Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hot Jalapeno Crab Dip

I have made this recipe a couple of times for family gatherings and it is absolutely fantastic! It’s always the first dish to be completely gone. A bit spicy, but nothing overpowering – this recipe will be the hit of any party.

Hot Jalapeno Crab Dip


1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
1/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 recipe Toasted Croutons, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the crabmeat, garlic, jalapenos, Monterey Jack, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, and mayonnaise in a medium-size mixing bowl. Toss gently to mix. Spoon the mixture into a medium-size mixing bowl. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly on the top of the crabmeat mixture. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving with the croutons.

Toasted Croutons:
1 loaf French bread (about 8 inches in diameter and 15 inches long), ends trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees . Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the bread slices on the baking sheet and brush them with half of the olive oil, then sprinkle them with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Turn the slices over, and brush them with the remaining oil, and sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Bake for about 6 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around in the oven to ensure even browning. Bake until the croutons are lightly browned, about 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mini Frittatas

Frittata is an egg-based dish similar to an omelet or quiche, either simple or enriched with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables, patsta or herbs.

You can make this as an appetizer or pair with a salad for a light summer meal. This recipe is so versatile. Once you master it, you can make any variation. The whole family will love this one!

Mini Frittatas

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
8 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces thinly sliced ham, chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spray 2 mini muffin tins (each with 24 cups) with nonstick spray. Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the ham, cheese and parsley. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture. Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide the frittatas onto a platter. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chicken Caesar Pizza

If you’d like to make an authentic, slightly smoky, crisp-crusted pizza at home, you have a few options. You could build an authentic outdoor pizza oven yourself, if you’re extremely talented and astute enough to follow building codes. You could invest $2,000 to $5,000 – or more – to buy an off-the-rack model or have one professionally installed. Or, you could use your gas charcoal barbecue grill.

Consider branching out from the old standby hamburgers and hot dogs and try grilling pizza. Believe it or not, the dough will not fall through the cooking grate. As long as you put it on a preheated grill, oil the dough and quickly put the hood down on the grill, the yeast in the dough will rise and become this beautiful, fabulous pizza crust.

Chicken Caesar Pizza


1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 12 ounces) or 1 ½ cups shredded leftover chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ uncooked grits or polenta, for rolling the dough
1 ball pizza dough (about 8 ounces), at room temperature
½ cup roasted garlic paste (recipe follows)
1 ¼ cups grated fontina cheese
1 heart of romaine, cut crosswise into ½ inch-wide ribbons
2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressing; homemade or purchased
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If you’re not using leftover chicken, preheat the grill. Brush the chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place chicken on the cooking grate directly over the heat and grill until no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside and when almost ready to use, cut into ¼-inch-thick strips.

Sprinkle a work surface with the grits or polenta. Roll out and shape the dough, brush with olive oil and then grill the first side of the crust. Flip the crust to reveal the grilled side.

Spread the entire surface with the garlic paste, then top with the chicken and sprinkle with the fontina.

Finish grilling the pizza.

Just before the pizza is done, toss the romaine with the dressing and 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano in a medium bowl. Remove the pizza from the grill and immediately top with the dressed romaine. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper. Slice and serve immediately.

For roasted garlic paste: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the first layer of papery skin from 3 heads of garlic. Slice ¼ inch from the pointy top. Place each head on a sheet of aluminum foil, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt. Wrap each head in the foil and roast until the cloves are golden brown and soft, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and let cool. Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins (the most efficient way to do this is to squeeze the whole head from the bottom.) Using a fork, vigorously mix the garlic and 3 tablespoons olive oil together. Add a pinch of kosher salt. This will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for as long as 2 days. Makes about ½ cup, enough for 1 pizza.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Asian Grilled Salmon

You will not believe how simple or how incredibly delicious this salmon is. It is so moist and so flavorful you won’t want to order salmon from a restaurant ever again. Serve with sautéed spinach or steamed broccoli and this will be a recipe that you’ll put in your weekly dinner rotation.

Asian Grilled Salmon

About 3 pounds of boneless/skinless salmon
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place marinated salmon in 13x9 baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a flat plate and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Peruvian Grilled Chicken

Peru is a place that you will visit and it will change your life. After spending a week there in 2004, it felt like a second home and was very difficult to leave. Packed with archaeological treasures and a rich natural environment, half of Peru is carpeted by the tropical rainforests of the Amazon Basin. While there, the highlight of our trip was the high-altitude city of Machu Picchu in the Andes.

The Peruvian people were so hospitable (despite our lack of Spanish-speaking skills) and the culture and food were equally fascinating. No matter where we travel to, my husband will always try the local fare. This time he tried the alpaca (related to the llama). I, on the other hand, am not that adventurous and typically stick to the foods I know and recognize. I know, I know. Why travel to a foreign country and not try their delicacies? I’m just not brave enough, I’m afraid. However, I did fall in love with an iconic regional dish that was to-die-for. The recipe is below.

Peruvian Grilled Chicken

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4-6 boneless/skinless chicken

Marinate chicken:
Blend soy sauce, lime, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, ½ teaspoon pepper and oil in a blender. Put chicken in a large resealable bag and add marinade. Seal bag and marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Grill chicken:
If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom and lid of grill. Light a large chimney starter full of charcoal (preferably hardwood). When coals are lit, dump them out along opposite sides of bottom rack, leaving a space free of coals in the middle. When you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill rack directly over coals for 3 to 4 seconds, coals will be medium-hot.

If using a gas grill, preheat all burners on high, and then reduce heat to medium-high.
Discard marinade, and then pat chicken dry. Oil grill rack, then grill chicken, turning over once, until cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

California BLT's

Like Emeril says, “Pork fat rules!” I love bacon and, quite frankly, everything tastes better with bacon. I know it’s not good for you but bacon is so tasty. Add bacon on a sandwich and it takes the sandwich to a whole other level.

Sandwiches can be as exotic as you like, with all sorts of fancy ingredients. But, there is nothing quite as heartwarming as a “BLT.” Add some avocado and you’ve got an awesome BLT. Enjoy!

California BLT’s


6 thick-cut slices smoked bacon
4 slices good white bread, cut ½ -inch thick
4 tablespoons good mayonnaise
4 to 8 tender green lettuce leaves, washed and spun very dry
1 ripe Hass avocado
½ lemon, juiced
1 large ripe tomato, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place a baking wire rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon on the rack in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Place the bread slices on a sheet pan and toast them for 5 minutes. Turn the slices and toast for 1 more minute, until all the bread is evenly browned. Place 2 slices on a cutting board. Spread each slice with about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Cover the slices with a layer of lettuce. Peel the avocado and slice it ½ -inch thick. Toss the avocado slices gently with the lemon juice, and arrange on top of the lettuce leaves. Place 3 slices of bacon on top of each sandwich and then add a layer of tomato slices on top of the bacon. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Spread each of the remaining 2 slices of toasted bread with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and place, mayonnaise side down, on the sandwiches. Cut in half and serve.

P.S. Did you know that sandwiches are named after an actual person, (you guessed it) the English Earl of Sandwich? Apparently, the Earl of Sandwich had an obsession for gambling. Because he didn’t want to be disturbed long enough to eat a big meal, slices of bread with various fillings were brought to him at the gaming table.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Open-Faced Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Sandwich

Because I’d rather spend less time in the kitchen and more time outdoors (before it gets excruciatingly hot), here’s a super-fast recipe to enjoy in your backyard. It’s so simple; yet incredibly wonderful. Even my husband, the ultimate meat lover, raved about it.

Open-Faced Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Sandwich

8 medium tomatoes
3 (16-ounce) balls fresh mozzarella
4 loaves ciabatta, sliced in ½ lengthwise
1 cup prepared pesto
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
32 basil leaves

Core the tomatoes and slice each tomato and each ball of mozzarella into ¼-inch thick slices.

Place the sliced ciabatta loaves on a work surface, and spread each half evenly with 1/8 cup pesto. Place 4 slices of tomato and 3 slices mozzarella side by side on the top of each half loaf and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 4 basil leaves on top of each sandwich.

Slice each half loaf crosswise into 4 serving portions, making sure that each piece has a slice of tomato, mozzarella and a basil leaf.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cocoa Mochi

Okay, so if you’re a regular follower, you’ll notice a few changes. I decided to completely overhaul the concept of my blog and instead of random thoughts on just about anything and everything, I would focus on my passion for food and writing. So, I thought, why not combine the two?

Thus, my blog will now concentrate on the recipes and restaurants that traverse my life, travels and everyday interests. My blog will primarily feature recipes from my cookbook collection along with a new restaurant I may have discovered or some fantastic cuisine I may have sampled during my travels interspersed here and there. And since I completely overhauled the concept, I decided to redesign the site as well.

So, whether you’re looking for a dish to make or a new restaurant to try, enjoy!

My “first” entry will be a recipe for the daifukumochi, which literally means great luck (hopefully, I won’t need any luck getting more followers. Hint! Hint! Insert shameless plug here. Spread the word!). Mochi is a Japanese confection consisting of a small round mochi (glutinous rice cake) stuffed with a sweet filling; most commonly sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans. There are many varieties of mochi but one of my favorites is cocoa mochi.


2 cups Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour
1-3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (preferably Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon baking soda

1 large (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 large can coconut milk
2 eggs
¼ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix Mochiko sweet rice flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa and baking soda. Add evaporated milk, coconut milk, eggs, butter and vanilla. Use electric mixer and mix on low speed until well blended. Do not overbeat.

Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.

Bake for approximately 1 hour and 6 minutes. (Poke the center of the mochi with a clean toothpick and if it comes out clean, mochi is done and you may take out of the oven.)

Trim the burnt sides and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Six-Ingredient Spaghetti Carbonara

Daddy has to work late tonight (Go Lakers!) so it's just me and the girls. Of course, if I ask them what they would like for dinner, I'd get the standard response, "Pasta!" It's weird – the girls prefer white sauce over red. So I think I'll mix it up tonight and make a six-ingredient spaghetti carbonara with whatever I can find in the pantry.

1 lb pancetta or bacon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs
½ C freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb thin spaghetti
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When water is rolling, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente, about 8 to 11 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

While pasta cooks, heat large skillet over moderate heat. Sauté pancetta/bacon in a drizzle of oil until it browns, 3 to 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon remove meat from skillet and drain, removing excess oil. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.

Beat together eggs and cheese.

Drain pasta. Add pasta to pan with sautéed garlic. Remove skillet from heat. (This is important. Otherwise, if you keep skillet heated and add the egg mixture, you will get scrambled eggs.). Add egg mixture and toss 1 minute. Continue to toss until egg mixture/sauce is absorbed by and thickly coating the pasta. Stir in a ladle of the boiling pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. Add pancetta/bacon and toss again. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve with extra cheese, for passing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Make No Mistake

Most Americans don't care about soccer, but every American cares about defeating the English. So far, we've got an unimpeachable track record on the latter: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812. And perhaps their rock 'n roll is better than ours, but our hip-hop is much better than theirs. Our national winning streak was tested on Saturday, when the USA faced England in the opening round of the World Cup. Things looked grim for our boys…until English goalkeeper Robert Green let in an easy goal. In slow motion you can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half.

The final score was 1-1, which counts as a practical win for the U.S. thanks to the bizarre arithmetic of soccer tournaments. This got me thinking: Most sports movies take a dramatic, triumph-of-the-human-spirit approach to important events. They honor tremendous feats of athletic nobility, like America defeating communism in "Miracle" or America defeating Iceland in "D2: The Mighty Ducks." But some of the most memorable moments in sports history are the mistakes.

Which great blunders in sports history could be turned into a movie? There are some obvious answers here, especially if you expand the definition of "blunder" to include Mike Tyson biting off Evander Holyfield's ear. (Mike Tyson would probably be happy to play himself.) But I'd go with the following events:

Leon Lett #1
Late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXVII (January 1993), Lett recovered a fumble on Buffalo's 45 yard line and ran it back towards the end zone. When he reached the 10 yard line, he slowed, and held the ball out as he approached the goal line. However, he didn't see a hustling Don Beebe, chasing him down from behind. Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett's outstretched hand just before he crossed the goal line, which sent the ball through the end zone, and resulted in a touchback that cost Lett his touchdown. Lett later said he was watching the Jumbotron, and trying to do a "Michael Irvin," where he put the ball out across the goal line.

The Cowboys had a commanding 52–17 lead at the time, and the play did not affect the outcome of the game, but it certainly embarrassed Lett, and it is still well known by football fans today.

Leon Lett #2
Lett ranks again with another blunder the very next season and this one was actually more serious as it resulted in a Cowboy defeat. On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, during a rare snow and sleet storm in Dallas, the Cowboys were leading the Miami Dolphins with 15 seconds remaining in the game. The Dolphins attempted a 41-yard field goal to take the lead but the kick was blocked. While most of his teammates began celebrating, Lett attempted to recover the ball. He slipped on the ice as he tried to pick up the football, and Miami recovered the "muff" on the Dallas one yard line. Had Lett simply done nothing, the Cowboys would have automatically received possession and could have run out the clock. By touching the ball and then failing to hold onto it, Lett enabled the Dolphins to take possession and then try another field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock. This second attempt was successful and the Dolphins won the game 16–14 as the clock expired.

Jose Canseco
In a game that featured the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers, Indians third baseman Carlos Martinez hit a deep fly ball to right field, where Canseco was playing. Running back towards the wall, Canseco apparently lost sight of the ball and the ball bounced of off his head and caromed over the right field fence for a Cleveland home run.

In the following days, Canseco was harassed by the media, his teammates and anyone else who saw Canseco using his noggin. A soccer team even offered Canseco a contract after seeing his header against the Tribe.

The Indians went on to win the game, but the game will always be remembered for Canseco’s blunder.

What miserable sports moment deserves their own tragicomic movie treatment? Thoughts?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Write On

Stationery is a signature accessory that says something about you. Your personality. Your mood. Your special occasion. Express your style with custom stationery. There are a plethora of sites that feature personalized stationery for every occasion. You can add a special touch to everything you write (even if it’s just your grocery list). Whether your favorite look is classic, funky, casual or formal, there are a ton of sites offering supplies and products that can help you find the perfect gift to share or keep all to yourself. Here are some of my favorites:

The Stationery Studio
The Stationery Studio has personalized gifts for all occasions including a unique collection of personalized stationery, napkins, notepads, memo pads and more.

Purple Stork

Although Purple Stork specializes in creating unique custom photo birth announcements; they also design cards for bridal showers, birthday parties, baptisms, 50th wedding anniversaries and various other things you may want to announce. Just inquire and they’ll be more than happy to design something just for you.

Design-her Gals
This custom stationery and gift company has a mission to inspire, empower and celebrate women. This site is simply addictive because it gives users creative control to easily produce truly custom caricatures of themselves – or any important woman in their lives. You can dress your gal by choosing from a “closet” of hundreds of original fashions and accessories. Once you’ve dressed your gal, she can be produced into a variety of stationery products including stickers, calling cards, aprons and more.

Erin Condren
Funky retro prints meet sleek and professional with Erin Condren stationery. I love the folded cards because everything is made to match, down to the return label and envelope color. If picture personalization is your thing, they also offer a beautiful line of photo gifts, note cards and more.

Tiny Prints
Check out their unique birth announcement collections that match the top stationery trends of the season. Or browse their newest Studio Basics collection offering affordable baby shower and birthday invitations. They even offer business stationery and business cards for your corporate needs.

Expressionary offers an exclusive assortment of custom social stationery and features fresh, easy-to-customize products to make every occasion a bit more special.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Make a Statement

Once upon a time what we now call jewelry was really charms and talismans. In the past, our ancestors wore jewelry for a reason – to protect themselves from snakes, ghosts, sorcery, bad luck and the evil eye. Nowadays, we don’t need a reason to wear jewelry except, perhaps to showcase our wealth and personality. That being said, I wanted to share some of my favorite websites for jewelry.

Alex and Ani
Alex and Ani’s collections are not only eco-friendly, they are made up of powerful, meaningful and spiritual pieces, which uplift and inspire all who wear them. Their signature expandable concept, which replaces traditional clasps with a sliding mechanism, is available in bracelets, rings, chain necklaces and hoop earrings. Available in precious metals or Russian gold and silver and adorned with sacred symbols and stones, their collection is timeless, classic and collectible.

Lisa Leonard Designs
Created by a stay-at-home mom, Lisa Leonard’s pieces are simple and lovely and can be worn with jeans or your little black dress. Each piece is a work of art and meaningful – hand-stamped with your kids’ names or special phrase or verse. Her designs are hand cut, hammered, polished, drilled and assembled with care. Lisa Leonard Designs exists because moms, grandmas and friends have shared her designs with each other while waiting in line at the grocery store or sipping coffee with a friend.

Riches Hawaii
Riches Hawaii specializes in beautiful Hawaiian jewelry. The extremely popular He’e Nalu line is a beautiful testament to the Hawaiian culture and is versatile enough to be worn by men and women. The He’e Nalu line embodies the principles of the Hawaiian culture – hope, righteousness, courage, family, trust, purpose, honor and love.

Isabelle Grace Jewelry
Isabelle Grace Jewelry makes simple, beautiful, elegant pieces inspired by the most important things in life – family, children, love and marriage. Crafted by hand, each piece highlights your special message, name or inspiration.

Cynthia H. Designs
These are no ordinary fashion accessory. They are a new line of trend-setting inspirational bracelets inscribed with empowering affirmations. The collection including enamel bangles, leather and metal bracelets and an eco-friendly organic cotton bracelet are growing in popularity. Bracelets are emblazoned with encouraging phrases such as “Live, Laugh, Love;” “Love who You Are,” “Live in the Moment,” “Make a Difference” and “Positive Energy.”

Kiku Jewelry
Kiku Jewelry is the brainchild of a friend of mine who decided to leave the world of graphic design and launch a company of her own selling handmade pieces. Erin’s custom-made pieces are imaginative, unique and made with love. Offering handmade pieces for any occasion, each piece embodies individuality and self-expression.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer TV's Guiltiest Pleasures

Despite being cheesy, risqué and even ridiculous, these shows are guaranteed to keep you glued to the tube all summer long.

Jersey Shore
Season 2 finds the self-described Guidos and Guidettes far from Seaside Heights as The Situation’s abdominal situation, Snooki’s ferocious fingernails, Ronnie’s boardwalk brawls, Sammi’s alienating accent, Vinny’s fist-infused dance moves, J-Woww’s tacky trucker hats, and Pauly D’s sky-high hairdon’t return to wreak havoc on the shores of South Beach like only their sun-kissed selves could. I suggest you get your GTL (gym, tanning, and laundry) taken care of before 10 p.m. on July 29 in order to sit back, relax, and watch TV’s greatest train wreck take off.

True Blood
Alan Ball’s fang-enhanced gothic fantasy always finds a way to suck me back in. It definitely bites on occasion, but thanks to the super sexy ensemble (including a new pack of shirtless werewolves) and the writing team’s perverse plotlines, I refuse to remove this guilty pleasure from my DVR.

Big Brother 12
By no means is “BB” (what true devotees lovingly call it) the best-produced reality show on TV. It is, however, the most addictive program ever invented. With three episodes in primetime, an unedited, 3-hour nightly program that airs on Showtime, and the ability to watch the houseguests competing, fighting, and flirting on a 24-hour Web feed, the Julie Chen-hosted show takes up the majority of my free time every summer, and I love every shameful minute of it!

Big Red Balls. 'Nuff said.

Next Food Network Star
Now, in addition to watching every food show under the sun, I also have to admit to watching Iron Chef Bobby Flay and Season 6 mentor Giada De Laurentis coach wannabe cooks every Sunday evening. Guilt never tasted so good.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

iPhone 4 = iWant

I've never been an Apple diehard but I am definitely seduced by several new or improved features by the new iPhone. I mean, we all got a first glimpse of the new iPhone 4 after Gizmodo got its hands on an early prototype two months ago.

The new iPhone is faster, thinner and prettier with video calling, high-definition movie editing and a crisp display. It goes on sale June 24 and I just may have to conveniently lose my current iphone to get an upgrade. Hmmm.... :)

With a new stainless steel and glass design, it also has integrated antennas that (hopefully!) promise to improve reception on Wi-Fi and 3G wireless networks. Overall, the case is 24 percent thinner than the current iPhone 3GS. It also boasts a second video camera on the front that will permit video calling. And the 960-by-640 "retina display" shows images and text more crisply (it should since it's the same A4 processor that powers the iPad).

Moreover, the new iPhone has an improved battery life by about 40 percent so it should last longer. The camera has also been upgraded with more pixels and 720p high-definition video recording. With this new feature, the new iPhone 4 could theoretically replace your pocket camera and Flip cam. And with an improved battery life, that means we can spend more time Yelping, getting directions or playing our various apps non-stop.

So, are you going to rush out and buy the new iPhone 4? You'll have to stand in line (behind me). :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Swagger Wagon

Toyota is big pimpin’, I mean selling their Sienna minivan in a completely different way these days. Their latest campaign plays on the rap video genre and puts an average looking family at the wheel of the minivan.

It’s an interesting way to market a minivan. No doubt, it’s a hilarious, well-produced sales pitch. However, I’m not certain that it will convince anyone that minivans are ballin’, but it brings some much-needed lighthearted street cred to the Toyota brand in a time of serious crisis (recalls and safety concerns ring a bell?). Minivans are not something people normally get excited about, but drawing attention to it in a slightly self deprecating way may sway people on the edge of buying a minivan into buying one, and it might attract the next generation of minivan owners, people now in their late 20s to early 30s, to the Toyota brand.

On the flip-side, Toyota brand loyalists may be turned off by this as Toyota has typically gone with a more conservative approach to advertising. It could be argued that an older generation of Toyota owners may feel abandoned by the company with this type of advertising by having such highly youth-oriented ad campaigns. I mean, these ads don’t exactly portray safe and conservative.

The Swagger Wagon campaign is pretty much a reverse psychology admission of uncoolness, but these days that kind of thing can work with the younger generation — a generation that is highly ad-aware, and feels over-served when it comes to advertising. Somehow in admitting that minivans are super uncool and having a white family faux-gangsta rap about it, the van will become cool in its uncoolness. Does that make sense? Toyota is banking on it I’m sure.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Singing their Praises

Has there ever been a TV show more aptly named than “Glee?” It both embodies and inspires exactly that quality. Personally, I love musicals – “Enchanted,” “The Sound of Music,” “Hairspray” to name a few – and this show is about a high school glee club that frequently bursts into song musical numbers. This musical-comedy-drama from creator Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck”) is so good — so funny, so bulging with vibrant characters — that it blasts past any defenses you might put up against it. “Glee” will not stop until it wins you over utterly. It’s the story of Will, a high school Spanish teacher, who takes over a pathetic glee club filled with misfits.

Murphy takes what could have been moldy, cliché figures — such as Rachel, the persecuted girl, Finn, the football hero who really wants to croon, and teachers like cheerleading coach Sue — and brings fresh details to them. Rachel asserts, ''Being anonymous is worse than being poor.... Fame is the most important thing in society.'' At first, you want to barf at a sentiment like that, but then “Glee” makes the battle to overcome anonymity seem like a higher calling. “Glee” is all about sparking ambition, getting kids off the sofa and doing creative things. But it also has a healthy dose of sarcasm and skepticism to offset its peppy interpretations of hits.

There’s nothing quite like “Glee” on TV. And the writing is superb. Witness some of the best quotes from Tuesday’s episode, “Funk.”

Sue: "Will, I’m not going to do this. Even your breath stinks of mediocrity."

Sue: "You know, for me trophies are like herpes. You can try to get rid of them but they just keep coming. Sue Sylvester has hourly flair ups of burning itchy highly contagious talent."

Quinn: "Thinking ‘trust me’ was a sensible birth option."

Rachel: "Giving my heart to Jesse, just to have it crushed like the stage floor at a performance of ‘Stomp!’"
"Glee" excels at dealing with themes such as gender and power and hairstyles and hormones and practically every episode is crammed not only with music but nonstop one-liners that sting and will have you have rolling on the ground. I’m definitely dreading the season finale next Tuesday because when it goes on hiatus there will be no more laughter, no more glee.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nobody’s Perfect

I am not a huge baseball fan. In fact, I’d rather watch grass grow than watch baseball on TV. But watching a game in-person, live, in a stadium – now, that’s another story. But I digress… Last night, my husband relayed to me a game he had seen earlier that day – how Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, one out away from a perfect game, lost his chance at making history Wednesday on an admitted blown call by first-base umpire Jim Joyce. Apparently, Galarraga was as perfect as any pitcher could be – getting the first 27 batters out. However, he had to face 28 batters after a blown call by Joyce that robbed him of his place in baseball history.

Here’s how the game went: Cleveland Indians’ Jason Donald hits a two-out, ninth-inning ground ball to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera who cleanly fielded the ball and tossed it to Galarraga, who was covering first. The ball arrives. Galarraga touches first before Donald. Game over and the third perfect game of the season is in the record books. Except umpire Jim Joyce inexplicably calls Donald safe.

Television replays showed that Donald was out by half a step. As soon as Joyce made the call, the camera cut to Galarraga. And he smiled! That’s all. No argument. No theater. No wild waving of arms. No, he just smiled, a smile that seemed to say: “Are you sure?” In that moment when he had a perfect game so unfairly taken away from him, he smiled. In the interview after the game, he simply said that he wasn’t sure about the call but he was proud of his game. When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Galarraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.

Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. That’s the way most people saw it. And I agree. But, more importantly, Armando Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace. And when my young daughters ask, “Why didn’t he get mad and scream about how he was robbed?” I think I will tell them this: I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Armando Galarraga understands something that is very hard to understand, something we all struggle with, something I hope you will learn as you grow older: In the end, nobody’s perfect. We just do the best we can.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Banana Bread

This banana bread is unlike any other. It is super moist and so good. Adapted from Tyler Florence, this recipe is the ultimate banana bread. In the past, I have had difficulty with my banana breads...being overdone on the outside and nearly raw in the middle. Since I found this recipe, each loaf turns out perfectly. And the flavor is unrivaled. Though the banana bread is wonderful as is, if you like variations on it, you can add chocolate chips or substitute any kind of nuts – macadamia or walnuts (instead of pecans). Enjoy!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together for a good 3 minutes; you want a light and fluffy banana cream. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla; beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated; no need to overly blend. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Give the pan a good rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Don't get nervous if the banana bread develops a crack down the center of the loaf; that's no mistake, it's typical. Rotate the pan periodically to ensure even browning.

Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes or so, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Toast the slices of banana bread, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve.