Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

If you’re like us, Costco plays a supporting role in almost all of our holiday festivities. In fairly serious strategy sessions around the kitchen island, we try to figure out what things make sense to get there and how to get out FAST. Lists are made. Tactics are formulated (“you get the wine with the cart and I’ll meet you over at the beef tenderloin.”)  But on our trip yesterday, I had a new found understanding of why I both dread our annual holiday pilgrimage to Costco, and actually kind of like it too: it’s a bizarre modern American version of the old bazaar.

Giant TV’s dazzle as you walk in. You try to not make eye contact with the guy hawking the latest and greatest in juicing technology. And it seems you’re always bumping into people at the aisle intersections.

We don’t buy many Christmas presents there anymore. In fact, we hardly buy any gifts like we did in the 90’s. Back then, the cheap imports were starting to flow into our country like water. It was weird and wonderful: the cost of clothing and unnecessary appliances seems to plummet 50% overnight. Our gift opening ritual sometimes went on for 4 or 5 or 6 hours. But life in 2016 is different. In both Alan’s and my families, we have secured every cheaply rendered creature comfort by now. Probably way too many. So buying big plastic things at warehouse stores does not hold the allure it once did at Christmas. Instead, we buy mainly food, booze and an occasional item of whimsy that seems to promise us a feeling of coziness there, like fuzzy slippers or comfy earmuffs. And then there’s the added bonus of all those Costco sampling carts!

There’s a silent tactical battle that goes on into securing a good food sample at Costco, for something like a whisper of turtle cheesecake, or a bite of panko-breaded mozzarella (I know you know what I’m talking about!). Here’s the scene: there’s no samples on the tray, and the demonstrator is dutifully preparing the next batch of say, chipotle meatballs.

you know you want that meatball

You know you want a meatball, but can you wait until they hit the tray? So you pretend to look at some items in the general perimeter of the forthcoming meatball, but your eye is really just focused on the prize. Your peripheral vision has never been this honed as you browse the assortment of tortellini. You know it’s a ruse, and so do the other 10 people waiting for that meatball.

But when those meatballs are finally released for public consumption, a tidal wave of people casually but nonetheless urgently rushes over to the cart. Parents, looking to feed their offspring, gently prod their young in the direction of the meatball-  “get in there,” they urge. It’s like watching a pack of lions devour an antelope, just with slightly more polished manners. That old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom show comes to mind.

I always feel bad for the people cooking up these mini treats because hardly anyone takes the time to say thank you or strike up a conversation. It’s a frenzy of grab-and-go, and then onto the next conquest, like the shrimp or something. So yesterday, Alan dropped the best shrimp sample joke: “$24.99? Hey, not bad for a little tail!” The hair-netted shrimp-sample-server roared with laughter. I groaned. “You can have as many shrimp as you want; you made me laugh,” the nice lady told us.

So we got the ingredients on our list, some artisan meats to go into my traditional antipasto salad, and got out. But we always get gas too (it’s so cheap), and so the familiar face who works as the gas station attendant came over to say hello. The neat thing about our Costco is that workers stay for years. They pay their employees extremely well, they have sane holiday shopping hours so that their workers can enjoy time with their families, and they offer very good benefits. So it seems no one leaves! At this point, I’ve developed a relationship with the gas station guy. We talk casually talk politics (he liked my Bernie Sanders bumper sticker), shoot the breeze, and for that reason, I come back again and again. I like seeing people I know when I shop.

Alan and I see holiday shopping differently now. With no one wanting or needing gifts, we instead decided to use our Christmas funds to donate to needy kids.

Presents on their way to the United Way!

But we still go to Costco, we just don’t buy the cheap stuff destined quickly for the landfill. We abhor their durable goods, like furniture, because we know that after that rush of the bargain, you’ll throw it away super fast and have to buy another one. These things are actually not durable at all , nor are they meant to be (look for upcoming posts about this). But we love their selection of foods and now Christmas has morphed into more of a Bacchanalian festival of food and drink more so than a gluttonous exercise in opening gifts.

And with the upcoming push from Amazon to sell groceries, I think we’ll still go to Costco for our holiday ingredients. It’s nice to get out to fight the crowds, get some great food and spread the cheer!

Wishing you the most joyous holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

(and Gatsby!))

 

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A Few Holiday Recipes Just in Time For Party Season

A Few Holiday Recipes Just in Time For Party Season

It’s right around now that looking at my calendar causes me to break out in a cool sweat. Parties, events, recitals- I’m sure you can relate!

So while I could go on about the fine points of the suspension system of sofas, I doubt that’s on your radar at this moment.

At this time of year, I’m always looking for dishes to bring to events. These two continue to be crowd pleaasers for me, and have now gone into the permanent holiday rotation schedule. They’ve also become a tradition in our family. Time-consuming? Yes, they are. Expensive? Yes to that too. Worth the effort? Again, yes, totally!

Think of making them as cooking therapy for a snowed in day (which are sure to come). And they travel extremely well for parties.

This first one is adapted from an old recipe book my mom adores, Noteworthy, which came from the Ravinia Festival. We oddly serve this in the late morning on Christmas day along with Champagne and a smörgåsbord of other munchies (I’m sure you have weird traditions too, don’t judge).

marinated-shrimpMarinated Shrimp with Oranges

Makes 4 servings, but we always double, even triple sometimes!

  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1/4 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C. unfiltered cider vinegar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t cilantro leaves (dangerous for a crowd and therefore optional)
  • 1/2 t capers
  • 1/4 t celery seeds
  • 1/8 t ground black pepper
  • Romaine Leaves or crackers

 

  1. One day or at least 8 hours ahead, marinate shrimp. In 4-qt saucepan, heat 3 inches’ water to boiling. Add shrimp, return to boil and cook covered, 2 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Drain, rinse in cold water and drain well again.
  2. In large bowl, combine shrimp, orange and red onion. In medium bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, ketchup, sugar, garlic, mustard seeds, cilantro, capers, celery seeds, and pepper. Pour over shrimp mixture and stir to coat well. Refrigerate 8 hours, or preferably overnight. Serve on crackers or romaine leaves.

This next one is the holiday recipe one that I hang my hat on year after year. I make gallons of it and swear I’ll never do it again after seeing my grocery bill. But I do, every year without fail. Don’t skimp- the guy behind the deli counter will curse your name, but your guests may well kiss you harder this year. If there was ever a perfect leftover intended for a hangover, please let me know too.

antipasto salad

Mixed Antipasto Salad

adapted from Epicurious. I think the secret is actually the fennel flavor. People think it’s celery but  when they get a bite of anise flavor from it, it’s a surprise, and not an unwelcome one. I humbly nominate this also to be the perfect leftover holiday hangover nibble too. Near the end of parties, people will fight over tupperware containers with this inside.

For the marinade

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the salad

  • 3 large carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
  • a 12-ounce jar pepperoncini (pickled Tuscan peppers), rinsed and drained well
  • 3/4 pound black or green brine-cured olives or a combination ( I use a mixture of green Cerignolas and black Kalamatas)
  • 1/4 pound sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into strips (or fresh cherry- either way)
  • 3/4 pound marinated or plain bocconcini (small mozzarella balls, available at specialty foods shops and some supermarkets)
  • 1/2 pound pepperoni or soppressata (hard Italian sausage, available at Italian markets, some butcher shops, and, some specialty foods shops), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and the slices quartered
  • two 7-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves plus, if desired, parsley sprigs for garnish

Make the marinade: 1.  In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, the vinegars, the rosemary, the basil, the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the marinade until it is emulsified. 2. In a large saucepan of boiling water blanch the carrots and the fennel for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender, drain them, and plunge them into a bowl of ice and cold water. Let the vegetables cool and drain them well. In a large bowl toss together the carrots, the fennel, the roasted peppers, the pepperoncini, the olives, the sun-dried tomatoes, the bocconcini, the pepperoni, the artichoke hearts, the marinade, the minced parsley until the antipasto is combined well and chill the antipasto, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Transfer the antipasto to a platter, garnish it with the parsley sprigs, and serve it at room temperature.

So back to shopping and gifting!

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Recipes from October 2nd- Annual Global Treasure Hunt

Recipes from October 2nd- Annual Global Treasure Hunt

Despite rather soggy weather, we still managed to have a lot of fun at our 6th Annual Global Treasure Hunt on October 2! As has become the custom, Alan and I plan a buffet upon a global theme and make everything from scratch. So much more special than calling a caterer, but also a laborious effort! We thought we’d share our recipes this year with everyone in case you’re inclined to try one of these yourself. Mangia!

 

Dean Alan Design Accessories Wooden Obelisks sitting on a hand carved live edge dining table

Colorful wooden obelisks atop a carved dining table at Ginger’s

Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers and Avocado in a Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette

Servings: 6-8

Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 ears fresh cooked corn, kernels cut off the cob, or frozen, drained and thawed
  • 2 mixed color bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper ( or to taste- we like it hotter )
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, best quality (we used Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin from Costco)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest (be sure to zest limes before juicing them)
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (make sure limes are at room temperature before juicing)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Hass avocados, chopped (put these in at the absolute end so they don’t get brown)

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except for avocados in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Right before serving, add avocados and mix gently, being careful not to mash avocados. Garnish with a more chopped cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.

    Alan Sills with friends at Global Treasure Hunt

    Alan with friends

Cook’s Illustrated Restaurant-Style Hummus

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Servings: 8-10

ABOUT THIS RECIPE

“This is a smooth and silky hummus from those people on PBS who know how to test and create great recipes. They recommend Joyva or Krinos tahini and Pastene chickpeas (I used what I had on hand). Hummus can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days. If you do not plan on serving it immediately, refrigerate the hummus and garnishes separately. When ready to serve, stir in approximately 1 tablespoon of warm water if the texture is too thick. Serving size is estimated.”

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice ( 1 to 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 14 ounces chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 garlic clove ( minced or pressed through garlic press 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, minced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl or measuring cup.
  2. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup.
  3. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.
  4. Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds.
  5. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube.
  6. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute.
  7. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube and continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy (about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed).
  8. Transfer hummus to serving bowl and sprinkle with reserved chickpeas and cilantro over surface.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes.
  10. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

    Ginger Blossom Metal Lawn Accessory Shark

    Land-Shark! Hand hammered metal shark sculpture from Mexico


Chef John’s Pulled Pork BBQ

this one takes a while, but the meltingly luscious pork is well worth the the time. Alan roasted this overnight

Use your favorite dry rub and barbecue sauce to make this succulent pork. A little trick I like is to put 2 ramekins with liquid smoke flavoring in with the meat and roast it slowly.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons dry barbecue rub, or more as needed (we love the BBQ rubs at the Spice House)
  • 1 (3 1/2) pound bone-in pork shoulder blade roast
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring, divided
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 mini french rolls (Costco)
  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce, divided  (we were crunched for time so we used Sweet Baby Rays, normally we make from scratch!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 210 degrees F (100 degrees C).
  2. Sprinkle dry rub generously on all sides of pork roast and place meat into a heavy pan or Dutch oven.
  3. Pour 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke flavoring into each of two 6-ounce ramekins; fill ramekins with 1/2 cup water each. Place ramekins into the Dutch oven on either side of the roast. Place lid onto Dutch oven.
  4. Roast pork in the preheated oven until very tender, 12 hours. Remove roast from Dutch oven, place onto a work surface (such as a cutting board), and separate the meat from the bone using your fingers. Discard any large pieces of fat.
  5. Roughly chop pork with a large knife or cleaver; drizzle with 3/4 cup barbeque sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Spread about 1 tablespoon barbeque sauce onto each bun and pile pork on buns to serve.

 

Dean Alan Design Boho Chic Living Room

Our room styling using components from Ginger Blossom, Elka chair from Bernhardt, sofa from Vanguard (photography Maureen Miller Photography)

Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps

  • Prep Time-30 MIN
  • Servings- 12

Ingredients

1 ¼ lb ground turkey

¼ cup chopped green onions (4 medium)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons garlic and red chile paste

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup shredded carrots

1/3 cup chopped salted peanuts

12 medium Bibb lettuce leaves, rinsed, patted dry with paper towel

Directions

  1. In 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook turkey over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked; drain and return to skillet. Stir in green onions, cilantro, mint, lime juice, fish sauce, peanut butter, chile paste, sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes longer or until hot.
  2. To serve, spoon 2 heaping tablespoons turkey mixture, 2 tablespoons carrots and 1 teaspoon peanuts onto each lettuce leaf; wrap around filling. Serve warm.
  3. Thai hand carved shoes from Ginger Blossom

      These hand carved wooden shoes would look great mounted on a wall!

Once again, we have to thank you all for our continued success, and we hope to bring you many exciting changes in the future!

 

Dean Alan Design Industrial Reclaimed Living Room

We mixed items from Ginger’s together with a gorgeous sectional from Weiman, tables and etagere from Resource Decor and York Graffiti wallpaper. (Thanks to Design D’Vision trade showroom and Maureen Miller Photography)

Dean Alan Design Signature
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Recipes from September 28 Customer Appreciation Luncheon

Recipes from September 28 Customer Appreciation Luncheon

We believe in saying thank you for helping through the last seven years of our company! In keeping with this sentiment, we hosted our first ever Client Appreciation Luncheon on September 28, 2016 at the Arlington Design Center. The day started with a homemade lunch, and then people were free to roam the buildings or attend one of our mini Show-N-Tell sessions on lighting at CAI Lighting, Thibaut wallcoverings, custom window treatments by CMI Drapery and Hunter Douglas, and a special fabric trunk show at Kravet from the Candace Olsen Collection.

Client Karen looking at Kravet Fabrics

Browsing the Kravet Fabric Wall…

Trish Feerer, showroom manager of Kravet goes through the Candace Olsen new fabrics for 2016

Trish Feerer, showroom manager of Kravet goes through the Candace Olsen new fabrics for 2016

Everyone went home with a special swag bag full of goodies, including a jade plant and Alan’s special homemade Arrabiata Sauce!

CAI Design warehouse with Dean's Mom Overseeing

Mom still helping set the table!

Dean Malambri of Dean Alan Design talking

Dean talking too much, as usual!

Since we got a few requests for the recipes, we thought we’d post them here if anyone would like to try them out!

HARVEST QUINOA SALAD

15 min Prep Time

20 min Cook Time

35 minTotal Time

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked tri-color quinoa
  • 1 cup cubed and roasted butternut squash
  • 1 apple, diced (I used a Gala apple)
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby kale or spinach, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas (raw or roasted and salted)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cider vinaigrette for dressing the salad.

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized saucepan bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil.
  2. Rinse and drain the quinoa then add it to the boiling water.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  4. Remove the quinoa from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  5. Prepare the cider vinaigrette and set aside.
  6. In a large bowl combine the cooled quinoa, roasted butternut squash, apple, green onion, baby kale, dried cranberries, almonds and pepitas.
  7. Mix in the desired amount of cider vinaigrette and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper as needed.
  8. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cider Vinaigrette

1 cup apple cider

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon maple syrup (not pancake syrup)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Notes

If you plan to make the salad ahead of time, wait until just before serving to add in the toasted almonds so that they stay crunchy.

TOMATO AND PEACH SALAD WITH BURRATA

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound heirloom tomatoes, cut into eighths (then halved, optional)
  • 1 pound ripe peaches, cut into eighths (then halved, optional)
  • 2 T fresh basil chiffonade
  • I T fresh mint leaves
  • 1 t maple syrup
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 4 oz burrata, sliced

Preparation

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the burrata, and toss them well. Place the salad onto a serving platter and top it with slices of the burrata. Serve immediately.

Croissant Chicken Salad Sandwich

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 -8 plain croissants ( I went to Costco)
  • 3 cups cubed poached cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups grapes, sliced in half
  • 4 -5 diced spring onions
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 3/4-1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • lettuce leaf, to dress the sandwiches

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix mayo, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil together till well incorporated.
  2. Fold in chicken, grapes, cashews,celery,and onions.
  3. Halve the croissants (you may wish to slightly toast them) and layer with salad, lettuce, and cheese if you wish.
  4. Serve immediately.
  5. Time to prepare does not include chicken’s cook time.

Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad Sandwiches

Yield
Makes 6 sandwiches

Ingredients

For egg salad

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

For sandwiches

  • Mayonnaise for spreading on bread (optional)
  • 12 slices seedless rye bread or 6 kaiser rolls
  • 3 cups tender pea shoots (3 oz) or shredded lettuce

Preparation

Make egg salad:

  1. Cover eggs with cold water by 1 inch in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat and let eggs stand in hot water, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water and let stand 5 minutes (to cool). Peel eggs and finely chop.
  2. Stir together eggs and remaining salad ingredients in a bowl with a fork.

Make sandwiches:

  1. Spread some mayonnaise (if using) on bread and make sandwiches with egg salad and pea shoots.
Cooks’ note:
• Egg salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Once again, we have to thank you all for our continued success, and we hope to bring you many exciting changes in the future!

– Dean & Alan

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