Monday, August 31, 2009

Pizza on the grill


Making home-made pizza at home is not easy. Before you start laughing, I'm not talking about throwing a frozen pizza in the oven. I'm talking about home-made dough and home-made sauce. The dough is my challenge. I know it shouldn't be as hard as I seem to make it. Yet somehow it is. Our favorite pizza place, Pizza Antica is right across the street. We could just go there. But that's too easy. The challenge of perfecting the dough has me obsessed. At the moment.

It never comes out crispy. I've bought pizza stones and pizza pans. What I really need is a pizza oven that heats to a high temperature with a surface you can lay the pizza on to give the crust the crispiness it deserves. Well, I don't have a pizza oven. And as much as I would like to build a fabulous grill and outdoor oven in my backyard, I can't do that either. We don't have a backyard. And our back patio is about the size of a shoebox. But I will not give up.

I've decided I'm going to grill the pizza. Forget about trying to make it like a PIZZERIA. Light up the grill!

I'm using Tyler Florence's recipe for the dough and the sauce. This is my second attempt. I messed up the dough the first time. Sigh....

First the dough. I'll spare you the details. Let's just say that for the first time EVER it's perfect. It's spongy, doughy, and a bit like heaven in a bowl. I'm super excited.

Next, the sauce. It's really easy to make. It looks good, and tastes good. Excellent.

Now it's time to grill. I'm making three pizza's. One for each of us.

And guess what?!! Voila! They're done! They're tasty and delicious. I DID IT!!!! I'm dancing around the grill and our kitchen like I won a marathon or something. Battle Pizza Dough is a success!!

Phew. I can now check this one off the list and move on to mastering pie crust. Another one of my obsessions.

Pizza on the Grill

Dough:

1 package active dry yeast 
1 teaspoon sugar 
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Toppings:
1 package of sliced pepperoni
1 yellow pepper, sliced in rounds
6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno diced
1 package low-fat mozzarella grated (or 8 oz buffalo mozzarella sliced)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Directions

For the dough
1. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water; stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes. 
2. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 
3. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until all the flour has been incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium; stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Get a feel for the dough by squeezing a small amount together: if it's crumbly, add more water; if it's sticky, add more flour - 1 tablespoon at a time. 
4. Mix until the dough gathers into a ball, this should take about 5 minutes.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself a few times; kneading until it's smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
6. Once the dough has risen and is kind of spongy, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll and stretch the dough into a cylinder and divide into 3 equal pieces. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes so it will be easier to roll out. In the meantime, make the pizza sauce.
For the sauce
1. Coat a saute pan with the olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hot and a little smokey, add the onion and garlic, cook and stir for 5 minutes to soften. 
2. Stir in 1/2 bunch torn basil leaves. Add the tomatoes, cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper and then take it off the stove.
Preheat your grill to get it very hot. 
Time to make the pizza
1. Roll or pat out each piece of dough into rustic, oblong shapes, about 1/4-inch thick – do this directly on a lightly floured cutting board.
2. Brush the dough with a thin layer of olive oil, and lay oil-side down onto the hot grill. 
3. Once the dough looks set, in about 2 minutes, turn the dough over. 
4. Spread the tomato sauce evenly on the dough with a ladle. 
5. Rip the mozzarella into pieces with your hands and distribute them on top; layer on the toppings: pepperoni, mushrooms, jalapeno, peppers all over the pizza. 
6. Close the grill cover and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. 
7. Remove the pizza from grill and sprinkle with some fresh basil leaves and a good dusting of freshly grated Parmesan.

Now that you have home-made pizza, you might as well whip up a quick salad dressing to serve on the side. How about a nice home-made Balsamic Vinaigrette? I'm not in a Caesar mood today.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1T. Dijon mustard
Shake of salt
Few grindings of pepper
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup, really, really good, extra-virgin olive oil

1. Mix all ingredients in a jar and shake, shake, shake it up. 

2. Dance around the kitchen one more time.
3. Now it's done.

Ok. Now it's done. Pour over your favorite lettuce and some sliced cherry tomatoes.


Enjoy!!

ps. You don't have to kill yourself making dough. You can pick up dough at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. About an hour before you are ready to make the pizzas take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. This will make it easier to shape. I like to flour a cutting board, take the dough out of the wrapper, set it on the floured board and cover it with a damp paper towel. 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I had no idea

The evening news has been all about the death of Ted Kennedy.  I knew he played an important role in the senate. But I really had no idea how many bills he had passed in his career. I never thought about how long he had served either. It's hard for most people to put up with a job for a few years.  Sheesh, he was fighting for rights for all of us for over 40 years. That's insane.

One of the many things I learned while watching the news was a little thing called Title IX.  Or Title Nine. 

What is Title Nine you ask?  An athletic clothing store for women? Yes. But that's not the Title Nine I'm talking about. Although now I understand why the store is called Title Nine

So what is it? Well, basically it gives girls equal rights to boys, in school and in sports. It went into effect in 1972.  Oh, that Title Nine you say. The one that allows girls to play golf and soccer alongside the boys. Yes!

The actual law says:

"No person in the United States, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program receiving federal financial assistance."

The original law was meant to help the smart girls that wanted to pursue math and science. Not just home-ec.  There is still a lot of controversy about the law - since it only applies to organizations that receive federal funding. Private institutions and clubs are excluded. You can read about it on Wiki. I don't know about you. But I can't imagine why a girl would want to play football. But if she does, and she has the same skills. Why not? Wouldn't be my thing. But who are we to decide what people should do. Right?

It was interesting to watch the reporters interview all the different people that were directly affected by laws he helped form. Thank goodness there are people like him in the world. I'm sure he was a huge influence on junior senators. Hopefully they will follow in his footsteps and do good too. 

RIP Ted.

Friday, August 28, 2009

First day of school

Yesterday was Elli's first day of 3rd grade. Here she is (in the middle) with two of her really good friends.

I love that first week of school when everything is fresh and new again. Kids are happy and excited. Parents are relaxed and happy. Clothes are shiny and new. And backpacks aren't full of crumbs and crud yet. 

Along with a few new clothes and new shoes, Elli got a new backpack/messenger bag. It was tough finding just the right bag. It had to have pockets (Elli's a collector) and a water bottle holder. Not be too big or too small. And be in-stock.

We found one on Fleurville.com. When the packaged arrived Elli could hardly contain herself. She opened it up and screamed. She loved it. She was dancing around the house. It's cool. It's stylish. It's just the right size. It's perfect.


The bag can be carried like a messenger bag with a long handle, or as a back pack. (It has hidden straps that tuck in a pocket.)  Plus the size of the bag is perfect for a kid. Some of the backpacks for kids are as big as they are. AND, it turns out that Fleurville is based here in CA, in San Rafael, which is right down the road from where we live. Yeah!  I love buying local. 

Their mission is to design bags for parents and kids that are stylish and eco-friendly. They're starting to get into furniture making too. The first piece they designed is a very cool, retro looking high chair.  Fortunately, I'm not in the market for a high chair (phew!) But if I was, I might consider this one.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Everyone needs a good laugh once in a while

I don't know about you. But I love a good joke. Especially those that make you laugh out loud. This joke made me laugh. So I thought, what the heck, I'll put it on my blog. This one was sent to me by my sister. Thank you, Kathy!
Here you go:
A man wakes up in the hospital, bandaged from head to foot. The doctor comes in, and says, 'Ah, I see you've regained  consciousness. Now, you probably won't remember, but you were in a pile-up on the freeway. You're going to be okay, and you'll walk again, but something happened. I'm trying to break this gently, but the fact is your willy was chopped off in the wreck and we were unable to find it.
The man groans, but the doctor goes on, 'You've got $9000 in insurance compensation coming and we have the technology now to build you a new willy that will work as well as your old one did, better in fact! But the thing is, it doesn't come cheap. It's $1000 an inch!

The man perks up at this. 'So,' the doctor says, 'it's for you to decide how many inches you want. But it's something you'd better discuss with your wife. I mean, if you had a five inch one before, and you decide to go for a nine incher, she might be a bit put out. But if you had a nine inch one before, and you decide only to invest in a five incher this time, she might be disappointed. So it's important that she plays a role in helping you make the decision. The man agrees to talk with his wife.

The doctor comes back the next day. 'So,' says the doctor, 'have you spoken with your wife.'

I have, says the man.

And what is the decision asks the doctor.

We're getting granite counter tops.

I found the picture of Nelson from the Simpsons here:johnnyvoid.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

On Monday night Don and I got an unexpected reprieve from little miss sassy - Elli had a last minute sleepover. We quickly decided we wanted to go see a movie.  The theatre down the road had a movie starting at 7pm. It was 6pm. Perfect.  We nuked some leftovers for dinner and headed to the movie.

First let me say how crowded the movie was on a Monday night. It was like Saturday night. I thought this was strange and interesting. I don't think I've ever been to a movie on a Monday night. Who knew?

Anyway, once the movie finally started (after 20 minutes of scary previews) I leaned over to Don and asked what movie we were seeing.  He looked at me like I had two heads. 
"It must be a scary movie from all the scary previews," I said.
"It's Inglorious Basterds," he said.
"What?" I said.  
"The Nazi movie," he said. 
I thought about it for a minute. Then I remembered.
"OH!!! The Brad Pitt movie," (purrrrrr)
No comment from Don. He just rolled his eyes. (Yes, this is me in real life.)

I seriously must have been so focused on the fact that Brad Pitt was in a movie that I never paid attention to the name of it. Ever. So not sure what this says for me, or the marketing of the movie. But they totally miss-fired with me. Completely.

Anyway, the movie was typical Quentin Tarantino - scary, mysterious, gory, thrilling, unnerving, and unbelievable. Full of violence and gore.  Just like the war.  It was an excellent movie.  I have to say Pulp Fiction is still my favorite movie he's done.  (The soundtrack for that one clinched it for me.) But this one is in a very close second. I would like to see it again, but I need to recover first. Some movies are like that for me.

If you want to see this movie be prepared. It's not for the faint of heart. My stomach was doing backflips during the movie.  Not sure if it was from the leftovers, watching the movie, or my nerves from everything else going on in my life. But it was rumbling and talking to me. Don't worry, nothing happened. But I was ready to flee the theatre if necessary.

Here's the preview in case you haven't seen it.  Oh, did I tell you Brad Pitt is in the movie? Ha.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The icky spoon.

I haven't thought about our family "icky spoon" in ages. 

But I was just on a website (The Kitchn) that had a picture of a horrible looking spoon (pictured here) and I remember our family "icky spoon." (Sorry to whoever made this spoon. But it doesn't look appealing to me.)

I'm sure I'll get the story wrong. But my recollection of the random spoon in the drawer is that it came from my mother's side of the family.  It had a definite metallic taste whenever you ate with it. So it was always the last spoon in the drawer.  No one ever wanted to eat with that spoon.

So here's the big question, "Why didn't my mom throw out that spoon?" D
id she like watching us squirm while we tried to eat our oatmeal with it?  We had a jillion spoons. Did we really need this one? Did it have sentimental value? Was it valuable?

I really want to know.  And whatever happened to that spoon anyway?  

So mom, please click on the comment button below and fill me in.  I'm dieing to know!

8/26 Update:  My mom left a comment and sent me a photo of the spoon. She still has it! She was cracking up that I wrote about it. You just never know where my mind will wander next. 

The spoon came from her side of the family. She thinks maybe it was in her grandmother's silver. She has been passing it back and forth to my aunt and uncle for years.  She was the last one to receive it - again. It's still adorned with a pretty bow. 

I can see why she didn't throw it away. It's not a bad looking spoon. Just a bad tasting spoon!

I have a bad feeling I'll be getting it for Christmas.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How one thing can lead to another...

As many of you know, Don and I own a custom furniture/upholstery store in Napa called Pollin's Interiors and Custom Upholstery.  Through our business we have met some fabulous winemakers, restauranteurs, and interior designers. One of those interior designers is Kimberly Rider. (pictured here)

I first learned about Kimberly from reading the August 2006 issue of Marin Magazine. She was featured in a story about eco-living. I thought to myself, "I want to work with her someday." In addition to her successful interior design business, she was a featured designer on the tv show "Curb Appeal" and she had just published two books, Healthy Home Workbook and Eco Baby, which are all about furnishing your home with non-toxic, healthy materials.  

I contacted her after we bought Pollin's in November 2006. I thought it would be amazing to have her come to the store for a book signing. I called and emailed - and she agreed. Alright! I sent out press releases, and got a mention in California Home and Design and the local papers and ordered books from her publisher, everything was looking good. 

We had food, wine, Kimberly, books, sharpies - - - - and only one customer that day. It was a major letdown.  Sort of like throwing a party and no one shows up. (which did happen to me once. long story...)  Lucky for us, Kimberly was kind enough to look past this little failure and started working with us as a client. We've been partners on many projects since then. In fact, we have some projects in the works right now. 

So why am I sharing this with you? I don't know. I read her blog recently and learned that in addition to everything she does, she's a fit model. I thought this was an interesting tidbit to pass along. But one thing lead to another as I was writing this, and, well...it didn't make it in the story. What is a fit model, you ask? Well, you can read about it here.

And in case you're wondering... We still have some autographed books if you're interested in purchasing one. They make excellent gifts. I gave one to my sister-in-law as a Baby Shower Gift.  It's never too early to start your holiday shopping!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Whatever happened to the Golden Rule?


Yesterday was not a good day. 

We found out that my client, BevMo!, is looking at other agency's. And we are not a contender. Clients change agency's. I knew this might happen - there were signs. So I wasn't completely shocked. But the way we found out was shocking and disappointing. My boss, the President of our agency, got a message from Adweek.com on her Twitter account.

Yes, we found out from Twitter. "BevMo Eyes Three Shops."

POW! 

It was liked getting sucker punched.

It seriously took me all morning to get over the shock.

I'm not exactly sure what it means for me or the agency.  There is usually a transition period. I'm sure we'll learn more next week. It's definitely time for me to get the resume out there again - in a big way.

This experience reminds me of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Hmmm. 

If I ever work on the client side again ,which I hope I do, and want to switch agency's, I am going to have the guts to tell them before they read about it with the rest of the world on Twitter.

You can count on that.



Friday, August 21, 2009

Swimming with goggles. Amazing!

I bought my first pair of swimming goggles. I finally tried them out last Saturday. 

I know what it's like to swim without getting water in your eyes because Don and I scuba dive. But a mask and snorkle in the GREAT BIG OCEAN is different than goggles in the pool. 

So after being in the pool 5 seconds with my groovy new googles on I thought to myself, "Oh....my.....gosh.  Where have they been all my life?" I'm a dope!

Let me give you a little history.

My mom had all of us signed up for swim team going back about as far as I can remember. Every summer she would get us up at the crack of dawn (for years) and drop us off at the local pool for swim team. I don't remember her asking us if we wanted to be on the team. It was a mandatory in our house.  I HATED swim team. I know that's a strong word. But I was not a fast swimmer. I had a good stroke but I am not speedy. I never won. Or even came close. I am extremely competive so years of suffering losses was a major bummer for me.

I remember my brother and sister and I actually going to bed at night in our bathing suits - so we didn't have to change when we woke up in the morning. How crazy is that!? Doesn't really seem comfortable. But whatev. That was a long time ago.

Back to current day, we have a pool nearby and I enjoy swimming (at my own pace), it's great exercise, so I thought I would start swimming laps. The chlorine is so strong, you really need goggles.  I picked up a pair at REI and they are amazing. They are made for women. The TYR Femme T-72 Ellipse. Wow. They sound fast. 

Thinking back, I remember all the really fast kids on the swim team had goggles. I'm attributing that to my slowness - chlorine and water in the eyes could not have helped. I'm sure that was the issue.  I'm not looking for a do-over. But I sure wish I had some goggles back then. Especially for the team we were on in CT where we had to swim in a murky, roped off lake. Ick. You would think I would have swam really fast just to get out of the greenish/brown water.

Back to present day again, the summer of 2009,  it was so nice and peaceful in the water. I took this picture with my handy dandy iPhone. Pretty cool, huh? I'm looking forward to a lot more swims before summer is over and it's too cold to swim outside.

Don't worry. I'm not bitter about being on swim team. If I had four kids I probably would have done the same thing!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What were they thinking?

I love looking at food photography.  All my favorite cookbooks have pictures of the food.  My favorite food sites all have amazing food photography.




And then there was this in the paper last Sunday.
Spanish-style sausage at B44.

Now, sausage can be tricky to photograph. But when Don flipped to the section and said, "Wow. It looks like a plate of beans and a turd!" What?? I take a look, and he's right.  Oh no. This is not good. Especially since we know the owners of the restaurant. How could they let this happen?

I think the Chronicle owes the restaurant an apology and a do-over. It's a great restaurant, with great spanish cuisine.  This photo is not going to get people to want to eat there. I guess I'm not helping by showing it again either. But sheesh. Really???? This is the best they could do?

B44 Restaurant in San Francisco. Here's a picture of one of their specialties. Now this looks better.


The sausage photo was taken by Peter Desliva. Special to the Chronicle. Shame on you Peter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Julia Child and her Buerre Blanc sauce

This story happened last Saturday.....

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. 
In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." 
  - Julia Child

Oh dear, this is definitely not me. Learning to cook like Julia is probably going to cost me a lot of therapy sessions. After tonights debacle with the simple Buerre Blanc Sauce I think I'm in serious trouble.

For dinner I bought some fresh halibut, asparagus and sweet cherry tomatoes. My grand plan was to grill the fish and asparagus and serve it with the Buerre Blanc sauce, then I would top it all with the chopped cherry tomatoes.



I turned on the grill and started the sauce.

The sauce was looking really good. I found a site that had Julia's recipe. I was following it (I thought) when all of a sudden my gorgeous sauce (which is supposed to look like Hollandaise sauce) went from perfect to melted butter. WHAT THE HAY?  Well, I scrolled down the recipe and it says something like, make sure you melt the butter on low heat - or your sauce will turn into melted butter. DOPE! Obviously I didn't read it all.  


Ya know, recipes should have little astericks for important information like this. Because I made melted butter!!!!!!  Not Buerre Blanc sauce. This was not my plan. I'm not going to make it again tonight. So we're eating it as is.

I went to check on the fish and nothing was happening. HUH?!  "Don!!! The grill isn't working!" I shout. "I think it's out of gas. Didn't you check?" he says. "FFFFFF" I say. Plan B. Throw the fish in a pan and nuke the asparagus cuz the sauce is ready!

I went from feeling high as a kite to feeling like the dog ate my cake.

We ate dinner in silence.  Sort of. I was just so bummed I didn't feel like talking. Of course everything tasted just fine. I mean come on, what doesn't taste good with melted butter poured all over it.

So here's a link to the recipe. If you decide to make it please read every written word before you get started.


We drank a really yummy '05 French Chablis that was  recommended by the wine expert at Bryans Fine Foods where we bought the fish. I had just bought wine at BevMo! so I wasn't really planning on buying any wine. But he approached another customer right before me who blew him off. And he looked sad. (I'm a sucker.)

I couldn't blow him off, so I waited to see what wine he would recommend to pair with the halibut I was buying. He brought over the Chablis shown here. He went into such great detail that I couldn't blow him off. It was $19. Not THAT much. And it was Saturday night. So we bought it. He was thrilled. And the wine tasted delish with the fish.

At least the wine brought a smile to my face.

I have to tell you. I can't imagine the task of making EVERY recipe in Julia Child's cookbook. I'm not sure I could follow through. I have so much respect for Julie Powell. That was a monumental task. Good job, Julia.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yo, Oxi Clean!!

True story. It's Monday morning (yesterday). Everything is going just fine until I take a sip of coffee in the car. I can feel it drip on my pants before it even hits the fabric. Not good! I'm wearing white pants today. grrrr.

It's one spot. I have a little spray bottle of Oxi Clean in my desk drawer. I'll deal with it when I get to my office.

I pull into the parking garage. Park. Get my purse, briefcase and coffee. I'm not going to drink it until I can tighten down the lid. I'm not even out of the garage and I feel coffee on my hand again. No!!!! Yes, this time it has dribbled all down my pant leg.  Great.  I have a client meeting this afternoon. 

I get to the office grab my little spray bottle and head right to the bathroom. I spray it all over my pants. It's not working. I spray. I dab with water. Great. It's not coming out.

I read the back of the package. It has a list of items that it "works great on." The first one listed is COFFEE. Uh huh. I'm really glad I didn't spill any of the other things that "It works great on" which happen to be grape juice, tea, wine, ketchup, chocolate, blueberries and strawberry jelly. For directions it says:

1) Wipe excess residue
2) Spray Oxi Clean over entire stain
3) Blot to remove excess moisture. Wait a few seconds and watch stain disappear.
4) If needed, repeat.

It says I can watch it disappear.  Well, I'm staring at my pants right now and I still see it. It has not disappeared before my eyes. Humph. Me not happy. 

It also has an 800# to call if you have a really tough stain. Well, I do. But they are probably going to tell me to throw my pants in the wash which is a brilliant idea - If I wasn't sitting here at my desk. So I'm not calling.

Maybe I need to try one of those Tide sticks.  You know the one that Kelly Ripa has on TV? Where she rubs it on the stain and voila! stain is all gone. 

Wait, isn't that what Billy Mayes used to do with Oxi Clean. Was I tricked?

No, I think anything that sounds too good to be true is. And having my coffee stains miraculously disappear before my eyes was definitely a long shot.

Oh well. Hopefully no one will be looking at my pants.

UPDATE:  I'm happy to report the stains came out in the wash. I did soak all the spots with another stain remover when I got home. Just to be sure.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Dream Job (or one of them...)

When I grow up I want to be.....a Professional Food Taster. Is that a job? Part critic. Part chef. Part foodologist.  I don't know what I'm talking about. All I know is that I love tasting food. And I love giving my opinion. And the job I have imagined in my head would be really fun. Sort of like being a wine taster (another one of my dream jobs.)


I got a taste of a job like this a few times (literally). I worked in corporate marketing  for Einstein Bros Bagels for five years. And I worked in the marketing department for Houlihan's Restaurants for 3 years.

I loved both jobs. But with Houlihan's I was part of the team that worked on the new branding and new menu. It was a great job. I flew to Kansas City every week to go to the corporate office. One of my favorite things was tasting the new recipes from the test kitchen. I could sit there all day eating food and telling the chefs what I think.  We also got to create yummy cocktails. But I'll save that for another day.


Believe it or not, there were people in our office that really didn't like doing this at all. They dreaded it. They fell into three categories - 1) picky eaters, 2) total germaphobes, 3) dieters. For me, trying new food is fun and unless a person is totally disgusting, smelly and drooling with sores - (ick!!) I don't have a problem sharing food. Fortunately, I don't hang out with drooling icky people, so I'm pretty safe.

Anyway, I could have hung out there all day. In 2002, we revamped the whole Houlihan's menu. Creating a new menu is really fun. But incredibly hard work. Not only does the food have to taste amazing. But the chefs in all the restaurants have to duplicate it exactly. And all of Houlihan's food is home-made. No thaw and serve products. Even the chicken fingers are hand breaded. Which is why they taste so scrumptious.

One of the new app. recipes we* created was a chicken wing recipe with a Thai Chile Glaze and Sesame Dipping Sauce.  It's still on the menu. And it's to-die-for-delicious. It sort of makes me think I should have gone to culinary school so I could learn to create delicious stuff like this. I'm sure Don would agree, since I'm definitely still a "work-in-progress" in the kitchen.
*Now, let me clarify.  When I say "we" I don't mean me specifically. I was on the team. I didn't come up with the menu or recipes. I was purely a taster - and not an official one at that. Just a committee member.)


Way back when, when I was 17, I worked in a Nabisco test kitchen as a Temp - for 5 days. (It was a temporary, temp job!) I was in the lab/kitchen helping to create an egg product that they planned to sell in the freezer section of groceries - for you to heat in the toaster. (I have now officially aged myself. This was right when microwaves were coming to market.) I remember thinking the egg patty had too much onion, so of course I told them what I thought. We played with the recipe. It was really fun. I have no idea if that product ever went to market. Probably not. Egg in a toaster? I don't think so.

Anyhow, I got to think about cooking as a career after we watched the movie Julie and Julia. In the movie, Julia Child is complaining to her husband that she needs something to do. He asks her, "Well, what do you like to do?" Her response?  "I like to eat!"

Me too.  Now, how can I get paid doing it?

*photo courtesy of Houlihan's Restaurants and Nabisco.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Good Humor Ice cream is GOOD!

I forgot how creamy and delicious Good Humor ice cream is. Have you had one lately? Ya gotta go try one. It's seriously good stuff.  

Elli and I were in Toys R Us buying a birthday gift and she asked if she could have some ice cream. Going to a toy store with a kid to buy a birthday gift - for someone else is my least favorite thing to do. You get the sad eyes, the begging, pokey walking, it makes me crazy. So I made her a deal. I would buy her an ice cream - if she didn't beg for everything in the store. This seriously worked. She focused on the gift we were buying and her reward at the end. Great! I love it when a plan works. 

We get to the little reach-in freezer at the register and she stared at all the ice cream treats - for a really long time. This was a big decision.  After much (and I mean much) debate, she picked the large ice cream cone - the King Cone. There was a small one too - but my gal picked the big one. (It reminded me of my brothers when we were little. When given the chance to pick anything you want you should ALWAYS pick the biggest thing. No matter what. ) Anyway, the cone had chocolate and vanilla ice cream with milk chocolate and peanuts on top.

Of course after a few bites it was way too much for her to handle and she gave it to me. It was melting everywhere. She had chocolate ice cream all over her face, including her nose. Miraculously, she didn't get any on her clothes or the car. I have no idea how she managed that. She handed it to me and within seconds some had dripped on my shorts.

So I started eating the goopy mess. And OMG was it good. The ice cream tasted like it had been whipped with whip cream. It was vanilla and chocolate and it was really delicious. I have to go get another one sometime so I can eat the whole thing. Including the crunchy milk chocolate and peanut topping. mmmmmmmm mmmm

You Spin Me Round, Baby

Thanks for the tip Daily Candy. 

I'm inspired!  This looks fun. I'm going to try hooping this weekend. Elli has two hoops. I think we'll try it together.

No peeking. Let me practice first.

Check it out:
You Spin Me Round, Baby



Friday, August 14, 2009

Oh No. Not again!!!!


.....continued from yesterday

ok. After reading yesterday's blog I realized I set myself for a really big, dramatic story. I hate to disappoint, but the bikes didn't fall off. We didn't leave anyone behind, or run over anything. We lost something. But it's a really important something. And caused major stress and sweating.

Here's the story...

As we're driving on the highway to REI Don notices that he didn't latch the bolt to Elli's bike. This is not good. 

Elli has a Trailer Bike that attaches to Don's with a fancy little bolt. We've already lost one, and replacements are not easy to come by. He can see in the side view mirror that the bolt is still there. We don't have far to go. But we're on Hwy 101. We're literally willing that dang bolt to hang on. It falls off. Doh! But we didn't see when. We search the parking lot, and side road, up and down. Not the highway. Although I was tempted.  

We go in REI. They don't have a replacement. Without the bolt the bike is useless. GRRRRRRRR!!!  

Stuff like this makes me CRAZY!  The bike should be made so the bolt doesn't fall off. Right??? People shouldn't have to worry about the bolt. 

I go on line to look for the part. They have one accessory (see photo.) 
So I decide to write a letter to REI. I want to accomplish two things. 1) I want a replacement bolt, or two, by the following weekend and 2) They need to redesign the bike so the bolt won't fall off.  I shoot off an email at 6:30 Monday morning. My email was passionate (not mean) and expressed my frustration.

By early that afternoon I heard from a lovely gal, Liz T.,  in REI customer service. She is overnighting me two bolt replacement kits and is going to forward my feedback to quality control for further investigation. Mission accomplished. I feel so much better! Yeah!

In the note to me from Liz she mentions that there is a service kit for the bike that contains the necessary bolt.  So why don't they make this kit available in the store or on-line? Cuz we all know stuff happens. We just need the tools. Hopefully they will follow-through. Because the service guys at REI said we were not the first customers looking for a bolt. Seems simple enough, right? But we all know nothing is simple in the world of retail.

So, thank you REI for being so responsive. Because trust me, you don't want to get on my bad side. I refuse to shop at Best Buy and Expedia - all because of their customer service. I know I'm just one little voice. But I can be loud when I want to.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Exercise + Breakfast. It's a good thing.

We had an awesome bike outing last Sunday to Sausalito. It's a short ride (~5 miles) from our house. It was a gorgeous, sunny, non-foggy Sunday morning. Not too windy. Not too cold. Just right.  

Our whole purpose was to go and have breakfast at a new restaurant called CIBO. It was awesome. I had a delicious Fritatta with bacon and potato. Don had poached eggs on toast.With the most amazing heirloom tomato salad on the side. Elli couldn't stop mooching Don's breakfast. And Elli had raspberry shortbread cookies. It was 10am. She eats breakfast at the crack of dawn. It was snacktime for her!

And of course they have coffee. Really delicious coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee. They brew it one cup at a time as you order it. They don't give it to you in one of those old diner cups either. All the food is served on Heath Ceramics dinnerware (based in Sausalito.) So not only are you eating delicious food. It's sitting on a beautifully designed plate too. 

If I had some extra cash I would buy all new dinnerware from Heath Ceramics. Ok, so that's probably not the first thing I would buy with extra cash. But it's one of those things I would love to have. Sort of like the spiral wine cellar. Only way cheaper than that!

Anyhow, after the bike ride we decided to take my bike to REI for a tune-up. I've had the bike less than a year. And for some reason it won't stay in gear. It just changes. Especially when you shift to the higher gears. The chain has fallen off twice now. So it needed a tune up. We load everything on the bike rack and take off for REI. And that's when the trouble started.

tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Memories...from the corner of my mind...

On Tuesday night we had dinner at Bottega Restaurant with Joe and Cherrie Anderson, colleagues from Dallas from way back when. When I say "colleages" I really mean the boss Don and I used to work for back in the 80's. Joe owned a small agency in Dallas. He hired me as an intern. Don worked for him as an art director in their Houston office. 

It seems like a million years ago.  It kind of was! It was the summer of 1986.  One of my jobs was sorting through newspaper tearsheets. (A tearsheet is basically a copy of the ad that ran.) I remember being in a small conference room filled with tearsheets and orders that I had to sort through. I left the room covered in newsprint each day. I finally finished that arduous task and was assigned to an office, which was conveniently located in the supply cubby.  Need a pen?  No problem. Paper clip? Staples? I'm your gal. This was WAY before sticky notes, fax machines and clips.  Seriously, it was.

Anyhow, I survived that first summer, and moved up in the world. Eventually getting transfered to our Houston office where I met my future husband, Don. 

Poor Don, kindly asked me to go to a "Pub Crawl" with him as a nice gesture to the new girl in the office. I thought it was a date. He thought he was just being nice. We had a GREAT time on the pub crawl (date) and I ended up kissing him at the end of the night. That was 1989. The rest is history.  HOLY COW!  I've been with Don 20 years.  Ay caramba.

Long story short, Joe and Cherrie Anderson were in Napa and we had a lovely dinner with them. It was great catching up. I'm definitely not the same intern that babysat their kids (I did.)

For a really good laugh, here's a picture of me and Don from 1989.  Yep. I really thought my hair was cool. I had this photo in my office cubby for a long time (hence the thumb tack hole in the middle of the photo.) It was my favorite picture of us.  














I seriously can't stop laughing at my hair! Too funny.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

mmmmmm bacon

I think Homer Simpson made the phrase uber-famous.

But come on. What doesn't taste better with bacon? Homer was right! That fake tofu, cardboard stuff does....not.....count.  Forget it.

I feel sorry for those non-bacon eating folks out there. They are really missing out big time.

Seriously, how can you go through life without at least one BLT. Freshly toasted bread, with heirloom tomatoes, crisp lettuce, crispy bacon and just a touch of mayo? 

Did you know that the BLT is the second most popular sandwich in the U.S. - according to Wiki? I don't know about you but it's always my go to sandwich in a new strange diner. 

I have a friend that got "Bacon-of-the-month" as a gift once.  At first I thought that was a weird gift. But then I thought, ooooh..  Honey Bacon, Pepper Bacon, Smoked Bacon, Thick Cut Bacon, Thin Cut Bacon..... Yeah, I think I would be ok with bacon as a gift.  But not from Don.  If he gives me bacon as a gift he'll be in big trouble.  Unless it's accompanied by a a blue box with something sparkly. (yes, you've just seen my true colors.)

back to bacon.....

I was checking the email inbox - and the word bacon caught my eye. Stop! Click.

Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa is having a frickin bacon fest. They even have a creme brulee made with maple and bacon. Oh yeah. Check it out. 













I think we might just have to take a little road trip on September 26th or 27th. I'm not sure I want to splurge for the whole 5 courses. But the Saturday outing sounds fun too. Plus, since I've started writing this blog I've put on a few... if you know what I mean. 

Maybe I should start writing about exercising.  I did buy swim goggles this weekend.....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pinot Noir and My Sensitive Palate


I have a thing about Pinot Noir.  Most of the time I don't like it because it tastes like dirt. Or "It's too earthy",  as I usually say. 

I haven't really eaten dirt. But it has that hint of mud/earth/wood/worms that to me is not something I want to smell or taste in a wine glass. It must be me. My husband rolls his eyes in total disagreement. And others look at me like I'm koo-koo. I can't help it. I have similar issues with goat cheese. It tastes like barn.

So maybe I have a sensitive palate?

I thought I should look up Pinot Noir on Wiki to see what they say about it.  And what do you know.  Here's what I found out. The Pinot Noir grape thrives in France's Burgundy region, particularly on the Cote d'Or which has produced some of the most celebrated wines for centuries. Traditional red burgundy is famous for it's fleshy, "farmyard" aromas. So my take on that comment is that if Pinot Noir is made in the French/Burgundy style it might have the farmyard aroma that I am not fond of.

See?  It's not me.  Phew. I'm not crazy.  New Pinot Noir styles favor a lighter, fruitier style. That's what I'm talking about. So now I know what kind of Pinot to look for. Yeah!


Anyhoo, I really want to like Pinot Noir, so when I try one I like I want to SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOP, "I like it! I like it! I really, really like it!" Just kidding. 

I recently tasted one when I was at the Testarossa Winery that I LIKE. It's the Dahlia Pinot Noir and Dahlia Pinot Noir Reserve - and it's on the shelves at BevMo!

I also got a nice parting gift from my friend Rob Jensen at Testarossa. The '07 Palazzio Pinot Noir. It got a great rating and review from Wine & Spirits Magazine. I look forward to cracking open this bottle to taste all the fruity yumminess.

91 PTS Wine & Spirits
The '07 is distinctively red fruited; balances sweet cherry and tart raspberry with cedar oak and spice; feels cool in the middle; juicy fruit.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

And the Oscar goes to.....Meryl Streep

We just came back from seeing the movie. Loved it! It was funny, heart-warming and really entertaining.  

I used to watch Julia Child on TV and knew a little bit about her. I haven't read Julie Powell's book.  But I did check out her blog when I heard about the movie. It would have been really fun to follow the blog as she wrote it. And I don't own a copy of Julia Child's cookbook. Yet. But I think I'm going to have to get a copy.  I must make Beef Bourguignon, like the rest of America.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child was AMAZING.  I forgot it wasn't really Julia Child. That woman is so talented. I was in awe. Amy Adams was good too.  But Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci (as Julia's husband, Paul) were awesome. I think there might be a gold statue in her future.

And because I'm me, I got a little teary eyed in the end. It wasn't really sad. I think it was just seeing her kitchen/tv set and knowing she's gone that got to me. I noticed a few others were dabbing their eyes too. And it wasn't Don.

Elli says :"It was good. It had some bad words. But I really loved it." (It was rated PG-13.)

Don says: "I thought it was very entertaining. I liked the way the story was told. I wish Julia and Julia had met. But life is life."

So there you have it. I give it the Mulkey Three-Thumbs-Up movie review.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie and Julia - in theaters today!!!!

One day, an average girl named Julie decided to make every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook "Mastering The Art of French Cooking." She challenged herself to do it in a year. And blog about it. She called it the Julie/Julia project. It became huge. She got a book deal. Then a movie deal. Wow. 

"Julie and Julia" is in theaters today.  I can't wait to see it. Here's a sneak peek.

Meryl Streep plays Julia.  And Amy Adams plays Julie Powell. 



Maybe I should put more thought into my blog, turn it into a best seller, then a movie. Ka-ching!!!!!

Moving right to my potential movie.....who will play me?  According to Facebook, Jennifer Garner is playing me in the movie (Facebook quiz), Elli will play herself and Don will be played by Jeff Daniels (because I think they look alike.)  I also like Julia Roberts, for her loud laugh. Cuz we all know I don't have a quiet laugh.

Have a good weekend everyone. Do something fun outside. Then go to the movie!

: )

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blind Tasting at Cav Wine Bar

Last week we had a meeting at Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen to discuss an upcoming promotion with Wilfred and NBC.  I thought it would be fun to meet at a wine bar,  instead of the office,  so the executive producer of the show could see Wilfred in action.

After we discussed the business details. We asked Pamela, the owner of Cav Wine Bar, to bring us a bottle of wine to taste. We wanted it to be a blind taste. So they brought us the bottle in a brown bag.  We all swirled it, sniffed it, sipped it, talked about it, debated it's region and varietal. It had the color of a Sauvignon Blanc. Was really tart and crisp. We finally decided it must be from France. Ok, it was Wilfred who decided that. I thought maybe New Zealand. But what do I know?

Here's the big reveal.

video

Wilfred was right!  It was a Pouilly Fume from France.  If you want to try this wine and can't make it to the Cav Wine Bar you can click on the link and buy a half bottle for nine bucks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Condiments

Someone once looked in our fridge at home and made a comment that we have a lot of condiments.  

It's true.  We do have a lot of condiments. There are 4 or 5 kinds of mustards. Grainy. Sweet. Spicy. Regular. Asian. We also have a lot of marinades, salad dressings, salsas, olives, pickles, ketchup, barbeque sauces, jams, jellies and cheeses. I've never taken an inventory of my fridge. But as I sit here thinking about it. We do have a lot of little jars in there!

I guess I thought everyone had this kind of stuff in their fridge. 

Want to make chinese food for dinner? No problem. We've got soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, spicy mustard, plum sauce, hot asian sauce.

Want an olive for a snack? For a cocktail? With or without jalapeno? We've got about 5 different kinds of olives.  Or how about chips and salsa? Spicy? Mild? Mango? We have it.

And pickles. Whole pickles, sliced pickles, sweet pickles, dill pickles. We even have pickled jalapenos. Which are delish by the way. We once lived near a family back in the '70s whose last name was Pickle. They had a sign hanging over their front door in the shape of a green pickle with their name on it. Or was it on their mailbox? I don't exactly remember. Random, I know.

Anyhow, we basically need a fridge just for all our condiments.  So I've started taking notice of what other people have in their fridges.  

Some fridges are packed to the gills. Some are really clean and empty. The fridge at the office where I work is full of tupperware containers, lunches, yogurt and milk for coffee.  And quite a few random condiments!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wine from Argentina

We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday. One of the wines I opened was a Tapiz Merlot from Argentina. My friend really liked it. She asked where it was from, and was surprised to hear it was from Argentina and that she liked it so much.

I went on SF Gate Sunday morning, and what do you know, there was an article in the SF Chronicle travel section about Argentina.  It's an interesting article about and a wine growing region that is producing some fantastic wines.  

The reporter for the article went to five or six wineries.  As I read it, I kept waiting to hear about Vino del Sol. But apparently he didn't go there. Too bad for him. He missed out on tasting some fantastic wines under the Tapiz label.

Patricia Ortiz and her family own Vino del Sol and produce many fabulous wines there.  They bought the winery from Jess Jackson (Kendall Jackson) and have turned it into an Argentinian wine powerhouse.

If you want to try some really good wine from Argentina, that is a great value (under $20) then you should head over to BevMo! They have a huge selection. And many of their Argentine wines are only available at BevMo! I recommend trying some of these.  Two of them are pretty highly rated by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.  
  • Tapiz Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet, great value at $11.99cb 
  • Kaiken Malbec Ultra '06, 91 pts Robert Parker, $17.99
  • Zolo Malbec Gaucho Select '08, $11.99 cb
  • LaLande Cabernet Reserve '07, $16.99 cb
  • Catana Malbec '06, 91 pts Wine Spectator, $19.99
Click here to see all their wines from Argentina.

Some of the prices I have listed are the ClubBev! price, which just means you need to be a member to get the lowest price. It's free to get the card. It's basically like a Safeway card. I don't know about you, but I would never shop at Safeway without my Safeway card. You'd be crazy to shop at BevMo! without a ClubBev! card. Plus, you can't shop their famous 5c sale either. And that would be a MAJOR BUMMER.