Wine Cork Craft

I think I’ve been saving wine corks for what seems like forever. It’s not that I don’t drink enough wine, it is moreso that some of my favorite wines have rubber corks which are good for nothing. I did learn in Sonoma that the fake wanna-be corks, or screwtop bottles don’t indicate the quality of the wine at all.
I started one cork craft but ran out of corks and had to table it until I had some more. For Christmas my brother and sister in law gave me a wine cork tray-kit I’d been eyeing. To top it off, my mother-in-law gave me a BAG of corks. It was perfect I could get right to it!
The kit suggested that I map out my pattern before gluing. Good point.
I liked this every-other pattern. I had to trim a few but they cut surprisingly easily. I loved that I could get a few of my super special ones into good parts of the pattern. We went to a winey in Spain on the honeymoon so that cork is in there, and my bachelorette party started at a local winery so that cork is there.

I’m scooting off to Florida for the weekend just kidding! I’m dropping by for about 18-hours for Ms. M’s wedding and I’ll be remotely drinking to Mrs. A’s birthday! Work is too crazy to be gone but I’m excited for some some celebrating with my hometown ladies! All of that will keep me busy and help to deal with the fact that once again, I cannot attend the Bacon & Beer Festival

Guest Blog Post: Dining in Japan

Miss Liz just got back from Japan and has all sorts of food/meals to share!

I must admit I was nervous about the food in Japan. I went with two friends from work-Bekka and Rachel. I thought there would be sushi everywhere and I’m not a big sushi fan. Turns out, Japan has a wide variety of food and I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there were lots of food that I was not ever going to try-ie horse meat.

My favorite meal was at a tiny restaurant that only serves dumplings in the Harajuku region of Tokyo. We found the spot courtesy of Lonely Planet.  We ordered some of each type of dumpling-plain and garlic and leek.  They were warm, tender and delicious. I loved the garlic and leek dumplings. Our meal also came with pickled cabbage (which you see every where in Japan) and cucumbers with miso sauce. The miso sauce was the perfect mixture of tangy and spice with the crunchy cucumbers.
We tried soba noodles for dinner one night. They are cold buckwheat noodles. You dip them into soy sauce. Honestly, I wasn’t into it.

Tokyo is famous for its fish market. All the surrounding side streets have tiny stalls selling food. Rachel was adventurous enough to have a huge oyster (again with soy sauce) at 715am.  Some things, none of would try, like the chicken feet.
We were always nervous when trying street food. It was never labeled in English and the people selling it rarely spoke English. One day, people were crowded around a stall, we figured it had to be good.  OH MY GOD. This was my favorite food in Japan. Problem is, we still don’t know what we ate. It tastes like fried dough filled with sweetened black beans. Now, that sounds like a silly combo and nothing they would eat in Japan, but it was amazing and the Japanese were lining up for these little snacks.
It took us a few days to realize, Japan stops serving lunch at 2pm.  Unfortunately, one day, we were really hungry and it was down pouring. We were desperate to find a restaurant that was open and had an English menu.  After 20 minutes of walking around in the rain, we settled on the only open restaurant we could find. They did have a menu with pictures, but no one spoke English. I asked 2 young men in the restaurant what the pictures were and they were able to tell me the following: “Beef, Bird (with a guy moving his arms like the chicken dance) and Shrimp”.  Bekka and I got beef. Rachel decided on “bird” ie chicken fingers.

Before leaving for Japan, I heard about rice balls. I thought I was going to be in heaven. Turns out, its densely packed rice and then fried/grilled and then sits in your stomach like a hockey puck. They sell rice balls, which are not fried but wrapped in nori at convenience stores for quick snacks and breakfast.
Rachel did some research in Kyoto in found a really fun local restaurant where we got to sit on tami mats. Kishakura specializes in chicken.  They offered tofu as an appetizer, I passed on it but it looked really pretty.  We share a bottle of local Sake.
One day, we needed to grab a quick meal. So, we had Ramen that we ordered from a vending machine. This is pretty common in Japan for causal restaurants. You order at the vending machine with help of plastic food showing you what your order will look like. The ramen was great. The noodles were thicker than ramen we make a home with boiling water.
Finally, sushi! I don’t like sushi, but I tried it in Tokyo at convoyer belt sushi place.  Bekka and Rachel enjoyed it.
All in all, it was a great vacation and we had some interesting food!

Would you like to be a guest blogger? Email for more details!

Peanut Noodle Salad Hot or Cold

Marcus Sameulsson had me at bok choy. Well, I actually hadn’t cooked bok choy before but I loved this recipe from his blog. This was a pretty quick one to put together and it reheated well the next day for lunch.

Peanut Noodle Salad with Edamame and Bok Choy


Serves 4, adapted from Peas and Thank You



1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp honey
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
2 heads baby bok choy, chopped
2 cups frozen edamame


In a food processor mix coconut milk, tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and honey until smooth.
Boil the pasta.
While the pasta boils, cook the bok choy for about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender before adding the edamame and cook until heated through.
Add the spaghetti to the pan and pour the peanut sauce mixture into the pan, tossing to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This was a really great meat-less meal. I was shocked, but Mr. J really liked it too! I wasn’t sure he’d be really into the coconut milk/peanut butter sauce. This was also a great use of whole wheat pasta. Normally, I really don’t like it and honestly, I’d often prefer not to even have pasta if it is going to be wheat.

It is fresh tasting. Each bite had something different…from the noodles coated in the creamy peanut sauce, to the bite of the edamame, to the leafy bok choy. The recipe had peppers in it but I threw in some carrots for color instead.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps, aka Everything Good In a Sandwich

We don’t eat a ton of sandwiches at our house but I’m working on changing that. I know, I know, I’ve said I don’t love sandwiches. I actually love them when they’re made-to-order. I adore breakfast sandwiches too. I only dislike sandwiches that have been sitting around sogging all day inside a high school locker or if I can’t tell what’s inside the sandwich.

I had a lengthy discussion at work about hummus on a sandwich…or hummus in general. Did you know the USA has a dried bean and lentil council? This is my worklife. Anywho, back to the sandwich subject at hand.

I made Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps and they were really tasty.


2 chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup milk
¼ cup ranch dressing
1 tbs dried ranch dressing powder mix
1/3 cup panko & 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg + 1 tbs water, whisked
Wheat tortillas
Shredded cheddar
¼ cup ranch dressing
4 strips of bacon


Marinate the chicken in the milk, ¼ cup of the ranch dressing, and dried ranch powder for a few hours.
Remove from the marinade and dredge in eggwash then breadcrumbs and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Cook the bacon, then crumble it.
Assemble the wraps with lettuce, tomato, chicken, bacon, cheddar, and ranch.

You don’t really need a recipe for this but I thought the marinade and breading was spot-on so I wanted to share it. I liked that these were filling and fresh but not fried. I have an aversion to frying foods. The wheat wrap and real lettuce (iceburg = not real) make this slightly healthier than your local pizza place’s version of the same thing since my chicken isn’t fried either.

Like most things I cook, the chicken could be prepped in advance and popped in to speed up the dinner, or prepped and frozen for next time.

If you’re lucky like me, when your sis comes to have these for dinner she’ll also bring treats from her favorite bakery!

Creamy Spinach Enchiladas & Avocado Eggrolls

After thinking about other ways to use ricotta I thought, why not Mexican? I’m sure nobody who knows anything about enchiladas would ever use ricotta but I’m not pretending I know anything other than what tastes good.

The thought of biting in a huge hunk of cream cheese makes me shutter. I like ricotta because it’s light and creamy. It was beautifully green (thanks to some spinach) and light but full of flavor.


12 oz whole milk ricotta
2 cups spinach leaves
2 slices of thick cut ham
1 tbs taco seasoning
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 ½ cup enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar


Blend ricotta and spinach in a food processor, or by hand (chopping spinach first).
Pan fry the ham and taco seasoning just until golden and warmed through.
Stuff each tortilla with the ricotta mixture and top with ham.
Roll them up and put them into a baking dish.
Top with enchilada sauce and bake 20 minutes at 375.
Finish with shredded cheese and bake 3 minutes to melt.

I liked this seemingly strange combo. I actually had the ham around so that’s why I added it but I really liked it in here! You could easily use shredded chicken, sauteed peppers & onions, or corn and black beans…or whatever. These were cheesey inside and out and had some textural contrasts too.

Then I decided to recreate a recipe I had from a restaurant. Jose MacIntryre’s has these crispy avocado eggrolls that are addicting…especially during $1 appetizers 😉


Egg roll wrappers
2 avocados
2 tbs salsa


Cut avocados and mix with salsa
Put 2-3 tbs of the avocado mixture into the center of the wrappers. Tuck 2 opposite corners towards the center, and then roll the corner closest to you to the center and roll it away from you (like rolling up a burrito).
Fry for a few minutes on each side.
Remove and let cool on paper towel.

These were pretty good. Not as good as the restaurant, but I liked it. Mr. J wasn’t a big fan so I had his for lunch the next day. That’s when I remembered they’re served with some creamy dipping sauce.

I mixed some ranch dressing, bbq sauce, and taco seasoning. Ohh my goodness. That’s the ticket! Don’t knock it will you try it!

Fontina and Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula

Ahhhhrugula! I think I’ve decided that if I were going to eat one food for the rest of my life it’d be pizza. I love all sorts of crazy toppings and I have learned a thing or two.

I was partially inspired by the last pretty authentic neopolitan pizza I’ve had lately (Antico Forno) when I dreamed this one up. I also was feeling a salad-y topped pizza for a change too. It’s nicely springy and would even be a good vehicle for any leftover Easter ham you have kicking around!


pizza dough
1 tbs chopped garlic
3 tbs olive oil
2 cups shredded fontina
4-6 slices of prosciutto
3 cups arugula
drizzle of truffle oil
¼ cup with shaved Parmesan


Pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
Top with cheese and garlic/olive oil mixture brushed on crust. Return to the oven until melted (about 5 minutes)
Once out of the oven, top with slices of prosciutto
Then top with arugula tossed with truffle oil

It was good, and different. I liked the few quality ingredients. The prosciutto was salty and the fontina was googy and nutty. By not cooking the prosciutto, it kept it really soft and bite-able.
I actually didn’t top the whole thing since obviously it was going to be lunch the next day. It reheated well too!

Pork Tamale Pie

The other night, I was prepping dinner and I was following a recipe. I actually rarely follow recipes. I consider them “suggestions” or jumping off points in most cases. I read a lot of blogs and google a lot of recipes so it is often mishmash of an “adapted from.” Following recipes can be stressful and it takes even longer! You might be surprised how quickly I can whip something up if I’m not blogging it!
Things were going well, then going poorly, and it was crazy. Part smelled really good but the other part seized up. I burned my hand (not badly, don’t worry mom!) and almost dropped the entire cast-iron skillet (which contained the entire meal). The external flash I nab from Mr. J wasn’t working, I chose a pan a bit too small, and the pup was underfoot.

While all of this was happening, I was rocking out to my kitchen radio the previous owners of the house so kindly left. Kelly Clarkson’s “oldie” “Beautiful Disaster” came on. How appropriate for this meal?! It was seeming like just that.

Pork Lover’s Tamale Pie


from Rachael Ray Magazine

1 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups boiling water
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon corn oil or EVOO
1/3 pound mexican chorizo (raw) or chopped spanish chorizo (cured) (I nixed this since my store only sells spicy and Mr. J doesn’t love lots of heat)
4 slices bacon, finely chopped (I nixed this too since I planned another meal with bacon and figured we’d be fine without it)
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped (I used dried)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander (about 1/2 palmful)
1 small onion, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup beer
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained (I used fresh)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
Cilantro leaves and sliced scallions, for garnishing (I chopped arugula I had instead)

Directions (in Rachael Ray’s words)

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk. Whisk in the cornmeal, then whisk in the boiling water and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the butter and honey.
Preheat the broiler. Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the chorizo and bacon and render the fat for 3 minutes. Stir in the pork and cook, crumbling the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes.

Season with the thyme, chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the beer to deglaze for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes to heat through.
Spoon the thick cornmeal over the pan and spread evenly. Top with the cheddar and brown under the broiler for 2 minutes. Serve from the skillet, garnished with the cilantro and scallions.
So, check out what happens when you read the first step and overlook the fact that the water should be boiling water. In the time it took to heat the water (after adding the cornmeal to the milk) it totally seized up. I was going to dump it and start over but I was feeling especially determined. I whisked as much as I could once the water was finally boiling. Seriously though, milk and cornmeal are cheap ingredients and wouldn’t have set me back.
After all that I bet you’re wondering how it was. It was good, not amazing. I think the chorizo and bacon would add a bit more flavor. We joked it was Pork-Liker’s Tamale Pie rather than Pork-Lover’s Tamale Pie since I omitted 2 of the 3 porks. I used fresh tomatoes and think canned would have boosted the flavor too. That’s quite the creative licensing given the fact that I said I was following the recipe.
I liked the cornmeal topping and I appreciated that this wasn’t a million ingredients. It reheated surprisingly well too. It was a fun and I was glad to have a different Mexican meal for a change.

Blogging Better

I recently attending a Boston blogger conference a few Saturdays ago at Google. It was so great to see some bloggers I don’t get to see all the time and to meet some new ones at Blog Better Boston.
I have to admit, I didn’t loooove everything. I think the conference was really well organized and attendees were really well taken care of (aka, free breakfast & lunch, goody bags, give aways etc). I loved that there were so many talented people in the same room! I think I just wasn’t all the way into shamelessly promoting my blog or meeting hundreds of new bloggers…feels like the first day of college to approach groups of people already in conversation. I was also tired from a busy couple of days at work so maybe I just wasn’t in the mood/mindset. I loved seeing some Boston Brunchers!
Twitter was trending all day but I would have loved more digital examples from the speakers or highlights etc. It would have been cool to see what super skilled bloggers like, or look for, or are inspired by, how far their blogs have come, etc. The food photo session had great examples of food photos with her own critique/notes. That was awesome coming from a professional.
I can’t say every session was perfect for me. I think there were good ones to choose from and there was a variety. The speakers were great, but I think sometimes it was a bit too distant for  the diverse crowd of food, fashion, and mommy-bloggers to relate. I mean, everyone can use info on building traffic/community and everyone benefits from discussions on monetizing your blog, but since it had to apply to pretty different writers it sometimes missed the mark because of concrete details or examples missing. Working in events I truly believe you can’t please all people all the time though and I can be a tough critic.

I loved the session on traffic & community and liked the food photography session a lot too. Even the list of attendees and their blogs was helpful to be introduced to some new local ones.
You could spot the fashion bloggers right off the bat but I was really interested to see how many there are since that whole topic is wayyy outside my realm of knowledge.

It was impressive that the space, breakfast and lunch were all donated…something I didn’t really need to know as a paying attendee, but the price wasn’t out of reach for most people. I also learned that it sold out.
I think I got a lot of resources out of it and I know the work it takes to put on something like that. I know some new blogs to check out and have a short list of aps, books, websites, etc. I hope there are more in the future or even short programs that are more specific. I took an amazing class at BCAE before I started my blog and that 2 hour class was very targeted and honestly more helpful than this one was.

It makes me think about my blogging identity. I don’t know where I’d fit between blogging pros & new blogs. I track my traffic but don’t market the three bite rule to expand readership. Hmm. Lots to think about.