Monday, November 30, 2009
We had Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt's house, as we have for the last few years. It's a really special occasion because several of my aunt's longtime friends usually join us, and we rarely see them any other day of the year.
This year my cousin's girlfriend did the tablescape. Wow, was it ever stunning! She took an approach that I probably would have taken, since I absolutely love "foodplay." The table decor was nearly all edible, with many components doubling as centerpieces and pre-meal nibbles.
But she used foods I never would have thought of. Did you ever notice what a beautiful, rich color caramels are? Well, she had several types of caramels, in several different shades, scattered around the two tables.
She used lots of color, all to compliment my aunt's pink glassware and dishes. I thought her red table runners made for a perfect combination.
And the fruit was just beautiful!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
My new favorite layered food is this bean casserole from Moosewood Restaurant's Simple Suppers that my hubby and I made for Thanksgiving.
It had green beans and leeks on the bottom. Then I poured a flavorful puree of cannellini beans, garlic, and fresh herbs over that. (That was the best part - the puree was as rich as a cream sauce!) We added layers of gruyere cheese and more beans, then topped it with a crust of Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly ground bread crumbs. As it cooked the garlic emanated from the oven, and the sauce became thick, rich, and creamy. We will definitely try this again.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I thought I better disclose my contribution to our Thanksgiving meal. I was asked to bring a dessert to my aunt's house. Somebody was already bringing a pie, so about ten days ago I set out to find the perfect non-pie recipe that would best suit the occasion.
I settled on this luxurious cake from Martha Stewart, with vanilla fresh from the pod, carmelized apples, and brown sugar buttercream.
Then my practicality set in, and I started hunting for something a little simpler. I settled on this Paula Deen recipe for pumpkin bars. The recipe has very few ingredients, and her desserts are always scrumptious.
But then reality tapped me on the shoulder. Well, truthfully . . . reality outright walloped me. I finally owned up to how little time I have available right now, and I did the right thing. I went to my favorite "Local Great" bakery at Nugget Market, exchanged money for confection, and voila!
This spice cake with maple buttercream absolutely fit the bill. And I always love an excuse to buy a cake from Nugget!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I checked out the dishes online after hearing about them - what do you think? These mincemeat pies look pretty tasty. And not so different from what we might see on Thanksgiving tables these days.
But the Nesselrode Pudding pictured below? This is not the "feast for the eyes" I was looking for.
It was an interesting idea to uncover old recipes, but I think I'll stick with my more modern vegetable casseroles, thank you! Like some of the Thanksgiving yummies we had at a recent Early Thanksgiving Party. I'm looking forward to tomorrow - Happy Feasting!
[All photos credited to Emily Ochsenschlager]
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
You can put your pumpkin pie spice away for this recipe!
At my house this soup is one of our longtime fall favorites. I love the fact that there's very little prep required since most of the ingredients come from a can. Add some hearty multigrain bread and maybe a salad and you've got a healthy, warming meal. But beware, your house will really smell like curry!
Curried Pumpkin and Chickpea Soup
Serves 6 to 8
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 T. curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
- 2 large red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 can pumpkin
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Monday, November 23, 2009
A few of the things I did this weekend:
1. Enjoyed an icy cold Anchor Steam beer at a Davis burger joint. (Anchor Steam is my favorite local microbrew - check it out if you haven't had one!)
2. Took my toddler to her first tea party.
3. Donated two large bags of canned goods to my local food bank.
4. Ate a super-tasty home-cooked meal made by my wonderful hubby. (The recipe just might appear on here soon!)
5. And spent hours and hours studying for my last round of finals, my least favorite tradition this time of year. Ick!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
So finally my hubby and I set out to teach my daughter more about the deeper layers of Thanksgiving. At preschool she's learned about the Pilgrims. We've talked about the mechanics of Thanksgiving, so she knows that we'll watch a parade, have a big meal with special people, and eat pumpkin pie. Each time we have a conversation I explain a few things, we discuss back and forth, and then at some point a look of understanding crosses her face. She looks pleased, and I'm assured that she actually understands what I'm trying to tell her. Well, maybe. But maybe not.
There have been a couple of conversations that didn't end like I had initially expected when that proud look of comprehension first appeared on my toddler's face. First we talked about being thankful. We talked about what it means, what I'm thankful for, and what my hubby is thankful for. Then when I thought she was ready, I asked my toddler what she was thankful for. She had anticipated the question. Her face brightened and she looked very proud. Then she answered, "Myself." I tried not to giggle, since I was being so serious about it all and she clearly was missing most of what I was saying. So I patiently gave her a few more examples, then asked her again what she was thankful for. Her answer? "My shirt."
This morning we discussed the Thanksgiving celebration they had at my toddler's preschool yesterday. We're vegetarians, so I had sent soy chicken for her to eat instead of turkey. So we were discussing what people eat on Thanksgiving, and how the three of us don't eat ALL the same things that other people eat because we're vegetarians. Again we reached the point when comprehension crossed her face. She got really excited, bouncing on the bed. Then she announced, "Yeah, we're veg-e-tarians. That means that we don't eat regular turkey. We eat big, GIANT turkeys!"
So I've realized another thing I'm thankful for ~ laughter.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I just made myself a pretty little lunch that I thought I'd share. I started with two small handmade corn and whole grain tortillas (from La Tortilla Factory out of Sonoma, but sold in the regular grocery store). I added a shmeer of roasted red pepper hummus, a sprinkle of shredded parmigiano reggiano, and freshly ground black pepper. Then I topped them with some crunchy red pepper spears and romaine lettuce.
The tortillas are pretty dense, so these could easily be wrapped in plastic wrap for later. Yum!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
It's nice to see us vegetarians getting a little attention every once in a while, but especially around the holidays. Trust me - it's no easy feat creating an enticing Thanksgiving meal that's both traditional and, well...turkeyless. But it CAN be done. While many people turn to slightly less traditional main courses for vegetarians, like this fantastic lasagna or this ravioli, I prefer to stay a little closer to mainstream Thanksgiving flavors. (You know, something savory that you could easily eat with gravy and mashed potatoes!)
One of my favorite things to serve at holiday time is a stuffed mushroom - large portabellas for a substantial main course, medium-sized creminis that work as a main or a side, or small mushrooms as an appetizer. They're flavorful, filling, and beautiful!
I have finally come up with a recipe that I'm really happy with. I made these for Early Thanksgiving with fairly large creminis (which are sometimes labeled as baby portabellas), but the recipe can be adapted to suit your needs.
Holiday Stuffed Mushrooms
- 2 lbs. cremini mushrooms
- About 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (maybe less)
- 3 T. butter
- 1 small dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 T. (2-3 cloves) minced garlic
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted, then finely chopped or coarsely ground in a food processor
- 1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
- 3 T. fresh sage, minced
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan
- Salt & pepper
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted add the cayenne, garlic, and shallots and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Then add the mushroom stalks and gills, season with salt and pepper, and saute another 4 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat, then mix in the herbs, cheese, and ground pine nuts. Adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Then stuff the mixture into the mushrooms, gently pressing it into the hollowed out center. (You can make them in advance up to this point, refrigerate them for up to 12 hours, then bake immediately before serving.)
4. If you use large cremini or mini portabellas, bake them for approximately 30 minutes. Larger portabellas will take approximately 40 minutes and small appetizer-sized mushrooms may take only 20 minutes. They are done when the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Have you noticed that milk cartons are often pretty slippery? Mine are usually barely moist from condensation by the time we make it home from the store. Just moist enough to be really, darn slippery.
Recently after I arrived home from the grocery store, I took on the "grocery challenge" like usual. I tried to make it inside the house with all of the groceries in a single trip. I reached into my trunk and picked up the heaviest reusable grocery bag first. Then I went for the moderately heavy bag. Feeling pretty loaded at this point, I decided I would grab the milk jug next, then end by carefully adding the final lightweight bag to my arm.
But I didn't make it that far. As I started to swing the milk towards me, planning to shift it to the other hand before reaching into the trunk again, I noticed that the carton handle felt kind of slippery. As the milk started to slip, I clutched harder. For a moment I thought I had recovered my grip - that I had saved myself from the impending blunder. Then the bottom of the container grazed the edge of the trunk. The milk slipped again, I reached for it with the same hand, then I clutched for it with the other hand. Meanwhile my already loaded grocery bags swung precariously from side to side on my arm.
And then it happened. The plastic milk jug hit the ground. HARD. So hard, that the container busted open and milk rushed onto the ground and down the driveway towards the street.
And there I was, NOT crying over spilled milk. I don't know about you, but I never heard the rule about what to do when faced with milk gushing down your driveway. So I just hovered. That's right, I pretty much stayed frozen in the same position as when the milk last left my hands. Absolutely useless. As far as I was concerned, I had failed the milk challenge. All Was Lost. Game over.
Fortunately, my husband had heard what to do when standing over milk gushing down your driveway. You should try to save it, of course. Or at least try to prevent some of the mess.
Turns out, we were able to fill several pitchers and save about 3/4 of the milk. (A gallon of milk is a lot of liquid!) I'm so glad my hubby had heard that milk rule. The other milk rule, that is.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Nearly half of us were vegetarians, so as a veggie main course we had corn enchiladas.
And turkey for the meat-eaters. (Sorry the picture isn't better - can you tell turkey isn't my thing?)
My stuffed cremini mushrooms doubled as a veggie side dish or main course.
We had classic green beans.
We also had a fantastic butternut squash crumble.
Thanksgiving is not complete without mashed potatoes and gravy, right?
And rolls to finish things off.
We ended the evening with 3 desserts, but unfortunately I didn't snap a picture. Thanks for a great party, AV!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This time of year is all about traditions, as you would probably agree. I've been especially aware of this fact this weekend, noticing that I have both old and new traditions. Some I like, and . . .well, one tradition in particular I can't wait to get rid of.
One of my newest traditions started last year. Each year in early November my toddler's preschool sends home a large sheet of paper with an outline of a very cute scarecrow on it. Attached to it is a message about how each family is supposed to decorate the scarecrow and then return it to school. They display them all around the lobby for the rest of the month, so that everyone can see them as they come and go. Last year my toddler developed a ritual of looking at her friend's scarecrows each afternoon, identifying who made each one. Then she would return to her own scarecrow and proudly inform anyone nearby that her mommy helped her color it. It was fun to see how excited she was by it all. This afternoon we decorated this year's picture, and my hubby and I were amazed at how much less help she needed than last year.
Another one of my favorite fall traditions also took place this weekend. Several years ago my family started getting together with a group of longtime friends for an early Thanksgiving party. Usually all of us travel to other places on the actual Thanksgiving holiday, so this gives us a chance to celebrate together. (It also gives us a chance to test out some new Thanksgiving recipes - I'll share mine soon!) This year was another huge success.
My last tradition that is ever-present on my mind these days started many, many years ago. And after this year, I don't plan to keep this tradition ever again. Why? Because this tradition always seems to take over, over-shadowing all of the other seasonal things that I could be enjoying instead. I can't believe it, but this is my ninth set of fall semester finals since I graduated from high school. Ridiculous, isn't it? Ninth! And I can't wait to get through them because this will be the last set of fall semester finals EVER. Woohoo!
So I'm curious...Do you have any unusual traditions that you love or hate?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This week I was invited to attend viv&ingrid's 10th Birthday Celebration with my blogger friend sliceofpink. What could make for better girl fun than cupcakes, champagne, homemade marshmallows, and jewelry! So I embraced my new blogger identity, strapped my camera on my shoulder, and headed to San Francisco for some party fun.
The event was held at the classic candy shop Miette in Hayes Valley, put on by Ruby Press. This was truly a 10-year-old's birthday party, complete with cotton candy, games, and a room full of laughter. The shop was adorned with cute signs saying things like "woohoo!" and "yay!" in vintage lettering. They served bottled soda with red and white paper straws, the cracker jack was in matching bags, and we left the party carrying balloons and goodie bags. Although I had really hoped to win this necklace in the raffle, I still had so much fun pretending to be 10 again!
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves - click here to see more. It was a feast for a party planner's eyes. Thanks Ruby Press and viv&ingrid!
Friday, November 13, 2009
If you haven't been to Patxi's, you should definitely go. Their forte is authentic deep-dish, stuffed crust, Chicago-style pizza. Although they also make thin pizzas, it's the Chicago-style crust that makes them so unique, particularly in Northern California. In you aren't familiar with this type of pizza, it has a thick crust on the bottom, most of the toppings are in the middle, there's a very thin layer of crust above that, and then it's topped off with sauce and a final sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. My favorite type is the Californian - buttery wheat crust, spinach, onions, and lots of sauce.
They take about 30 minutes to bake, so plan ahead!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
My sister is an architect, so I try to keep up on some of the latest high profile buildings. This one just might top all. You can read more about it here. And for your immediate viewing pleasure, here's one more picture:
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My favorite place was a merchant called St. Helena Olive Oil Co. They make olive oil, vinegars, and bath products of their own, but they also sell a huge variety of sauces and other fine edibles. Although they sell online and ship all over the country, the best way to enjoy St. Helena Olive Oil Co is definitely to go there. Why? Because they offer samples of everything they sell. I tried pasta sauces, barbecue sauces, unusual flavored olive oils and vinegars, and lotions galore. But what I actually brought home for myself was a really good (and strong!) French mustard with basil. Yum!
Monday, November 9, 2009
- "Daddy, you're going to take a shower because you're really stinky, right?"
- "When we wake up we eat a lovely breakfast and then we have lots of energy."
- "Sorry, Chicken, we're all out of mix party. Maybe you could go to the store and get some." (EDITOR'S NOTE: mix party = party mix! That's right - the salty kind.)
- "First I'll be 88, then I'll be 99, and then I'll be one hundred! And then, when I'm one hundred, I can watch robot movies!"
- "Daddy, does President Obama want me to eat lots of food so that I can be big and strong?"
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Recently I've seen a few really enjoyable movies that fall into this "old" category, so I thought I'd share:
Doubt - I was drawn to this for the acting, and it didn't disappoint.
12 Angry Men - This one is interesting from a legal and historical perspective. You only see white men the entire movie!
Chicago - I love the dancing and the music.
Halloween put me in the mood for a little Hitchcock review, so the next "old" movie I plan to watch is Psycho.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
It's about time for me to share my Halloween chili recipe. This recipe features another chile pepper - the chipotle chile.
The chipotle is actually a pepper that I'm pretty familiar with, although it's always fun to learn more. Believe it or not, it's really just a dried and smoked jalapeno pepper. What I've read is that dried peppers tend to be hotter, and chipotles DO seem slightly hotter than jalapenos.
So where do you find a chipotle? Not in the produce section but in the Mexican food section of the store. It will be in a can labelled "chipotle in adobo." Adobo is a Mexican sauce or condiment that is very smoky and barbecue-like, and for whatever reason chipotle peppers are most often sold submerged in adobo. I have read that you can also buy chipotles in both dried and pickled forms, but I have never seen it.
Here are a few more tidbits to peek your interest in chile peppers: There are over 200 different varieties. Most of their heat sits in the seeds and the white membranes, so to reduce the heat you can remove those parts of the pepper. And finally, a chile pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange. Wow!
Black & Orange Chili (slow cooker or stovetop)
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1 Poblano/Pasilla green chile, diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 1/2 T chili powder
- 1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 4 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups water
- Salt and pepper
- 1-2 T minced chipotle, or to taste
Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. (Or stockpot, if cooking on the stove.) Add the tomatoes, beans, and water; season with salt, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. (It will take approximately 1 hour on the stovetop.)
When ready to serve, stir the chipotles into the chili. Taste to adjust the seasonings.
I'll sum up . . . The most expensive thing on our tab last night? The margaritas. The cheapest thing? The tip.
A note to all waiters and waitresses out there: Lucky for you a strong margarita can make up for some really bad service.
Don't worry - I'm not one of those people who routinely undertips. But last night I did threaten (albeit only to my hubby) that I would walk into the kitchen and do jumping jacks until they brought us our food. Fortunately for everyone we didn't have to wait much longer. Fortunately.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Alas, the world is full of so many great ideas, and yet I have so little time to act on them!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I've long been fascinated with chile peppers. (They're beautiful, sassy, and full of nutrition, after all!) I grew up on Tex-Mex, so I've eaten many a chile pepper in my day. Yet I've always been too intimidated to cook with them much. And it's not as though I haven't thought about cooking with them - I have! More than once I've stared at them in the grocery store, wondering if I should make my salsa recipe with the usual jalapeno or be adventuresome and spice it up a bit. I mentally recite the golden rule of chile peppers, "The small ones are the hottest and the large ones are the mildest." But then the followup rule, "But not always!" sets in, I have second thoughts about whether I really know what I'm getting into, and I remove the habaneros from my basket and reach for a jalapeno instead.
This really is NOT an insurmountable problem. The grocery stores around here typically only carry about six types of peppers. (I thought that was a lot, then my sister told me that her grocery store in Texas usually carries 15-20, depending on the time of year!) So surely I can master the mere six or so peppers available in my store, right?
My plan is to use a few skeleton recipes to explore the chile kingdom. I was initially inspired to dive into this project when I saw this recipe for veggie tacos. I made my tacos with a poblano (aka, pasilla) pepper rather than the Anaheim/Hatch variety, but otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. It turned out great! And this recipe could easily be adapted to any chile pepper or any type of veggies.
So here's a little background on the poblano pepper. First of all, north of the border it's often labeled as a "pasilla" pepper when it is sold fresh, but once it's dried it is called an "ancho chile." The fresh poblano is similar size to a bell pepper, although it's narrower and has a darker green skin. (It's at the top and in the back in the picture above.) It's one of the milder peppers, with a heat index of 1,000 to 1,500 on the Scoville scale. And, most importantly, it's the pepper used in the traditional Mexican dish chile rellenos. In my tacos, the poblano had a very nice flavor with only a touch of heat. It was a nice balance because I was able to use a lot of it for a full chile flavor without being overwhelmed by the heat.
I'll report back as I explore other varieties, but in the meantime I'd love to hear if you have any chile pepper stories or recipes to share!
Monday, November 2, 2009
Actually I can think of one thing that's more comforting than a plain ol' bowl of soup . . . a bowl of soup that somebody prepared from scratch and delivered to your door! Even better than that would be soup that somebody prepared from scratch using farm-fresh, mostly organic ingredients, and then delivered to your door.
Can you believe this actually exists? It does in Davis at least. This is precisely the reason that I love the Farmer's Kitchen Cafe, featured as one of my Local Greats in the list to the right. They offer a weekly menu full of vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, and gluten-free fare. You can pre-order and pre-pay, then either pick up the food or have it delivered.
For THIS week's menu, I happen to know that the broccoli soup and pumpkin pie are excellent. Let me know if you give it a try. Mine will be delivered tomorrow!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
This year's Halloween Season was loads of fun. We had several days' worth of trick-or-treating:
And several days full of pumpkin-themed foods, like this pumpkin cheese toast:
My hubby carved a bat-o-lantern.
And I came up with a pumpkin-themed menu. We had an edible mandarin centerpiece, jack 'o' lantern quesadillas, a jack-o-lantern bread bowl with hummus and veggies, and Black & Orange Chili. (I'll share my chili recipe in a future post.)
We had a delightful time trick-or-treating in our neighborhood with some friends. I was surprised to see so many great house decorations just around the corner from us - some people went all out!
Then we finished the evening with some Halloween craftiness.
All in all, it was a great holiday. But now I'm so glad for that extra hour - thank you Daylight Savings Time!
- Farmer's Kitchen Cafe Best Weeknight Takeout in Davis - I pre-order for home delivery
- Kerbey Lane Cafe My favorite pancake place ~ located in Austin, TX, no less! Don't miss it if you have the chance to go
- Le Petit Boutique and Cafe Visit Paris in Sacramento! Shopping, coffee, and pastries
- Nugget Market Best cakes, cupcakes, and tiramisu in Davis
- Patxi's Pizza Fantastic Chicago-style pizza in San Francisco
- Russian River Brewing Company Great beers and lots of happy people in Santa Rosa
- San Francisco's Academy of Science Who knew a museum could have such classy food?
- St. Helena Olive Oil Co. They ship Napa Valley edibles all over the country, or visit their store for samples
- Stephen's Farmhouse Located on the edge of Yuba City, this adorable old-fashioned farmstand offers a variety of pies, cookies, jams, produce, and gifts.
- Surfing Goat Dairy One of Maui's great surprises - tour the farm, feed the goats, and enjoy some of the best cheese of your life!
- Tea List Davis' very own Tea Room, offering a variety of teas, sandwiches, and pastries
- The Tuck Box An idyllic little place in Carmel that's one-of-a-kind
My Blog List
- ► 2010 (127)
- The Stage Was Set
- Full Disclosure
- From Me to You
- Feast for the Eyes?
- A Different Take on Pumpkin
- Weekend Recap
- I've Got a Winner!
- Slippery Milk
- Thanksgiving Yummies
- Girl Fun
- What a treat!
- The Future is Here
- St. Helena
- Oldies But Goodies
- Smokin' Hot
- Friday Night
- Hot Mama
- Better than soup?
- Halloween Recap
- ▼ November (25)