Monthly Archives: November 2014

Fun At Your Table: A “Place Setting” Placemat

Bryan and I still live in an apartment and don’t have a great dining room table. In fact, I still have the same dining room table I bought straight-out-of-USC as my first “adult” dining room table. It’s compact-able, having traveled with me from LA to Chicago, Chicago to Dallas, Dallas to Scottsdale and finally settling in a tight dining room in our 1950’s LA apartment. Forget the fact that it can barely accommodate the plates and wine glasses of four people; it’s great for other things (stacks of mail, anyone?) and until we upgrade to an adult home with an adult table, it still does the trick.
That’s not to say I will buy accoutrements for it, as we still use the same placemats from years past and “wow” our guests with paper towel napkins. We’re pretty casual, I guess you could say. Which is why I think these Place Setting placemats, made by Donkey Products (don’t get me started) are really cool. If you’re at risk of forgetting how to place the knives vs. forks, consider your problem solved. Same goes for the wine and water glass arrangement. The placemats blueprint-esque design makes it both modern and a great conversation starter.

Photo courtesy of
And while you’re at it, why not check out the DIY tablecloth? It comes with markers so your guests can thank you for a dinner well done right in front of your eyes. Or draw pictures of flowers and butterflies. Their choice. 🙂

Photo courtesy of

Happy National Margarita Day + Spicy Jalapeño Margarita Recipe

Jalapeño Margarita at Hollywood’s Loteria Grill

Let me start with this: Our idea of “National Food Days” has gotten out of control. Case in point: There’s “Something on a Stick Day” (March 28), “Lima Bean Respect Day” (April 20), and even “TV Dinner Day” (September 10).

Whatever happened to days that brought attention to national favorites like pizza, S’mores and apple pie? It’s in that spirit that I’d like to go back-to-basics and celebrate an (inter)national past-time: The classic Margarita.

For most of the country, February might not be the ideal time to enjoy a frosty beverage. I disagree. Anyone worth their salt(ed rim) knows that high quality tequila is the perfect antidote to freezing temperatures, especially when it’s infused with the spicy heat of a jalapeño pepper and topped with a salted chili rim. So forget going out to celebrate National Margarita Day; make my favorite spicy jalapeño margarita recipe and warm up in the comfort of your own home. ¡Salud!

Spicy Jalapeno Margarita
Adapted from Food + Wine Magazine
Makes 6 servings 

  • 1 jalapeño, poked with a knife
  • 1 1/3 cups Silver Herradura or Patron tequila
  • 1 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (10 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Make the margarita mix: In a jar, steep the jalapeño and tequila; seal and keep at room temperature for 3 days. Strain the tequila into a large pitcher and discard the jalapeño. Stir in the Grand Marnier, lime juice and sugar.

Salt the rim: When ready to serve, combine the salt with the chili powder in a shallow dish. In a second small plate, pour a tiny amount of the margarita mix. Gently dip the rims of 6 glasses in the margarita liquid, then immediately dip in the salt and chili mixture. Fill six glasses with ice and divide the margarita mix equally between them. Serve and enjoy!

A Great Alternative to DIY Sliders

For all my writing about sliders, I can’t believe I haven’t seen these before. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy homemaking my own brioche sliders buns and Italian and Vietnamese Banh Mi sliders, who knows?

But today I had a slider epiphany and wanted to share it. This is especially great for someone who wants to make their own sliders at home without the hassle of making bread, measuring meat, etc.
Trader Joe’s offers their own portion-sized sliders and mini slider buns. How I missed these during our almost-ritualistic trips to Trader Joe’s is beyond me. Specifically, they’re Mini Beef Burger Patties (90/10 fat ratio) and cost between $3.00 and $4.00 per pack. Hopefully it doesn’t weird you out that they’re a product of USA, Canada and Mexico. So many countries for such tiny burgers.
Of course you don’t have to grill them the way they’re seen here. You can incorporate your favorite burger flavors – some of our favorites are minced onions, minced garlic, Worcestershire, chipotle chili pepper, hot sauce and S&P – and mold them to your liking. Or want mini cheese-stuffed sliders? Grab some bleu cheese and mold the burger around it. Going for Italian burgers? Stuff a chunk of mozzarella in the middle and wrap the burger around it. The options are seriously endless…
Trader Joe’s Sliders

Here are the slider buns. We found them above the tortillas in the bread section. These are genius, and hard to find in other grocery stores. They come eight to a pack for $1.19 and are labeled Mini Hamburger Buns. Creative name, I know. They’re the perfect size and a great alternative if you don’t have an entire day to dedicate to making your own homemade brioche buns. I can’t imagine they taste as good as homemade, but I’m biased.

Trader Joe’s Mini Hamburger Buns
They’re only $1.19!
So next time you’re faced with making a last-minute appetizer, keep these sliders and mini buns in mind. They’re fast, cheap and the perfect snack.

Conquering Another Foodie Phobia: Roasted Beets

First I conquered my cooking phobia of Scallops, and now I’m tackling beets. I love beets. Napa Valley-based Bistro Jeanty’s Salade de Betteraves is one of my favorites in the world. It’s got beautiful jewel-toned beets, mâche and feta cheese and citrus dressing. It’s fantastic, especially when accompanied by their tomato soup with puff pastry crust. But that’s another blog for another day.
So I went to the Beverly Hills’ Farmers Market last Sunday morning and bought two bunches of beets, one of Chioggia (interior white/red concentric rings) and the other, Burpee’s Golden beets for $3. Talk about a deal. I asked the vendor to remove the stems; in my own mind, I was one step closer to clean beets. I got them home, let out a big sigh and opened the bag, ready to tackle the beets. Then it hit me; roasting beets can’t be any different than roasting any other root veggie. And if that was the case, I knew how to do it. You just cut off the edges, scrub the skins and roast them in the oven for just under an hour (depending on the size). I could do this!
After roasting the beets, I have to admit I’m completely embarrassed I was ever intimidated by them. I feel like I’m a representative of The Idiots Guide to Cooking. No, seriously. I have roasted pretty much everything under the sun…beef, broccoli, root vegetables, peaches, etc. Why I thought beets would be beyond me is, well… beyond me. But I’ll stop beating myself up and get to the recipe! 🙂
Oven-Roasted Beets
  • 3 medium beets (red or gold), scrubbed, leaves trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Aluminum foil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat beets lightly with oil (omit this step if you’re going watching calories; the beets will steam in the foil even without the oil).
Cut top and bottom edges off beets

Scrub beets under running water until clean

Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
Wrap beets with aluminum foil and place on cooking sheet

Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on size of beets

Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then peel. The skin should come off very easily, either using your fingers or a paring knife.

Remove beets from oven and let cool for 10 minutes

Unwrap beets and remove skin with fingers or paring knife

Discard the skin and the foil and use the beets however you want: slice into 1/4-inch thick slices for a gratin, quarter them and toss them in a salad with lentils, goat cheese and frisee. Whatever you do with them, enjoy!

Beautiful roasted beets, peeled and ready to go!

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Green Beans

Green Beans with Crispy Onions

Ahhh, the good ole’ green bean casserole. A dish whose original Campbell’s soup recipe has spanned generations and Thanksgiving tables the country over. It’s very simple: Combine Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup with French-cut green beans, milk, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Bake and top with French’s French fried onions. Couldn’t be simpler, right?

Modern spins on the 50’s classic might be a smidge more involved but arguably result in a more flavorful and health-conscious dish. That’s the route we’re taking this Thanksgiving, looking at dishes like green beans and walnuts with lemon vinaigrette, green beans with Cremini mushroom sauce, and Haricot Verts (fancy green beans) with roasted fennel and shallots. Want to modernize your green bean casserole? Check out five recipe ideas below to help get you started.

Martha Stewart has made the quintessential Thanksgiving casserole better than ever by combining fresh green beans, homemade mushroom sauce, and savory fried shallots.

This Thanksgiving side is as simple as it is delicious.

Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans and Pearl Onions