as well as some links to sites I think you'll like. Thanks again for visiting and staying in touch!...
Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope & Cozy Comforts Prize

Once a year more food and wine bloggers than you even knew existed offer up prizes that their readers win through a raffle with the proceeds going to charity. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim. What prize am I offering? And where does the money go? Read on.... My prize package this year is "Cozy Comforts" the prize code is UW30 . It consists of various treats perfect for a winter getaway. Three brand new, recently published books are included plus some other goodies-- + The Ski House Cookbook : Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun + Fondue for the most classic Alpine indulgence + Hot Drinks : Cider, Coffee, Tea Hot Chocolate, Spiced Punch, and Spirits + A tin of Chocolate flavored tea from Lupicia + A handful of mini chocolate squares and bars from Scharffen Berger , Charles Chocolates and Vosges t...
Friday, December 07, 2007

Holiday Gift Guide--Fun Stuff

Last year I posted one all-purpose holiday gift guide . This year I am going to give you several gift guides. One for fun foodie gifts, a chocolate guide, a guide to my picks for classic and luxury gifts and finally a book guide. Today the fun stuff! I've tried to choose some things that are a bit out of the ordinary, I hope you like them. How could I forget one of my favorite films of the year? Ratatouille on DVD has the added bonus of an interview segment with producer Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller. Learn about the creative process from two masters. I've been known to slip on my sunglasses when chopping a lot of onions, but onion goggles are much better. Bacon, bacon, bacon! I'm still waiting for someone to get me a gift subscription to the famous bacon-of-the-month club but in the meantime I can settle for bacon novelty gifts . Since no actual pigs were harmed, it's possible even vegetarians will like these gifts. Bacon-flavored toothpicks, bacon band...
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Healthy Banana Bread: Recipe

In my continuing effort to eat more whole grains, I have been using King Arthur's organic white whole wheat flour. Let me just say right off the bat, this stuff is amazing! It has a milder flavor and lighter more delicate texture than traditional whole wheat flour which makes it it terrific for baking. It's milled from high protein, hard white spring flour. King Arthur Flour suggests you replace 1/3 all purpose flour with white whole wheat in your baking, but I've found in most quick breads and cookies I can replace half the all purpose flour with white whole wheat and barely notice a difference in taste or texture of the finished baked goods. I wouldn't use it for something super delicate, like a pie crust or angel food cake, but experiment for yourself. I was looking for a recipe for a cake made with fresh guava, and read that you can actually substitute guava for banana in banana bread. I've now tried this bread with guavas and with a combination of guavas a...
Monday, December 03, 2007

Weekend in Monterey

This weekend I went down to Monterey, on the central coast. It's picture postcard beautiful with dramatic wispy Cypress pines, a rocky shoreline and plenty of sea birds and seals. The aquarium is a must-see. It was one of the first aquariums to focus on the local habitat which is rich and colorful, especially the undulating transparent jelly fish that glow in picture window tanks. As far as dining goes, Monterey is not quite a destination, but there is some good food to be found in the area. Staying as a guest of the Hyatt Regency Monterey, I got to check out the relatively new restaurant TusCA . I'm not crazy about the name, which is meant to highlight the Tuscan influenced California cuisine, but I did like the food. The duck breast I tried was a huge portion that had been cooked in a wood-fired oven. It was crisp on the outside and juicy medium rare on the inside and served over a bed of wild rice, mushrooms and hazelnuts. At around $20 it was a terrific value. I also tri...
Friday, November 30, 2007

Pure Dessert

I've said it before, but I'm in awe of Alice Medrich. She was an early chocolate evangelist in the Bay Area, who brought us luscious desserts and truffles, inspired by what she had tasted and learned in France. Over the past few years she has written several terrific and award-winning books on chocolate including Bittersweet , Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts , and Chocolate Holidays . Her latest book is a bit of a departure, it's not just about chocolate, but an exploration into the world of high quality ingredients. The chapters in Pure Dessert are focused on the flavors of Milk, Grain, Nuts and Seeds, Fruit, Chocolate, Honey and Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Flowers and Herbs, and Wine, Beer and Spirits. Intriguing, don't you think? In each chapter is a discussion of the ingredients, the flavors and where they can take you. Best of all are the recipes, which are very simple, in part to highlight flavors and not confuse your palate. It's a celebration...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whole Wheat Mini Pizza: Recipe

In an attempt to eat more whole grain this year, I've switched to whole wheat versions of products I used to buy in more refined form. I buy whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas and whole wheat bread. It's important to make sure wheat bread is whole wheat or you can look for the Whole Grains stamp introduced by the Whole Grains Council (an excellent source of whole grain information), otherwise you may not be getting all the benefits. If you didn't already know, whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, diabetes and help with better weight maintenance. Three servings a day is considered optimal and switching to whole wheat is a good way to do that. Whole wheat bread is a no-brainer but when it comes to using whole wheat pasta and tortillas I've had to rethink how I cook. Whole wheat pasta has a rougher, rustic style that works particularly well with chunky or nutty sauces and not as well with cream-based or smooth sauc...
Monday, November 26, 2007

What is Natural poultry anyway?

Last week there was a flurry of comments about a post in which my Thanksgiving expert Rick Rodgers mentioned "natural" in regard to poultry. Coincidentally while shopping for chicken I had someone ask me if natural was the same as organic. I gave her the short answer, which was "no". But there's a lot more to it than that. Even reading the labels can be confusing. Natural, according to the dictionary, means functioning or occurring in a normal way or existing in or produced by nature; not artificial or imitation. But when it comes to chicken and for that matter turkey, natural isn't what you might think. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the label "natural" means the food contains no hormones, antibiotics or artificial ingredients and is "minimally" processed. But that doesn't prohibit processors from adding sodium, carrageenan and broth or water to the bird. Perhaps those aren't artificial ingredients, but ne...
Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dear Readers, On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for all the usual stuff--family, friends, health, enough to eat, and work that I love--but I am also thankful for you. You, my dear readers have stuck around even when I have been missing in action. Last night I created some buttons so you can read some other things I've written. Writing for other folks has kept me pretty busy recently. The good new is, I've turned in the manuscript for the book, and now I can get back to blogging again. But for today I'm going to take a break and just enjoy the day, the friends, the family and of course the food. I hope you do too. cheers, Amy...
Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Stories

Here are my three favorite reader-posted Thanksgiving disasters--congratulations to the winners, and do check out the rest of the stories in the comments section from this post . Winners will receive a copy of Thanksgiving 101 . "When my mother was first married, she naturally wanted to cook a nice thanksgiving dinner for my father. My grandmother (who is a terrible cook) suggested that she put a towel soaked in chicken broth on top of the turkey as it cooked. The towel, a circa 1973 synthetic polyester avocado-green pseudo-fiber, melted into the turkey before catching on fire and driving my parents from their apartment with the smell of melting chemicals. My father was a grad student at the time and a fellow grad student from Eastern Europe took pity and invited them over for an "American Meal" of spaghetti with ketchup sauce. To cap the day off when they returned home their dog had eaten most of the smelly, green, burned turkey which naturally made him sick fo...
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Disasters--And How to Avoid Them

Back before Katie Holmes became famous for being the wife of Tom Cruise she gave a very memorable performance in the movie, Pieces of April . With any luck it will join the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as a TV classic. In the film the black sheep April attempts to make a Thanksgiving dinner for her very suburban family in her Lower East Side gritty apartment. Lots of her neighbors make cameo appearances as April struggles to get dinner on the table. It's a funny and touching film with a bit of of an indy edge to it. You can see the movie trailer here . Thanksgiving disaster stories are nothing new so it's no wonder it ended up as the theme of a movie. I once heard a story about someone who was invited to spend Thanksgiving with some new friends. All year they looked forward to a big turkey dinner but their friends served only baked ham! Everyone has probably heard the story about someone who forget to defrost the turkey and ended up having to order Chinese food. So w...