Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil (Caprese) Skewers

I recently made these delicious little bites of sunshine for a get-together. They look and taste so yummy, it's hard to believe they are SO simple! They'll definitely be a regular for our summer parties this year. Give 'em a try!

Caprese Skewers
(Makes about 16)

16 wooden skewers, cut to about 4.5" in length
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tub bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
1 bunch basil
sea salt
light olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry basil well. Tear leaves (if needed) into 1" pieces.
Put a cherry tomato on a skewer, leaving enough room on the flat end for a handle. Add a piece of basil, folding to fit neatly, if needed. Add a piece of mozzarella, another basil leaf and then a final tomato.
Repeat with remaining skewers and ingredients.

To serve, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil and vinegar (or let people do their own drizzling).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Odwalla Game Day Challenge - Part 2

Last week I told you all about how I got to go shopping for sports equipment & Odwalla smoothies to donate to a very deserving group of kids as part of the Champions for Kids Game Day Challenge.

I managed to get a pretty good collection of things - with a case of Odwalla smoothies, a T-ball set, extra baseballs, a few jump ropes and 2 sets of Velcro catch paddles. But, seeing as I never know "when to say when" when it comes to giving, I couldn't resist adding something more before I packed everything up to head over to Casa de Amparo. After all, what good is a T-ball set without some mitts to catch those fly balls with? So, I bought a couple to add to the collection:

I also boxed up the case of smoothies for easy transport:

I was kind of hoping I might get to see some of the kiddos who'd be using the equipment at Casa de Amparo, but it turned out to just be an administrative office:

That makes a lot of sense, though, considering one of their primary populations served is abused and neglected children. Safety for the kids is key. And as you can see - it's a pretty simple building - no marble statues or glittery facades. It's a good sign that the money they're raising is going to those who need it most.

So while I didn't get to see any little eyes lit up with delight, the donation coordinator assured me they would be very happy to see everything I was able to get. She said the items would be shared between their children's shelter and their daytime development center. Between the two, we'll be helping preschoolers (who those little T-ball gloves will fit perfectly) through teens (who I think will love that basketball!). I think it's a perfect fit for the goal of this #OdwallaCFK SIMPLE Service Project - to give all kids the chance to be more active!

To learn more about Champions for Kids and their SIMPLE Service Projects, visit them at http://championsforkids.org/ or check them out on Twitter or Facebook.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric
All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Homemade Sushi - with tutorial!

Here in southern California, sushi joints are about as common as Starbucks shops (read: on nearly every street corner). Fortunately, hubby & I love sushi, so we've enjoyed trying out lots of new places and different types of rolls. (One of our best discoveries was a roll with cream cheese - so good!) Though we definitely have our favorites to eat out at, we also recently started to make it at home, where it has quickly become a weekly favorite.

One of the first things I learned about sushi when I started making it is that it's not raw fish that gives a roll the name "sushi." Instead, it's the vinegared rice that you use (called sumeshi). That works out since I've yet to find a good source of sushi-grade fish here. Instead, I've just been using crab meat and smoked salmon - happy in the knowledge it still "counts" as sushi. It tastes great, too!

So, I thought I'd share one of our favorite rolls with you and give a breakdown of how to make it. First, you have to make your rice:

Sumeshi (Vinegared Sushi Rice)
Makes enough for 5-6 rolls

1 3/4 cups sushi-style rice (Japenese short-grained rice)
2 cups water
3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. sea salt

Place sushi rice in a fine strainer. Rinse with cool water until draining water runs clear. Let sit in strainer for about 1 hour.
After rice has fully drained, place it in a medium sauce pan. Add 2 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil. Let boil 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid of saucepan at all during boiling or this 15-minute resting period.
While rice is resting, mix rice wine vinegar, sugar and sea salt in a small bowl.
After the 15 minutes are up, transfer cooked rice to a large bowl. Using a silicone or small wooden spatula, fold in vinegar mixture. Let seasoned rice cool to room temperature before using. (You can make it up to a day ahead of time. Just cover it and keep it in a cool place - but not the fridge.)

Other ingredients you'll need include:
5-6 sushi wrappers (nori)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water

For filling:
3 crab legs
2 baby carrots
1/4-1/2 large cucumber
srirachi chili sauce (optional)

For dipping:

soy sauce
wasabi paste
pickled ginger

While you're waiting for your rice to cool, mix together 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water. This will be your "finger water" to keep the rice from sticking to your hands when you go to spread it out.

Then, cut your filling ingredients (crab, carrots & cucumber in this case) into thin strips:
Lay a piece of nori shiny-side down on a sushi mat:

Scoop about 3/4 cup of cooled sush rice onto nori:

Dip your fingers into the water/rice wine vinegar mixture and spread rice out over the nori, leaving about 1/4" of nori sticking out on 1 end:
Lay strips of crab, cucumber and carrots across the width of the rice, about 2" from the fully-riced end of the nori:

I also dribbled a strip of sriracha (that red sauce above) along the edge of the crab for some extra spice - but this is totally optional.

Starting on fully-riced end (the left in the photos above) roll the sushi mat toward the clear end. Pick it up and over the filling, then tuck and roll to the end. It should look like this:

Now cut the roll into 3/4"-1" slices, using a sawing motion with your sharp knife to avoid squishing the roll. Flip each piece rice side up to see your handy work:
Finish the rest of your rolls (other fillings we like include avocado, smoked salmon and cream cheese), assemble on a patter and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger & soy sauce:


Monday, April 9, 2012

A worthy project - #OdwallaCFK Game Day Challenge

When I was recently asked if I might be interested in participating in a Champions for Kids SIMPLE Service Project to help local children in need, I jumped at the chance. Champions for Kids regularly coordinates projects to improve the lives of children throughout the year. For spring, they've partnered with Odwalla to sponsor the Game Day Challenge! to help fight childhood obesity by encouraging and enabling more children in the community to get out and play and be active in sports.

To help support this goal, I signed on to do a SIMPLE Service Project that involved shopping for and donating a selection of outdoor activity equipment to Casa de Amparo, a local non-profit that helps less fortunate children throughout the community. They do a lot of work in particular with abused and neglected children. Having worked closely with child abuse prevention groups as part of my day job, this is a cause that's near and dear to my heart - and an organization that my husband and I support through our personal giving efforts.

As simple as it sounds, I've learned from my work that being active - and just having the opportunity to play and be a kid - can be an important part of healing for abused and neglected children. Of course, good nutrition is also key to good health. So, to help fuel the children up for activity, I'm also donating a case of Odwalla smoothies.

I had a lot of fun shopping for this activity. Though I don't have children myself, I love getting shop for kids things for my nieces and nephews or projects like these. There just so much cool stuff to check out! I wondered the aisles for at least an hour looking at sporting goods.
They had a great selection of equipment to play catch and T-ball.
I loved this little golf set - so cute!

I also had to hunt around for a bit to find the Odwalla smoothies. I'd never purchased them before, but I thought they might be in the produce section. When I couldn't find them there, I made my way to the other refrigerated area with the dairy products - and lo and behold - there they were. I eventually ended up clearing the store out of all the Odwalla smoothies they had left!
Yummy smoothies will be a perfect after-play snack!

Filling up my cart & clearing out the store's supply!
You can check out my trip here on Google+. When I got home - I had a good spread to get ready to share with some very deserving children!

I'll be heading out early next week to make my donation. Stay tuned to learn how it goes. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Champions for Kids and how you can get involved in your community, check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions expressed are my own.