Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kelly and Sarah's Favorite Things

In the past week, I attended a family wedding and hosted my sister for nine days. I am exhausted and overwhelmed. After a week of catching up on Real Housewives with my sister, visiting with cousins, and sharing many dinners with our parents, I am ready for my schedule and little, boring life. I tried to stay on my regular routine, but that never seems to work with a visitor. I finally just gave in and took some time off of my routine. Yesterday, however, I jumped back into my regular life and am left feeling somewhat exhausted. I will be back later in the week with the post I worked on, or tried to work on over the last week, but for now I want to share something fun and a few of my favorite things.

One of my favorite past times is to cook. I love to cook. If I could prepare and serve food all day long, I would. I also love to keep house and decorate. For as long as I can remember, when my mind drifts it is always escaping to dinner party ideas, organization techniques, and living room configurations and furniture dreams. One Christmas, I received the Martha Stewart Home Keeping Handbook, and you would have thought I won the lottery. Another Christmas, an iron was the gift that sent me over the edge with excitement. I don't mean to be this way, I just am. I don't have to try to be interested in the proper way to load a dishwasher or iron a shirt, I just am. It's who I am, just ask my old roommate, Joselyn. I assumed my accident might take this love away from me, but the old adage is true, if you let go of something you love and it returns, it is yours forever. Not only did I not lose interest, I found ways to make the loves of my life work and adapt to my new life. I still iron and clean and cook. Funny enough, it's my happy place.

My dear friend, Kelly, celebrated a birthday about a week and a half ago. Because of our busy schedules, we were not able to meet up to celebrate until Sunday evening. Celebrating her birth, was a perfect cap on a fun filled week. We ate frozen berries with hot white chocolate sauce and shared a very special bottle of champagne, and most importantly caught up with each other and shared a lot of laughter. Kelly loves to cook as well. She throws some of the best barbecue parties I've ever attended. One thing we have in common is our love of the Barefoot Contessa. We test and try and discuss her recipes quite often. We talk about Ina as if we know her personally. Last year, I packed a basket full of Kelly's Favorite Things. I made her a mason jar full of Ina's Blue Cheese Dressing, a large bag of caramels, and threw in a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. This year, Kelly requested another Kelly's Favorite Things basket and the frozen berries with hot white chocolate desert. I threw in Kelly's favorite onion dip, chips, and bottle of champagne. I am filled with joy when I cook and even more so when Kelly requests certain items. I love to prepare everything and especially love putting the basket together.  

I thought I would share Kelly's Favorite Things along with a few of my favorite things. I hope to do more posts like this in the future. All of these recipes and links to recipes and other favorites are tried and true and practiced over and over again by me. I hope you enjoy some of them! See you in a few days.

Kelly's Favorite Things basket includes...
Blue Cheese Dressing
Pan Fried Onion Dip
Fleur de Sel Caramels
Kettle Brand Sea Salt Chips
Heirloom Tomatoes from the local farmer's market I attend every single Sunday.

Blue Cheese Dressing
(The Barefoot Contessa, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

1/2 pound Roquefort cheese 
1cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons tarragon wine vinegar

Place the Roquefort cheese, the mayonnaise, heavy cream, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until combined but still chunky.

My notes:
If you can’t find Roquefort, use another good crumbly blue cheese. I couldn’t find it at Whole Foods once and just grabbed a container of the Whole Foods brand danish blue cheese crumbles and the dressing turned out perfectly well. I now use the crumbles because it tasted so good. 
Milk can be substituted for the heavy cream.
And white wine vinegar can be substituted for the tarragon wine vinegar. Actually, I am sure almost any vinegar will work, probably with the exception of balsamic vinegar.
I love to serve this over heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers.

Pan-fried Onion Dip
(Barefoot Contessa, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

2 large yellow onions (about 3 cups of sliced onions)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
 1/2 cup sour cream
 1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half, and then slice them in to 1/8-inch-thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.)
Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.
Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings.
Serve at room temperature. I always serve it with Kettle brand Sea Salt chips. Any kind of potato chips will work, as well as fresh vegetables and crackers.

My notes:
Make sure to really caramelize the onions. You want them nice and brown. 
The cream cheese should be really soft--this is very important for blending well.
Once I start eating this dip, I cannot stop. You are warned.

Fleur de sel Caramels
(Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?)

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil

In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir--just swirl the pan. Watch carefully, as it can burn quickly at the end!

In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.

When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful--it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

When the caramels are cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half. Starting with a long side, roll one piece of the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log. Repeat with the second piece. Sprinkle both logs with fleur de sel, trim the ends, and cut each log in 8 pieces. Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4 x 5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

My notes:
I use finely ground sea salt if I can’t find fleur de sel or am out of it.
It is really key to wait until the sugar mixture is a deep golden brown before adding the cream mixture.
I cut the caramels into four logs or more and cut smaller pieces. Cutting it in half makes the pieces too large for my taste.
And use the parchment paper and not wax paper! I used wax paper the first time I made them and it was a nightmare!

A few of my favorite things, that I can't just get enough of right now, are...
Pioneer Woman's Iced Coffee. I wake up thinking about this coffee.
Avocado salad on toast. I eat this almost every day for lunch. It never gets old.
I am very into anything with black beans right now and created a burrito dinner with them. I eat it a few nights a week.
Pioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup
Gabrielle Bernstein's guided Kundalini Meditations
Kundalini Meditation

Iced Coffee
I found this Iced Coffee one day when I was looking around for recipes. I was tired of spending all of my money at Starbucks. I made it and am how hooked. It seems like a bit of work, but once you gather your materials and get a system, it really doesn't take very long. It pays off too. 


Avocado Salad on Toast
My friend Ashlea deserves credit for finding this recipe. She found a recipe for a California Sandwich and then I modified it because I only had some of the items. I eat my modified version constantly and love every bite.

Avocado salad on toast with chive yogurt spread

For the yogurt spread...
A bunch of chopped fresh chives mixed in Greek yogurt ( I don't really measure this, just chop a big bunch and then add Greek yogurt by the spoonful and mix) I like it pretty full of chives, but do it to taste. Then add some salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Salad
One avocado (chopped in small chunks)
One tomato (I use on the vine and scrape the seeds out and then chop in small chunks)
One cucumber (scrape the seeds)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Juice of one Lime
Whole Grain bread (right now I am really into Salt Rye that I purchase at the farmer's market)

Mix it all together. It will keep in an airtight container for about 2 days. I usually get two days worth of lunch out of one batch.

Then I take two slices of whole grain or fresh bread, toast them lightly, and spread each piece with the chive yogurt and then top with the avocado salad. I like to eat it open face. I also put on more salt and pepper at this point if it needs it. 

Black Bean Burritos
I kind of stopped eating meat. I really didn't mean to, but I fell in love with a few bean recipes and just sort of stopped eating meat. I am trying to slowly reintroduce some meat because I love a Roast Chicken or Beef Stew in the winter months. We will see how the reintroduction works out! I honestly haven't missed it one little bit! 

Black Bean Burritos

2 cans of black beans (I buy the 365 brand organic @ Whole Foods)
about a half pound of shrimp
red pepper
yellow onion
Greek yogurt
**I keep the black beans and shrimp the same every time, but I change around the toppings. You can nix the peppers and onions and do guacamole and pico de gallo or salsa. Or just do diced raw onions and chopped avocado, whatever you prefer. The toppings are endless. 

Taco seasoning: (I usually mix this in a little bowl and add most of it to the beans...just leave a small bit behind to sprinkle on the shrimp)

   1 tablespoon chili powder

   1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
   1/4 teaspoon onion powder
   1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
   1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
   1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
      1 teaspoon kosher salt
      1 teaspoon black pepper

Take the two cans of beans and drain them and pour them into a sauce pan. Then add a bit of water to them. I know this sounds funny but the liquid they sit in is just kind of funky so I like to add a little fresh. Then add homemade taco seasoning to the beans and water. Bring it to a boil, then turn down as low as it can go and stir it now and again just so they don't stick to the bottom. Let it cook on low while you do everything else.

Slice up onions and peppers and saute them in a saute pan with olive oil. Also add a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until tender.
Next, move the vegetables to the side of the pan and toss in the seasoned shrimp and just cook them until they turn pink. It takes 5 minutes at most. You could also put the shrimp on a skewer and grill them. Just make sure to season them first. If I have an extra lime, I add a little lime juice to the shrimp as well.
Heat the tortillas (either in an oven or a skillet or a microwave) They only take about 10 seconds in the microwave and a minute in the oven. You just don't want to heat them too long or they get very crispy.

Fill up the tortillas with everything you like! I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and a little hot sauce. 

Pioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup
I made this one day last February and fell in love with it. The problem when I make it is I want to eat it every single night for dinner. It is really just so delicious. It takes some time to make because of the cooking time, but the prep work is very minimal. It makes quite a bit of soup, so if I can't stop myself from eating too much, I always have some leftover to freeze.


Gabrielle Bernstein's Guided Kundalini Meditations
I love this particular mediation. I love all of Gabby's meditations, but this one is my favorite. I do it first thing in the morning and before dinner. I also will do it if I can't stop worrying or stressing about something. It is just fantastic. My sister is working on her PhD in Finance and was struggling with stress one evening and I told her to just try this meditation. She was quite skeptical of it. Later, I received an email that she could not believe the impact the meditation had on her brain. She said it felt like a rock wall in her head finally cracked and fresh air blew through it and emptied her brain of stress. It is my go to meditation. I also love anything like this that can be done sitting down! And it is only three minutes of actual practice...the rest is just instructional.


Kundalini Yoga and Mediation
I love Kundalini right now. This meditation is a bit longer and takes a bit of practice. It works astoundingly well too. I love it.


I hope some of these things become favorites of yours too! I'm off to do two of my very favorite things, walk the dog and go to bed. Have a wonderful evening. 

Peace and much love,


  1. GREAT POST! Now I can just click on "Sarah Sitting Down" and get these delicious recipes without looking them up anywhere else! This is great! And a link to the meditations - what a treat! Thank you! :)

  2. Thanks for all of the great recipes!! I am going to make the Avocado salad this weekend. Yummmmmmm


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