Saturday, January 31, 2009

Style: Van Cleef & Arpels Effeuillage Collection

For fans of Van Cleef & Arpels' prolific Alhambra line, the venerable jewelry house has introduced the Effeuillage collection in time for Valentine's Day. The mini-collection consists of a ring and drop earrings with heart "petals" and is currently available in carnelian edged with rose gold or mother of pearl with yellow gold in select VCA stores.

Photo Credit: Van Cleef & Arpels

Friday, January 30, 2009

Food: Tofu Tip

Hopefully I'll get in full blogging mode in the upcoming weeks; in the meantime, here's a quick cooking tip. During the winter months my family and I love eating Shabu Shabu, essentially a Japanese version of fondue. A pot of hot boiling water is on the table, and you dip in raw meat, veggies, Udon, etc. My dad recently gave me a tip to freeze soft tofu before throwing it in the water (where it usually falls apart). Simply place an unopened box of tofu in the freezer; a day before or the morning of, defrost the box of tofu in the fridge or on the counter, slice it up and cook. The tofu maintains its structure, and freezing the tofu gives it a spongy texture to it that I like better than medium firm tofu. This works whether you're boiling it or cooking it in stir-fry.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cook: Toaster Oven-Baked Mayo Salmon Filet

Although it may not look pretty, this dish is a staple in my limited cooking repertoire and a favorite of my oldest child. I marinate the fish in the morning, throw it in the toaster oven about 16 minutes before dinner, and it's done. Saute some vegetables, serve with white rice, and you have dinner.

Salmon filets
Sea salt
White Pepper
Garlic Powder
White wine or rice wine (Michiu)
Sesame oil
Low-fat Mayo (I like Kraft) OR Regular Mayo (Best Foods)

Chopped white onions (about 1 tbsp)
Chopped green onions

Buy skinned filets of salmon; I buy the Costco variety which I bring home, slice into quarters and put each slice into a Ziploc bag. Rinse one filet (about 1/2 pound or so) and dry with paper towel. Sprinkle sea salt, white pepper, and garlic powder on fish, add a splash of sesame oil and white or rice (Michiu) wine. Marinate in fridge for a few hours. Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees. Line toaster oven tray with foil, place filet on foil. Using the back of a tablespoon, smear the top of the filet with a layer of mayo; you can add as little or as much mayo as you prefer. Sprinkle with chopped white onions if you'd like. Bake in toaster oven for about 12 minutes, then turn to broil (500 degrees) for an additional 4 minutes or until the top is bubbly and light brown. You can drizzle with additional sesame oil or garnish with scallions. Serve with Japanese rice.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Read: GOOP

I just discovered Gwyneth Paltrow now has her own blog, GOOP (apparently based on a nickname of hers), and I actually think it's quite good. I wish I would have thought of the formatting--very nice and Zen. Yes, there are a ton of haters, (see article here at Eonline!) most notably criticizing her "Let them eat cake" attitude, but as a mother of two, it's nice to see someone else who has the time to workout and wear nice clothing to pick up her kids. It gives me a little inspiration. The blog has cute little categories of things to make, go, get, do, be and see. Loved her list of Los Angeles favorites under the "Go" category, although I do have to dispute the greatness of Katsu-Ya in Studio City for spicy tuna rice cakes....more on that later.

This week's newsletter in particular, is literally a big kick in the butt. Ms. Paltrow shares a mini-movie from the trainer she shares with Madonna, Tracy Anderson; it is a supplement to give her butt a boost, and the clip even features a handy little link so you can download it to your iPod. More about Tracy Anderson can be found at her website here.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gear: The Amazon Kindle

So where have I been this past year? Well, with the birth of my second child, I am essentially evolving into my worst nightmare: a mom with a very depleted brain in sweats, no make-up, hair up in a bun, and yes, I have been known to catch a few episodes of Oprah. I do have to credit Oprah though for featuring the Amazon Kindle, the gadget I've always seen on Amazon's home page but was too lazy to figure out how it worked. Jeff Bezos was on Oprah touting the gadget, and I was sold. I balked a bit at the cost (about $359) but was so enthralled by the fact that I could carry up to 200 books on this one lightweight device that I bit the bullet and One-Clicked my way into owning a Kindle.

Here's how the device works: Amazon has a contract with Sprint that allows the books to be downloaded to your Kindle device wirelessly (on what's called the "Whispernet") within a few seconds using the same high speed data network as a cell phone (EVDO). There's no contract or additional fees other than your initial Kindle purchase; you just buy your Kindle, and your Amazon account permits you to buy new books anywhere within the U.S. within the coverage area. So you're at the airport and you finish a book--you can surf the Kindle store on your Kindle and buy a new title within a few seconds. You can highlight, make notes, look up words in the Kindle which has the New American Oxford Dictionary built in. All your purchases are automatically stored on Amazon. You can also subscribe to major newspapers like the NY Times and the Wall St. Journal, and they will automatically be delivered to your Kindle every morning. As for battery life, supposedly you can read War and Peace in one sitting on one charge if you turn off the wireless feature.

Granted I had to take a few baby steps back into the realm of reading and began by downloading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series for young adults, then I gradually worked my way up into the classics and found that I could download the entire Shakespeare catalogue for $.99, and depending on which edition you chose, Plato's Republic could be had for a mere $ .43. NY Times bestsellers generally sell for $9.99, a lot less than what you'd pay for a hardback.

The Kindle is like an iPod for books; however, they probably could have benefited from the Apple geniuses in the design. There are some glitches--yes, it's hard to lend your books to friends when it's on your Kindle, and it's too bad it's in black and white so any photographs in color aren't as effective, the ease of acquiring books anywhere has proven dangerous for the wallet, but the convenience outweighs the minor downsides, and I'm looking forward to seeing this device evolve.

Available at Amazon

Food: Sotto Voce

We kicked off 2009 with a special package awaiting us at our front door--a lovely set of Sotto Voce hand-bottled Olio Santo and Aceto Balsamico from a thoughtful friend who knows the owners of Sotto Voce. Since we had just come home from the holidays, our fridge was empty so I hoofed it to the nearest market, picked up a baguette, came home and plopped myself down in a chair in front of the kitchen table with elbows propped on the table (sorry Mom) and devoured about half the baguette dipped in the oil and vinegar with some shaved Parmesan Reggiano. Pure heaven.

The Washington-based company has a small outpost in Pike Place Market not too far from the original Starbucks, and in addition to a variety of flavored vinegars, produces about 8 varieties of flavored olive oils with the original, Olio Santo, described as "a tasty blend of rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and mild chili flavors." Aceto Balsamico is described as " Spicy, but oh so tasty! Modenaceti Balsamic Vinegar infused with whole garlic cloves, crushed red peppers & whole red chilis!" The combination of the two is oh so yummy! Those of you who have frequented Piatti's restaurants may find the blend reminiscent of their oil and vinegar served with the house bread.

After experiencing the Olio Santo and Aceto Balsamico I promptly ordered 3 sets for friends who would enjoy it. They make wonderful hostess gifts as well; not only are they delicious, but the bottles are beautiful on the kitchen counter.

Photo from