Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fresh & Easy: I'm Stalking Your Cranberry Walnut Loaf

I got a box full of Holiday goodness from Fresh & Easy the other day. My 12-year-old insisted on staging a full-on photo shoot before we touched anything. It took awhile because the pine cones kept insisting we only shoot their 'good side.'

We haven't had a chance to sample the Pumpkin Pecan Waffle & Pancake Mix yet, but the Hot Chocolate Bittersweet Chocolate Shavings were put to immediate use topping off some homemade mochas. They can also be used to make a rich hot chocolate, or eaten straight out of the can with a spoon and a grin on your face. That last suggestion isn't on the can, by the way.

But let me tell you about my new best friend, the Cranberry Walnut Loaf. It's made by Il Fornaio especially for Fresh & Easy. The label says it's got cranberries, walnuts, raisins, citrus and pecans in it, but I think there are also diamonds, gold shavings and ground-up  leprechaun in there somewhere. It's magically delicious. (Sorry.)

We sliced it up, toasted it and spread a little butter on it and it was amazing. We finished the entire loaf within a couple of days, which says a lot since bread usually goes stale around here before we get around to eating it. We'll say, "Oh, let's make a sandwich," and then reach into the bread box to find something resembling a loaf of bread except it's covered in green spores and has grown some limbs. Don't worry – before we serve it to guests we scrape all of the fur off.

I've gotten a little obsessed with the Cranberry Walnut Loaf. In fact, I went to Fresh & Easy and bought all of the loaves they had left, because I'm going to give it away at my family gathering on Christmas day. Here, I'll prove it to you:

They only had four left, and I may or may not have had to push an old lady with a walker out of the way to score these (sorry, mom.) And since I have like 300 people in my family I'm planning to go back and buy some more. My husband is getting a little concerned with my obsession with the CWL (I've even given it an acronym – true love.) He's even started referring to it as "Your Bread," as in, "Would you like some of your bread with your coffee?" He says it in a slightly sarcastic tone, like he doesn't see its magical powers.

If you're on my gift list, you might be getting a loaf of my new best friend. If you decide to buy a loaf of your own, be prepared to fight me for it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I've talked about my love for Fresh & Easy before – here are some other products I recommend. Don't worry – it's a totally natural, harmonious kind of love.

Fresh & Easy Wine Tasting: Don't Make Me Drink Alone

Summertime And The Livin' Is (Fresh &) Easy

eatwell: Fresh & Easy's New Line of Healthy Meals Inspires My Terrible Taglines

Fresh & Easy Market: Be My Valentine

Hello Friend! Fresh & Easy On My Doorstep

Fresh & Easy: My New BFF

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pin It

Monday, December 20, 2010

Disneyland For The Holidays

This was originally posted on Since there are only a few weeks left to see Disneyland in all its holiday splendor, it bears repeating.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Okay, call me sappy, but one of the things that truly gets me in the seasonal mood is visiting Disneyland when they’re all decked out for the holidays. Well, that and my mom’s lime-green Jell-O, but that’s not for everyone.

If there’s one thing Disneyland knows how to do it’s decorate. I’m wondering how many trips to Target their light technician had to make in order to get enough strings of lights to deck out It’s A Small World and Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle? Not to mention all of the work put in to decorating the floats for the Christmas Fantasy parade – I can’t even get my husband to nail up a wreath and a few boughs of holly without complaining.

And I might be alone here, but I say it’s never too early for holiday music, and there’s plenty of that wafting through the air at Disneyland this time of year. (Note: I’m one of those people that sets the car radio to the holiday station the day after Thanksgiving, and it stays there through December 25. I say don’t carpool with me unless you don’t   mind hearing ‘Sleigh Bells’ every five minutes.)

Kids can even get the chance to see real reindeer at the Reindeer Round-Up. I like to take them here to commune with nature, even if it is in the shadow of a roller coaster and a churro cart. If your kids are like mine, they’ve grown up thinking reindeer are always either animated and named Rudolph, or made out of lights and standing in someone’s front  yard. So to see a real reindeer is a real treat, and you’ll understand if my daughter keeps trying to plug it into an electrical socket.

The best part though, is the Holiday Magic fireworks show. I’ve always thought Disneyland had the best fireworks show around, and  this special presentation always gets me sentimental. Let’s just say  that by the time the snow is falling on Main Street and ‘White  Christmas’ is playing over the speakers I’m a blubbering mess, hugging everyone around me and inviting them back to my place for shortbread and rum. 

I know it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but if you want to get a headstart on the holidays and infuse yourself with some seasonal cheer, check out the sights at Disneyland. Then come on over to my place and I’ll put on some Christmas music.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Pin It

Got Eggnog? I Do Now!

A couple of weeks ago the lovely people at Got Milk? invited me to a Shake Up Holiday Cocktails With Milk event. While there I was introduced to someone who I think has what is possibly the best job on the planet: Professional mixologist Duggan McDonnell. Duggan travels around to various events partying and inventing cocktails. I'm sure it's more complicated than that but this is what I surmised after having a couple a couple of his Cinnamon Sake Horchatas. After a rum-filled Frothy Vanillanog I think I started calling him Sir Mixalot and trying to give him a soul shake but it's all a blur.

The event was held at the awesomely trendy Bar Lubitsch. (The phrase 'awesomely trendy'? SO awesomely trendy.) 

Duggan was there to show us how milk can be incorporated into many holiday cocktails, and boy did he ever. One of my favorite things was learning how to make eggnog from scratch to use in the Vanillanog. I'm not an eggnog fan, and I consider that one carton I buy every December for my husband an act of pure love. But this eggnog was light and frothy, and I think the mixture of cinnamon and spicy chile delicately dusted over it at the end was pure genius. Looks like my local grocer will only have to stock three cartons this year instead of four.

Along with the eggnog and the Horchata mentioned above I also had a Caribbean Milk Punch and a PB&J Granita. That last one isn't as scary as it sounds, although I'd rather eat my peanut butter than drink it. But I loved the individual mix stations the Got Milk reps had set up to make our own PB&J's:

The Got Milk people sent us home with our own cocktail shakers and recipes for all of the drinks we sampled. This one is small and perfect to carry in my glove compartment. Not that I would do that. Who shakes up cocktails in the car? That's dangerous, and besides I'm too busy talking on the phone to Ryan Seacrest.

Here is the recipe for the Frothy Vanillanog, otherwise known as the Only Eggnog I'll Drink. (Ours had rum in it. Of course.) You can find the rest of the recipes for the drinks we sampled that night on the Got Milk site. The best part is – they are to be made in a large quantity in a punch bowl, so you don't have to play bartender all night. The last time I had to do that at one of my parties I got really cranky and started putting my finger in everyone's drink. Just so you know.

Frothy Vanillanog
Serves 8

1 quart milk
8 egg whites
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Cinnamon powder to taste
Spicy chile powder to taste

Whisk thoroughly in a punch bowl until all ingredients are thoroughly integrated.  Spike with an alcoholic elixir if so desired, add ice and dust with a blend of cinnamon an spicy chile powder.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Duggan McDonnell was named one of the best mixologists in the country by Food & Wine Magazine. He's the owner of Cantina Bar in San Francisco.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pin It

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Healthy Hook-Up: Nintendo & The American Heart Association

One of the first times I realized that the Nintendo Wii was more than just a gaming system was when my oldest daughter's middle school started assigning P.E. homework. Intended to prepare them for the standardized testing for physical education that the district will implement soon, they're required to do a certain amount of cardio, strength training and stretching every week. She got permission from her teacher to use the Wii Fit Plus' yoga and step programs to fulfill part of those requirements and soon we forgot a time when all we all we used the Wii for was to fly Kirby around and blow things up.

So it didn't surprise me when Nintendo announced a partnership with the American Heart Association in order to get people to healthy-up their lifestyles through active play. Nintendo introduced the Wii as a way of getting gamers off their couches, and together with the AHA they're furthering their commitment to helping people find ways to fit physical activity into their busy lifestyles. Whether you're a overworked mom like me or a middle-schooler doing her homework.

I was lucky enough to be asked by Nintendo to co-host a party at the W Hotel in Hollywood to get the word out about their new alliance with the AHA. If it sounds like a great day, it was. Here, let me show you:

The event started off with a spread of healthy food - granola, fresh fruit, organic teas. Also, the key ingredient - unlimited coffee. I can't help but think that it was provided for the 'health' of others, since without my coffee I could pose a danger to those around me.

Then we had some time to play. Here are two of my friends in action on the Wii Fit Plus. I think I may have been socializing a little too much to get any Balance Board action in myself, but I was a good cheerleader. Also it's hard to exercise when you're holding a mug of coffee. Did I mention I like coffee?

Then, because Nintendo's new partnership aims to motivate people to “Get Informed,” “Get Empowered” and “Get Active," they had a program planned that did just that. First up was a presentation by author and former ad man, Hank Wasiak. I don't want to call him a motivational speaker because for me that has a slightly negative connotation - it brings to mind a sweaty, sputtering slightly hysterical person barking orders to love yourself, or conquer your enemies, or to get in touch with your inner care bear. Who needs that?

Hank was more of an inspirational speaker, and his theory of asset-based thinking – or simply seeing the glass half-full – was more encouraging than preachy. He said something that my husband and I repeat often, "Look at it as your best problem ever," meaning to find the lesson in your obstacles. Even if we sometimes use it in an ironic or sarcastic way, we still think it's a valuable way of thinking.

(Hank wrote a book based on the concept of asset-based thinking called 'Change The Way You See Everything' and everyone got to take a copy home.)

Next we had a presentation by the American Heart Association, and they gave us some valuable heart-healthy tips, things like shopping in the outer aisles of the supermarket where all the fresh and non-processed food is, and the symptoms to look for that might indicate a heart attack or stroke. Also, they scared the daylights out of me with this little tidbit: If you eat one donut a day for a year, you'll gain 15 pounds. Man, am I glad I didn't put that bear claw in my purse before I left the house.

Finally, because the Nintendo people are a kind people, they ended the day with some dessert and some awesome gifts bags. In addition to Hank's book, my friends and I all took home hoodies and a copy of Wii Sports Resort. Even their swag is healthy! I left there feeling rejuvenated and inspired, and I know my friends did too. And I definitely started to see my coffee cup as being half-full.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Pin It

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's On Like Donkey Kong

This arrived on my doorstep on the day before Thanksgiving, and in my frenzy of preparing for 26 people to descend on my house the next day I completely forgot to tell you about it. As usual, the people at Nintendo completely outdid themselves:

To introduce their new Donkey Kong Country Returns, they sent over a copy of the game, boxed up in a miniature crate and surrounded by rubber bananas. Being a former art director, I had to take a few minutes to marvel at their promotion prowess and packaging ingenuity. My kids, however, took one look at the shiny Wii logo and immediately snatched the game out of the box and headed for their controllers. Then they started throwing the bananas at each other. At this point they weren't even listening to my lecture on the fine points of advertising and marketing strategy.

If you're old like me you'll remember the classic Donkey Kong arcade game from the '80's. Here, let me refresh your memory:

Can't you just see me standing in front of this in my leg warmers and shoulder-padded blazer? I'm pretty sure my boyfriend was standing next to me humming a Flock Of Seagulls song.

Donkey Kong was one of the few video games I remember playing, and I always liked the humor of that big ape tossing barrels around. The game has come a long way since then, but I'm glad they've managed to keep Donkey Kong alive. The new game still stars that familiar ape, but according to my 12-year-old is pretty challenging and apparently beyond her mom's Donkey Kong 80's abilities. I'd like to see her try and play while you're balancing a stack of quarters and a can of Cactus Cooler on your knee. 

I'll have a full review from that 12-year-old, who hasn't had a chance to write it because of a full homework load. Kids these days and their priorities.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Pin It

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pure Poetry: Crimes Of The Heart

You’ve heard me talk about Crimes Of The Heart before, the East West Players production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. I’ve Twittered about it, raved about it on Facebook, maybe I even called you up on the phone to tell you about it. You probably didn’t answer when your caller ID told you who it was, but that’s beside the point.

The show ends this weekend, so for those of you who haven’t seen it what’s it going to take to convince you to go? I thought about it, and the only way is to bring out the big guns. 

That’s right – I’m talking haiku. Shall we?
This winter evening
Doesn’t have to suck if you
See Crimes Of The Heart
Hey, I never claimed to be Shakespeare.

Here’s a bonus – tonight is Wine Down Friday, so enjoy complimentary wine before the performance and during intermission. That’s such a great deal I feel another seventeen syllables coming on:

At Crimes Of The Heart
Cold outside but I don’t care
Wine I love you so
Seriously, I could go on all day, so unless you’d like to see me further butcher this treasured form of Japanese poetry you’ll buy a ticket already.

Which reminds me:

Half-hour before
the show...rush hour begins
Get some cheap tickets!
What can I say, I’m on fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  

Pin It

Related Posts with Thumbnails