Saturday, September 10, 2011

Drawer disorder, defeated

Storing 'underthings' has always been a challenge for me. Underwear are inconsistent in their shape and therefore hard to fold into a neat pile. Bras are bulky (at least mine are) and are hard to corral. This is what my intimates drawer looked like as a result:

Not a total disaster but enough to give me anxiety. So, when I came across the SKUBB Storage Boxes at Ikea while desk shopping with my husband I knew I they would remedy the problem.

I used these zip up boxes to tidy up my drawer. This was the end result:

Not bad for $7.99 and 15 minutes of my afternoon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, September 2, 2011

Preparing to buy a car

Next to buying a mattress, purchasing a vehicle is probably one of the most perilous shopping experiences I can think of.  Car dealerships confuse you with 'MSRP' and 'invoice prices'; distract you with discussions about monthly payments and financing rates; and finally squeeze every dollar out of you by adding documentation fees and registration fees.  If you are not prepared, you could end up paying quite a bit more than you should for a new car. 

Fortunately, the internet has made it easier to get the information you need to avoid getting bamboozled.  Hubs and I are in the process of purchasing a car.  Here I'll compile all the tools that we used to educate ourselves before we even stepped foot into a dealership.

Read Reviews
Product reviews are probably my favorite thing about the internet (well, maybe next to Pinterest) and considering the amount of money one spends on a vehicle, both in purchasing and maintenance, car reviews are probably the most valuable.  So, to help you choose a vehicle check out the following sites for both expert and consumer reviews:
  • Edmunds -- A comprehensive auto site with reviews on thousands of vehicles and helpful calculators and tools. 
  • US News Ranking and Reviews -- Here you can see how cars stack up against the other vehicles in their class.
  • Cars -- Great for consumer reviews. 
Know Your Prices
Once you've narrowed down the list of possible vehicles, arm yourself with pricing knowledge.  TrueCar is a tremendously valuable site that compiles purchase records of cars both locally and nationally.  So, it can actually let you know how much you should pay, as well as what a good or great price for a car really is.  In addition to the free car pricing information, TrueCar also gives you a haggle-free, guaranteed price quote on brand new cars and trucks from local dealers in your area.

Inventory. Inventory. Inventory
It's a well-known fact that you have a lot more negotiating leverage when the car you're shopping for is on the lot.  So, once you choose model, make, and trim, go to the car manufacturer's website and search for local inventory.  Once you've found dealerships in your area that have your desired car, then you can verify that inventory on the dealer's site.  You'll have a better chance of negotiating a lower price if they have a substantial inventory of the particular car that you are looking for. 

Unexpected fees including destination fees, documentation fees, and registration fees can send the cost of a car skyrocketing very quickly and surprise you if you're not ready for them.  Edmunds has created a chart with all the basic car-buying fees. In addition, they show how sales tax on trade-ins and rebates is handled (both differ from state to state).  This information should help you estimate the true cost of your purchase so that you're not surprised when you go to the dealer.

I'm sure there a many more tips and tricks -- so if you have any, be sure to leave them in the comments.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Healthy and Chewy Coconut Macaroons

Ever since we got back from our French Polynesian honeymoon, I've been obsessed with two things - staying at my wedding weight and macaroons. Now, I realize that the latter obviously doesn't facilitate the former but I was determined to find a compromise.

That compromise came in the form of this recipe I found in a cookbook I picked up at Barnes & Noble the other day - Everyday Light Meals (published by Taste of Home Books.)

Now, I'm not going to lie and say that they're as amazing as the fresh macaroons we had at the Radisson Resort & Spa in Tahiti, but they are pretty good. They're sweet, chewy and at only 45 calories per cookie, they don't put too much of a dent in my calorie budget.

Chewy Coconut Macaroons
Yield: 72 cookies

2-1/2 cups flakes coconut
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 can (14 ounces) fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, toss together the coconut, flour and salt. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract until blended. (Mixture will be thick and sticky.)
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls 3 in. apart on baking sheets topped with parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

So, give it a try and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Thanksgiving Contribution

I'm not going to kid myself -- I'm not up to turkey status yet.  Nonetheless, I wanted to dip my toe into the water, so to speak, and make a Thanksgiving contribution at my mother's holiday dinner as well as my future mother-in-law's dinner.  So, I chose to make cornbread -- it's not particularly difficult, nor does it take a long time to make.  As I begin almost every culinary adventure -- I headed over to Google and did a search for "Best Cornbread Recipe" -- and this is what I got: Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread.  I followed the recipe to the letter (although I used an iron skillet instead of a pan) and got a beautiful result.

I can't wait to eat it share it with everyone!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pollo Saltado -- The first of MANY Peruvian Inspired Dishes

I'm a lucky girl.  I was born in Peru and although I've lived in the US most of my life, I've always been surrounded by that culture.  The music, the customs, and most importantly - the food, God, the food.  Now I may be somewhat biased, but I honestly believe that some of the best cuisine in the WORLD can be found in my little country in South America.

 I could go on and on about the delicious meals like Papa a la Huancaina, Aji de Gallina, Ceviche (that's ours by the way, not Ecuador's), and the delectable desserts like Mazamorra Morada, Torta Helada, Alfajores and tons more... but I won't -- I'll get to the point. 

Today is the first day that I attempted to make a Peruvian influenced meal.  Lomo Saltado is a super traditional Peruvian meal that consists of sliced meat sauteed with onions and tomatoes and is served with rice and french fries.  Some people also put the mixture in a roll and eat it for breakfast -- something we did in our house on many Sundays.  Unfortunately, red meat has way more calories than chicken and since I'm trying to fit into a Monique Lhuillier wedding gown by April, I had to adjust.  I made the dish tonight with sliced up chicken instead.  I took this recipe, modified it a bit and replaced the meat with chicken.  And I've got to say, it was absolutely delicious.  And even M, who shies away from unknown foods, loved this as well.  Also, I've got a little extra in the fridge to put in a pita and eat for breakfast or lunch tomorrow! 

Pollo Saltado
3 Servings, approx 390 Calories per serving

  • 2 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast (approx 14 oz) cut into 1/4 inch slices seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 10 Campari Tomatoes, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 Red Onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup White Distilled Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Aji Amarillo (Yellow Chili Pepper Paste)
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice

  1. Sautee chicken strips in Olive Oil until fully cooked (usually you don't do the same with red meat but with chicken, I didn't want to take any chances)
  2. Remove chicken from pan and put aside.
  3. In the same pan, saute the onions until they are transparent.
  4. Add the tomatoes, vinegar and aji amarillo and cook until the tomato softens and vinegar and other juices reduce.
  5. Add the chicken back into the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes. 
 Serve with rice (and if you're carb friendly, serve with fries as well) and enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Sandwich

It's been quite a while since my last post, which indicates that I wasn't being very housewifey.  And this is partly true.  You see, I'm very low maintenance when it comes to feeding myself.  When I lived alone, I was always able to throw something together for myself at the last minute.  However, M's very particular preferences require a lot of thought and planning.  And while I enjoy it (and cooking is great fun), I sometimes long for the simplicity of a sandwich.  But I hardly make what you'd call a typical sandwich.

M went away for business this week and I thought I'd revisit my love for sandwiches.  Now this isn't an explicit recipe -- just an idea for you to spice up something that might otherwise seem boring.

I always start out with either whole wheat bread or a whole wheat wrap.  And then I usually add some turkey breast, or chicken breast, or ham -- whatever sliced deli meat I have on hand.  Sometimes, I even use two.  Then, the cheese (it's my favorite food group) -- sliced deli cheese or fresh mozzarella or sometimes even shredded cheddar.  And then the fun begins.  A dry sandwich is not a good sandwich so next I look for something to moisten it up.  I love mayonnaise but my waistline doesn't so I usually look for an alternative.
Alternatives to mayonnaise:
  • Hummus
  • Sliced advocado
  • Sun-dried tomato paste
  • Pesto spread
  • Salad dressing (although sometimes it gets a little messy so use it sparingly.)

And sometimes, I'm in the mood for something else entirely and I look for something to change it up.  I've added slices of apple, pear or mango to my sandwiches and it always gives it just the right amount of sweetness.

Then finally the last and most important step -- pop it in the panini press.  And if you don't have a panini press, you can put it in a skillet at low to medium heat and press it down with another heavy pan.  Another alternative, my favorite one, is to pop it in the George Foreman grill! I don't have a panini press either and the GF does an amazing job at pressing everything together and toasting the bread.

God I love sandwiches.  If you have any more tips and tricks for enhancing them, please share!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Grilled Caesar Salad

I know what you're thinking.  The first time I read the name of this recipe, I thought they forgot the 'chicken' too.  But there's no mistake.  The recipe I'll be sharing with you today is for a delicious Grilled Caesar Salad -- courtesy of the folks at Taste & Technique.  It couldn't be any simpler and it's super-tasty.  Let me know if you try this and what you think.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6):
  •  1 large garlic clove cut in half
  • 6 oil packed anchovies
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water (or more, if needed to thin vinaigrette)
  • 3 hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

  1. In a food processor, add garlic, anchovies, grated cheese, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, lemon, and pepper.  Process until fully blended and then scrape down the sides of the processor.
  2. With machine on, slowly add olive oil.  If vinaigrette is too thick, add a small amount of water.  Transfer to a bowl with a pastry brush.
  3. Adjust oven rack to top shelf and preheat boiler. 
  4. Trim ends of Romaine hearts leaving the core intact. Cut in half lengthwise and place on baking sheet cut side up. 
  5. Brush dressing over the lettuce making sure that it goes between the leaves.  Sprinkle pine nuts on top. 
  6. Set sheet pan on top shelf in the oven and cook for 4 - 6 minutes.  The lettuce will start to wilt and brown lightly.  
  7. Remove promptly from oven and sprinkle the Parmesan shavings on top. Serve warm.