Sunday, October 31, 2010

HOTSTUFF: Onion Goggles - they're not only for Halloween

Ugly? Yes.  Forgettable? Never.
I don't know about you, but my love/hate relationship with onions has been downright painful; I teared up, winced in pain, had to take mid-cooking eye-rinse out breaks, and even resorted to omitting onions from my recipes...that is, until I got my onion goggles. My onion goggles are a superior alternative to the saran wrap solution I once tried; they block out all irritants, allow me to see clearly, and unlike the swimming goggles I tried to wear through a particularly long onion dicing session, they don't hurt!  I bought mine on Amazon a few years back (Sur La Table also carries them if you want to try these puppies on before buying), and I haven't looked back once.  Your friends and significant other may snicker, but who cares so long as you're tear/pain free!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

HOTSPOTS: Napa for Non-Drinkers

As a native-Californian, it's embarrassing to admit, but my first trip to Napa was today.  I previously avoided the Napa Valley, because I was convinced there was nothing here for non-drinkers. I was definitely wrong; in fact, here's what I enjoyed on my day trip:

  • Sterling Vineyards Gondola, Calistoga - I enjoyed awe-inspiring views of Sterling Vineyards and surrounding vineyards as I took the gondola ride up from the vineyards to the estate.  While at the estate, I took the self guided tour, where I learned A LOT about wine production 

    • Culinary Institute of America, St Helena - This beautiful building, formerly owned by Greystone Cellars, offers a few opportunities for fun: take a self-guided or guided tour of the non-profit school (including the awe-inspiring Viking Kitchen, where visitors can watch students practice their culinary arts), browse the Spice Islands Marketplace (and new chocolate bar) , watch cooking demonstrations and tastings at the De Baun Theatre, and finally enjoy amazing food at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant (I highly recommend sitting at the bar where you can watch the all-student chef crew prepare your food - try their appetizer tastings, OlivetoLive olive oil tasting, and don't leave without having their Lava Cake)

  • Bouchon Bakery - Do not leave Napa before grabbing coffee (including macchiato served the right way), Parisian macaroons (love pistachio, but have to admit that Patisserie Phillipe's in SF are far better), and their amazing "Chantilly" eclair 

    • While I only had about five hours in Napa Valley; I certainly had an alcohol-free blast, and can't wait to return to check out the hot springs, Ad Hoc, and all the other goodies the Valley has to offer.

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      HOTSTUFF: Stainless Steel French Press

      For those of you who aren't coffee maker fans - I highly recommend the Bodum Arabica Stainless Steel French Press.  After years of dropping and breaking fragile glass french presses - this press is a dream come true; plus, it keeps my coffee warm for at least 20-30 minutes longer than its glass cousin.  I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma (, but they are available online at multiple retailers.

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      DINNER: Easy, Low Fat Fettucine Alfredo

      Fettucine Alfredo is my all-time favorite Italian dish, but it has traditionally been on my list of foods to avoid - not so with this super easy, nutritious recipe.

      Serving Size: 3-4

      • 1 package mushrooms (crimini or standard white mushrooms work)
      • 10-12 ounces whole wheat fettucine 
      • 1 pound sliced thigh filets, fat removed, and sliced into thin pieces (you'll find that this tastes far better than breast meat)
      • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 tbsp chopped basil (dried or packaged works)
      • 1 tsp black pepper
      • 2 cups skim milk
      • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (white flour works as well)
      • 2-3 cloves crushed garlic (or 1 tbsp garlic powder if you don't have fresh garlic)
      • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
      • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (Trader Joe's has a good bottled version, although fresh grated is always preferable)
      • Boil pasta while preparing chicken - try to time it so that upon straining you can put it straight into the parmesan sauce
      • Pour 1-2 tbsp of olive oil into a pan and quickly pan fry chicken, all spices, garlic, and mushrooms
      • In a large saucepan - create a roux with the milk (this gives you the thickness of a cream, but without the fat): heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and dust the oiled surface of the pan with whole wheat flour until it browns - pour in the milk and mix well until you have a relatively thick sauce.  Add additional flour as needed (sparingly).
      • Add chicken and mushrooms to the heated sauce
      • Add in drained pasta and ensure that pasta and sauce are mixed well (make sure all pasta is coated with the sauce)
      • Add in parmesan cheese
      • Serve and enjoy.