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The Good Things

If you’re a tomato fan then now’s the time to get to your local grocery store or farmers market to pick up some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes.  Because they’re so amazing on their own, try to make them the star of the dish…caprese salad, an awesome BLT, panzanella salad…yum!

I have honestly never tasted a better orange than the Sumo variety.  If you haven’t had one I highly recommend you drive to your nearest Whole Foods as soon as possible to get one or a dozen before they’re gone.  My regular grocery store already ran out of them so you can only imagine how excited I was to find them this week at Whole Foods.  I stocked up!

They’re easy to peel (which I love), SUPER sweet and juicy…overall everything you could ever ask a perfect orange to be:)  Not to mention they’re packed full of Vitamin C and flavonoids and contain a good amount of dietary fiber.  YUM!

On a nice sunny weekend day there’s nothing better than visiting the farmers market.  We are lucky to have so many close to our house.  Both the Fremont and Ballard farmers markets are on Sunday and are fairly close to each other so it’s actually easy to hit both.  Ballard caterers more to the produce and food items whereas Fremont has more vintage home wares, food trucks and prepackaged foods such as jams, cookies, etc.

Be sure to check out Hot Cakes – Molten Chocolate Cakery.  Need I say more?  These take and bake molten cakes come in personal sized mason jars that couldn’t be cuter!  Talk about a great hostess gift, birthday treat, and/or dessert for a dinner party!

You can’t go wrong with any and all of the produce.  There’s nothing better than local organic fruits and veggies.  And the eggs!  They just make me want my own chickens even more.  Someday:)

Deluxe Foods makes awesome apple butter which is great on hot biscuits or even in your oatmeal in the morning.  They also make the most interesting syrups.  The one we bought is Earl Grey which you can add to soda to make your own flavored soda.  Sounds amazing to me…can’t wait to try it!

I highly recommend going on an empty stomach which might be hard at the same time because there are temptations every turn you make but the food stalls pump out the most amazing food which should be taken advantage of for lunch.  There’s everything from gourmet quesadillas to homemade sausages to crepes.

Go to your local farmers market and support your local farms!

*We actually found these at the Fremont Farmers Market on our bike ride home:)  So good!

This isn’t just any balsamic vinegar.  I was given this as a gift and have been in love ever since.  It’s not overly acidic like most balsamic vinegars can be…especially ones that are aged.  You taste just the right amount of sweetness paired with the tame acidity.  It’s like a fine aged wine:)

Although you can buy this brand online, this particular bottle came from the charming town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island at Town & Country Markets.  I might just have to make a trip over there when the bottle runs out.  It’s definitely that good!  You can buy yours HERE

Hands down one of my top 5 tools in the kitchen.  I LOVE my microplane and have gifted it so many times because I’m convinced everyone should have one.  Some may be asking, “Micro what?”…simply put it’s a long grater/zester that’s wonderful for an array of ingredients.  I use mine most often for hard cheeses like Parmesan, grating nutmeg over homemade eggnog (my husband’s specialty), lemon zest, and ginger.

You can buy yours HERE.

The microplane on the left is the most standard basic one and the others are newly acquired ones that I’ve added to my collection.

I feel lucky to have the Pike Place Market so close to my house.  Does that mean I go there as often as I should?  No.  My excuse?  I’d probably default to the lack of parking but at the same time there are lots you can pay for so that’s not good enough.  The truth is I have no excuses and should go there more often.  It’s not just a tourist’s destination.  It’s a local market full of farm fresh produce, seafood, affordable fresh flowers…it’s our local farmers that we should be supporting more.  Not to mention all the ready-to-eat food.  Where do I start?!  I’m a sucker for Beecher’sDeLaurenti Specialty Food & WineThe Crumpet ShopPiroshky-PiroshkyLowell’sLa Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods…the list could go on and on.  My advice is to go in the late morning and eat your way through for lunch:)  Go with a friend and share so you’re not stuffing your face but so you can try enough different things without feeling like your pants are going to pop.

La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods – go for some great wine tasting and tastes of truffle goods…yum!

Mr. D’s Greek Deli – great gyro’s here!

Beecher’s Cheese – there’s a viewing window to show you how and where the cheese is made not to mention plenty of delicious foods to buy.  The “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese is pretty amazing…the name says it all.

Piroshky – Piroshky – Does it get much better than a beef and onion piroshky?  Nope:)

I have a little obsession with cookbooks.  Not only do I love using them to cook with but I also love reading them front to back.  I have a lot of people ask me what my go to cookbooks are.  Honestly, there isn’t just one but, below are some of my favorite and most used cookbooks and ones that I feel round out my library pretty well…

Tyler Florence Family Meal – I got this cookbook at a wedding shower and have been in love with it ever since.  I’m a huge fan of Tyler Florence’s restaurants – Wayfare Tavern, Rotisserie & Wine and El Paseo and have found that all of the recipes I’ve tried at home aren’t as complicated as one might expect.  His signature Popovers were definitely a hit at Christmas this year!

Greek Cooking In An American Kitchen – Hands down my favorite cookbook for many reasons.  First of all, I’m Greek and I grew up with this cookbook in my home.  It comes from St. Demetrios Church where I grew up going and now live a few blocks from.  You can buy it directly from them for $25 (bring a check book).  Be sure to check out the Greek Festival they throw every fall.  It’ll really make you want the cookbook even more:)

Williams-Sonoma Cooking For Friends – This cookbook is unlike any other I have.  One of the things I love most about it is that for certain ingredients, they show you 3-4 different ways to cook/prepare them.  For example: Savory Tarts Four Ways – Greek-Style Tomato & Feta Tart, Plum & Goat Cheese Tart, Pear & Gorgonzola Tart and Leek, Pancetta & Gruyére Tart.  It’s a good one I swear!

Cristina’s of Sun Valley – While I lived out my ski bum dreams in Sun Valley about 10 yrs ago my roommate and childhood friend worked at Cristina’s and I was lucky enough to have goodies brought home to me on a consistent basis.  I have been a fan of Cristina’s Italian food for a long time now and I love that I can make it in my own home for friends and family.

I’ve recently added (and have been gifted) a few new books to my collection that I’m dying to cook with.  Here are a few of them:

Good Fish – Written by a local Seattleite, this cookbook provides endless sustainable seafood recipes from the Pacific Coast.  I love seafood and am always looking for new recipes…especially ones that don’t require the BBQ since I don’t have much patience for our coal Webber:)

Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors – One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco…this used to be my stomping ground whenever I had a Greek food craving.  It’s upscale and more modern than most Greek spots but the food is memorable and so well executed.

Simply Truffles – My sweet sister-in-law (who knows me well) gave me this cookbook for Christmas.  Trouble…because I’m a truffle addict and this will just give me endless ideas and cost me a pretty penny to try them all.  I’m in!

Bottega – One of my go to spots in Yountville, CA, this oversized cookbook is full of stunning photos and recipes that define California Cuisine…something I miss.  The Parmesan Dip I blogged about is from his other book Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking which I love so I have no doubts that this cookbook will win me over too.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company

Last May my husband and I joined our good friends Jen (of Sweet Jennies) and John for a cooking class/demonstration at The Fork at Point Reyes located on the Giacomini family owned dairy farm.

I had never been to a dairy farm nor did I understand how exactly they functioned but I learned a TON and now have even more respect for the hard workers that keep them functioning.  I also have a new respect for the cheese that they produce.  It takes some serious TLC and when done right it’s absolutely delicious.

We were encouraged to try the rind on every type and I have to say, I now enjoy eating it even more than I did before.  There’s more depth and complexity in it.  The box below is the Taste of Point Reyes which I ordered as a surprise for my husband for Christmas this year.  Their Original Blue changed his perception of blue cheese forever and I’m so glad:)  I highly recommend all of their cheese for you or as a gift for someone else.

*I’ve also included some photos of our day at the dairy farm

Time and time again you’re on your way to a friend or family member’s house for dinner and you ask yourself, “What should I bring?”.  The standard bottle of wine is always a safe bet but if you want to switch it up and bring something that will stand out here are a few suggestions…

You can find these cute mini latte bowls from Anthropologie and the best part is that they’re totally affordable and won’t break the bank.  I have these in practically every color and use them all the time for dips and spreads:)What a cute gift…a rosemary tree!  This one I happened to pick up at Whole Foods.  It’s fun and festive and great to give to someone you know likes to cook.  There’s even a booklet with recipes using rosemary attached to it.  Just add a fun bow and it’s all set!Find cute monogrammed stationary for a friend and tie a cute bow around it…tah dah!Homemade treats are always a great gift.  Whether it’s caramels, seasoning salts or this parmesan dipping sauce…there’s something about “homemade” that you just can’t beat!  I was given these cute labels for Christmas last year and they always come in handy for times like this:)

Chargers

Whatever kind of meal I’m cooking – casual or fancy – I’m a huge believer in setting the table.  For me, it’s kind of like making the bed in the morning…I have to do it or it just doesn’t feel right.  The presentation of dinner (or any meal for that matter) is just as important as the taste in my opinion and I’ve found that using chargers under my dinner plates adds just the right touch.  They’re a low maintenance accessory and can make such a huge difference.  *Great gift idea for the perfect entertainer!

Here are some chargers I found that I think would work great on any table:

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