Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My favorite special occasion Cabernets

Rombauer, Cakebread, Caymus and Silver Oak

I brought these four bottles home to take a picture for a piece I was writing. I was so sad to return them. I've tasted them all and they are mighty fine.

We call these "special occasion wines" in my house because of the price tag. They're not exactly in our everyday wine budget. Actually, they're not in most people's everyday wine budget.

It's too bad. The wine is so smooth and delicious, it's like velvet on the tongue. I know that sounds kind of weird. But if you've ever had a really good sip of red than you know what I'm talking about.

You immediately appreciate all that went into making it and realize why you won't find it on sale at CVS. 

If you're a winemaker you just cringed. Buying wine at CVS probably makes you shiver. Not that I buy my wine there either. But it's right there when you walk in the door. BAM. We sell wine. Fake grapes hanging from a vine and all.

I've been thinking about these "special occasion wines" ever since I returned them unopened.  

What if you make a really yummy dinner at home. It could even be a steak dinner. You could prepare a simple and inexpensive meal then top it off with a great bottle of wine instead of a cheap bottle of wine. It will probably cost a lot less than eating out. And, the wine will be much better because wine in restaurants is marked up double, sometimes triple.

See where I'm going?

I think we should all splurge on wine more often. Think how much yummier hot dogs with mac and cheese will taste now.

kidding 

I would never serve this wine with that.

Or would I? I do love a good hot dog and home-made mac and cheese.

Never say never!

93 PTS WILFRED WONG. An amazing effort, the sultry and thoroughly enticing, steps up to the plate in a most serious manner; long, with sweet tannins in the end. $59.99

92 PTS WINE ADVOCATE. Exhibits stunning purity, subtle notes of smoke, black currants, blackberries, spring flowers and toast; full-bodied; graceful; already irresistible. $76.99

91 PTS WINE SPECTATOR. Supple and creamy textured, with mocha, ripe plum and cherry flavors that show touches of tobacco, espresso and underbrush; full bodied; elegant. $64.99

Exquisitely purple and dark, layers of violets and wild berry aromas with notes of sweet oak and creme de cassis; full-bodied and dense on the palate; aggressive tannins, yet the wine remains elegant. $54.99

Friday, December 23, 2011

Do you believe in guardian angels?


I do.

It's been one of the most bizarre, stressful, and amazing years all wrapped into one.

I lost my job in January. I interviewed like a mad woman all over San Francisco. Nothing was right for me, or for them. For the first time in my life I felt old. I was qualified for all of these positions, but felt oddly out place. Was all my experience for not?

Our store in Napa was on the verge of bankruptcy. The recession had not been our friend. Our customers loved us. But buying high-end furniture during a shaky economic time is not a smart decision.

Things were not looking good.

I started going to the store with Don. It was better than hanging out at home sulking.

I would bring in my laptop, perch myself on a stool and surf the net looking for jobs, blog about random stuff, and check email. It was hard going from an incredibly busy job to nothing. Our store was slow. Creditors were hounding us. We weren't sure if we would make it.

I felt empty.

We had no income. No health insurance. How did this happen?

Then one day a client came in and ordered a bunch of furniture using designer fabrics. We hadn't seen an order like this in a long time. "I know times are tough. I want to shop local and help local businesses." she said. We worked on projects for her all spring.

I think she was our guardian angel, because everything changed after that.

Our business started growing. Every month was better than the last. A lot better. Old clients were coming back. New clients were coming in. Our commercial clients were calling. The streets in Napa were busy again. Suddenly we were swamped. We could pay bills. Creditors backed off. We could breathe a little.

I knocked on wood every day.

The recession did not defeat us.

Then our second guardian angel appeared.

My old client called offering me a part-time freelance job doing social media and copy writing. I was turning my crazy little hobby into a paying gig.  

*Big fat sigh.*

You have no idea how much we needed that phone call.

I love my new freelance gig. The store is booming. Don is actually smiling. Sometimes.

As crazy as this sounds I'm glad everything happened the way it did. Everything happens for a reason. I know we're going to make it.

Knock on wood.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone that believed in us. Your thoughts and prayers helped those guardian angels find us.

Love you all,

Kris

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hummus with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes


Remember a few weeks back when I emptied out my fridge? I neglected to mention that my neighbors also donated canned goods when they moved. In addition to all the pickles, jams and jellies I received, I got 4 cans of chick peas, 3 containers of chicken broth, black bean soup, tuna, olive oil, 3 containers of Kosher salt, and other assorted items. I was okay with all of this stuff because I cook with most of it on a regular basis. Well, sort of.

"You make homemade hummus, right?" Joanne asked as she handed me bags of food. "Of course I do. We love hummus!" I smiled back as I accepted her unwanted items. Her kitchen was all packed up. This is what was left.

The truth is, I've never made hummus. We do eat it. But when we want it I just buy it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. I made it once and used raw garlic and it haunted us for days.

Since I was incapable of saying "No, thank you."  I now had 4 cans of chick peas staring at me in the pantry. Every time I opened the door they whispered Hummmmmmus.

Really, they did.

I had to do something about it.

The same thing happened with the little container of gum Elli bought and put in the pantry, which was then forgotten. Every time I opened the door that stupid container of gum jumped off the shelf and onto the floor spilling everywhere. It was crying to be chewed. So yesterday I shoved it in my purse. That will take care of that little problem.

Woah.

Sorry about that.

Back to Hummus.

I found a recipe that sounded pretty good - it was low in calories and fat too. So I set off to Whole Foods to buy Tahini Paste which was the only thing I was missing.

I discovered an amazing thing when I was at Whole Foods. In their Olive bar they have roasted garlic and roasted tomatoes. Score! This will taste amazing in the hummus. And I don't have to do anything. happy dance! Of course if you don't have a Whole Foods nearby you can roast your own.


Here you go. It's super tasty. Pretty healthy, and really, really easy.

Hummus with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes
5 large garlic cloves roasted*
1/3 cup roasted tomatoes*
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained 
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (or, juice of 1 lemon)
3 tablespoons sesame tahini**
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Assorted crudites and crackers, for serving

In a food processor add the chickpeas and process until finely chopped. Add the roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes, lemon juice, sesame tahini, water, salt, cayenne pepper, and olive oil. Process until the texture is light and fluffy but not entirely smooth, about 2 minutes. Serve with assorted crudites, if desired.

*Pick up roasted garlic and roasted tomatoes at Whole Foods in the Olive Bar. 
You can roast your own garlic. Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic cloves on a small piece of foil, and lightly drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Seal foil to form a pouch, and roast garlic in oven until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven, and allow garlic to cool slightly; peel and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. 
For tomatoes, place 4 Roma tomatoes on a cookie sheet drizzled in olive oil. Roast in 400 degree oven 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Add to food processor.

**What is Tahini?**
Well, it's ground sesame seeds. It has the consistency of peanut butter and has a nutty flavor. You'll find it in the peanut butter aisle. I have a whole container of it now. So I'm pretty sure I'll be making hummus to take to a holiday party.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mug Swap 2011


I was reading Twitter one day and a tweet caught my eye. It was something about bloggers swapping coffee mugs. For some reason this sounded fun to me so I clicked on the link to find out more about it.

Liz from a belle, a bean & a chicago dog was gathering bloggers to do a coffee mug gift exchange. She would send each of us a name and address and we would send that blogger a mug that represents our blog.

My immediate thought was FUN! Sign me up for that! Which is totally weird because Don and I got rid of all the miscellaneous coffee mugs years ago when we bought new dishes.

I guess I just liked the idea of being part of a group. And this sounded like a fun, inexpensive and creative way to spread bloggy love. And I do drink coffee.

Tori from Kindergartenstolemyzen got my name. She was a super ninja blogger. I received my mug immediately. As in we got our names and two days later I got my mug. Holy schnikes. The pressure was on.



I love it!
I got Erika from freefringes.com and lovelinks.freefringes.com A Texas girl. Cool!

I was a major stress case designing my mug. My current header is a picture of pasta. No one wants pasta on a mug, so I designed it with an image of white chocolate chip cookies. I just couldn't see someone staring at a plate of pasta at 6am. I didn't want her to get it and think, ewwww. Pasta at 6am? What a loser. This mug will be in the next Salvation Army bag.

Here's the design I ended up with. I hope she likes it.

We used Zazzle to make the mugs. They did a great job. They were fast and the price was pretty reasonable. Plus we had coupons.

My next Zazzle purchase will be a new phone cover. I'm sure I'll get the next iphone one of these days. And when I do I am totally designing my own case. Seriously, how cute are these covers?


Back to mugs. You can see all the mugs from MUG SWAP 2011 here. I'll definitely be back next year. I think this is the beginning of a new mug collection.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Crescent Rolls Recipe



We made these crescent rolls on Thanksgiving. They were so good, I had to share them with you again. Because you might want to make them for Christmas.

The recipe makes a bunch of rolls. We baked a batch for Thanksgiving day, then rolled the rest out, put them on a baking sheet, and stuck them in the fridge for the next day. All you have to do is set them out to rise for a few hours and bake them when you're ready.

It's a great recipe to make with kids. Even boys. They can use their brut strength to roll the dough. You do need to allow some time though. It takes 3 hours to make them. So keep that in mind. Don't be intimidated by the time. This is a good rainy day/snow day activity.

The dough is really easy to make. You do have to use yeast but it's really forgiving. I screwed it up and they came out great. I misread the instructions and put 2T of sugar with the yeast and water. It was supposed to be 1/2 teaspoon.

And the best part? You get to eat these little buttery, flaky rolls of goodness.



Delicious. Made by you and your kids. Just think how impressed your mother-in-law will be.

Recipe here: Flaky French Crescent Rolls

Friday, December 9, 2011

We have a winner for the Driscoll's Goody Bag!

The winner of the Driscoll's Goody Bag is........

#4 Mike

YAY! Congratulations!!


Duct Tape Art

Have your kids gotten into this?






Elli asked for Duct Tape for her birthday. Don and I both thought this was an odd request. Then she came home from a friends with a cool flower she made and we got it. She was not talking about the kind of tape you get at the local hardware store. This is fancy tape. Yes, you could actually use it as tape. But that's not what most kids are doing with it.

It comes in all different colors and patterns. There are actually videos to show kids how to make cool things like flip flops, purses, wallets, dresses, headbands, hats, and shoes with laces. Seriously, why didn't I think of this?  Check out MonkeySee.com for all kinds of ideas.

I guess it's kind of expensive, because Don started acting a bit like the tape Nazi one day when Elli said she was going to make a second pair of flip flops. He settled down and the two of them made a new project. She made a wallet and he made this cool cougar. He is now the duct tape champ.

Maybe they'll make me a castle. Think about it. It would be waterproof and if something broke, you would just tape it back up. Brilliant!!


Here's how you make duct tape flip flops in case you want to get in on the action.


Have fun!

Monday, December 5, 2011

5 New Blackberry Recipes

I'm so excited to share these blackberry recipes with you!

I tried every one of them at the Driscoll's party and they are really tasty. Plus, I have my first ever giveaway. Somehow I walked away with an Extra Goody bag - so one lucky reader will get it!

Driscoll's Tote Bag, Driscoll's Fruit Colander, 
NEW Cookbook from Rick Rodgers, a Driscoll's Apron,
and a Driscoll's Flash Drive with all the recipes,
and a Coupon for berries worth $5.00
Retail value: priceless (hee hee)

Scroll to the end to see how you can win.

Back to the recipes.....

My favorite of the evening was the tartlet. And you're not going to believe this. There was goat cheese in the tartlet and I didn't even know it because you mix it with cream cheese. Even though I liked it, I won't use any goat cheese when I make this because I'll buy the wrong kind and it will taste like barn. I'll just go with cream cheese all the way. 'Cuz you know me and all things goat. Blech.

I would totally make all five dishes for Christmas except my sister-in-law is hosting and she doesn't eat pork. So that won't work. And I'm not sure the kids will eat fennel. I know they would like the tartlets and dessert.

I'll have to have a little dinner party so I can make this fabulous spread.

Chef Rick added one more side dish to the menu which was Mashed Sweet Potatoes. My friend Rachael is not a sweet potato fan and she told the chef she wanted to roll around in the potatoes.

I'm pretty sure that means she liked them. I know when my dogs roll around in stuff it means they are happier than happy. Not that Rachael is a dog or anything.

This isn't turning out like I hoped.

Moving on.....

Blackberry Cobbler Cocktail

Savory Cheese Tartlets wih Blackberries

Roasted Fennel

Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Roast with Blackberry Sage Compote

Blackberry Pear Cobbler with Almond Granola Topping

The contest. I almost forgot.

Two ways to enter.

1) Leave a comment here. Tell me your favorite Christmas tradition.
2) Tweet this post. And leave a second comment that you tweeted. 

Thanks and good luck, Mom. I mean good luck everyone!

I will draw the winner on Friday, December 9th.

Now on to the Blackberry Recipes from Rick Rodgers and Driscoll's Berries:


Blackberry Cobbler
Serving Size: 1 cocktail
Number of Ingredients: 7

5 ripe blackberries, plus extra for garnish
10 ripe blueberries

1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup

1 1/2 oz. Bulldog Gin

1/2 oz. Crème de Cassis

Splash of Yellow Tail Bubbles (Champagne)

In a mixing glass, muddle 5 of the blackberries with the blueberries, lemon juice and simple syrup.

Add the Bulldog Gin and Crème de Cassis. Top with ice and shake vigorously.

Pour into a tall glass and top with the Yellow Tail Bubbles (Champagne). Stir from the bottom up.

Garnish with the remaining blackberries.

Savory Cheese Tartlets with Blackberries

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes plus chilling and cooling
Servings: 24 tartlets, 8 to 12 servings
Number of Ingredients: 15

Filling:
5 oz. rindless goat cheese, at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. honey, preferably full flavored, such as chestnut or thyme, warmed

Cream Cheese Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature, plus more for pans, if needed
3 oz. cream cheese, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature

Combine flour and salt in a food processor fitted with metal chopping blade and pulse to combine.  Add butter and cream cheese and pulse about 10 times, until mixture begins to clump together.  Gather up dough and shape into a thick disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and easy to handle (about 2 hours). 

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.  Have ready two 12-cup miniature muffin pans (each cup measuring 1 7/8 inches across the top and 7/8 inches deep), preferably nonstick.  If the pans are not nonstick, lightly butter them. 

Divide dough into 24 equal pieces.   Place one piece in each muffin cup.  Using fingers, press dough firmly and evenly up sides to make a pastry shell.  (A wooden tart tamper can help the job go quickly.)  Freeze 5 minutes.

Mash goat cheese and cream cheese together in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add egg, yolk, minced thyme, salt and pepper and whisk until combined.  Spoon equal amounts of filling into chilled pastry shells.

Bake tartlets until crust is golden brown and filling is puffed (about 25 minutes).  Let cool for 10 minutes in pans.  Remove tartlets from pans and transfer to a wire cake rack to cool completely.

Just before serving, lightly brush tops of tartlets with about 1 tablespoon of honey.  Arrange berries on top as desired.  Drizzle with the remaining honey.  Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.
 
Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Roast with Blackberry-Sage Compote

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 ½ hours
Servings: 6
Number Ingredients: 17

Pork Roast:
1 (2 ½ to 3 lb.) boneless pork roast, excess fat trimmed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp. minced fresh sage
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
14 to 16 slices (not paper-thin) pancetta, about 4 oz.

Blackberry-Sage Compote
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
½ tsp. finely chopped garlic
2/3 cup hearty red wine, such as Shiraz
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 pkgs. (18 oz.) Driscoll’s Blackberries
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
¼ tsp. coarse salt

1/8 tsp. crushed hot red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch (optional)

Pork Roast:
Brush the pork all over with the oil. Mix the rosemary, sage, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and rub all over the pork.  Unroll each strip of pancetta – it will look like curved bacon.  Arrange half of the pancetta over the top of the roast.  Using kitchen twine, tie the pancetta in place crosswise, leaving the ends of the roast uncovered.  Turn the roast over (don’t worry if it doesn’t look neat).  Repeat with the remaining pancetta, trying the roast and tucking in the pancetta as needed.  (The pancetta can be prepared and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.)  Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes. 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Place the pork roast on a roasting rack in a metal roasting pan.  Bake, rotating the roast every 20 minutes or so for even browning, until the pancetta is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the pork reads 145ºF (about 1 1/2 hours).  If the pancetta is getting too brown, tent the roast with aluminum foil.  Transfer the roast to a carving board and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.  Pour the fat out of the roasting pan and reserve the pan.

Blackberry-Sage Compote:
While the pork is roasting, make the compote.  Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed small skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden (about 3 minutes).  Add the wine and broth and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until the liquid is reduced to about 3 Tbsp. (about 7 minutes).

Add the blackberries, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, sage, salt and hot red pepper and cook over high heat, stirring often, until the berry juice has big bubbles (about 7 minutes).  The compote should have some whole berries. Set aside.

Heat the roasting pan over high heat until sizzling.  Add the compote and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits in the pan with a wooden spatula or spoon.  If the compote seems thin, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 Tbsp. water, stir into the boiling compote, and cook just until lightly thickened, about 15 seconds.  Adjust the seasoning with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt and hot red pepper.  Transfer to a serving bowl.


Snip off and discard the string from the roast.  Carve crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.  Serve hot, with the warm compote.

Roasted Fennel Salad with Blackberries 

Number of Ingredients: 9

Salad:
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
3 bulbs (12-14 oz. each) fennel
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pkg. (6 oz. or 1 ½ cups) Driscoll’s Blackberries
2 oz. Gorgonzola or Danish Blue crumbles
6 fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Honey Balsamic Dressing:
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Roasted Fennel:
Preheat Oven to 425°F.  Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet.

Quarter Each fennel bulb, then cut lengthwise into ¼ to ½ inch-thick slices, keeping the slices as intact as possible.  Arrange fennel on baking sheet, overlapping as needed.  Season with salt and pepper.

Roast, without turning fennel over, until lightly browned around the edges and just tender (about 20 minutes).  Let cool. 

Dressing:
Whisk together vinegar, honey, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Gradually whisk in oil until blended.

To Assemble:
Add cooled fennel to bowl with dressing and toss gently. Gently fold in blackberries.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. 

Divide salad among 6 plates.  Top each with equal amounts Gorgonzola and rosemary sprig.  Serve at room temperature. 


Blackberry Pear Cobbler with Almond Granola Topping

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 ½ hours
Servings: 8
Number of Ingredients: 12

Granola Topping:
Vegetable oil for the baking dish
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup natural sliced almonds
½ cup honey, such as orange blossom
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Cobbler:
8 firm-ripe Bartlett pears, (about 4 lb.), peeled, cored and cut into 1 in. chunks
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut up, plus more for the baking dish
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 pkg. (6oz) Driscoll’s Blackberries

Vanilla ice cream for serving

Granola Topping:
Preheat Oven to 350ºF.  Lightly oil a 12 by 19 inch baking dish.

Mix the oats and almonds together in the baking dish.  Whisk the honey, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon together in a small bowl.  Pour over the oat mixture and mix well.  Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until deep golden brown and fragrant (about 30 minutes).  Transfer to a bowl and let cool.  The topping will be crisp when cooled.  (The topping can be stored at room temperature in a covered container for up to 3 days.)

Lightly butter the same baking dish.  Toss the pears, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Transfer to the baking pan.  Bake, stirring occasionally, until the pears are juicy (about 30 minutes).

Dissolve the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water in a large bowl.  Add the berries and toss gently to coat.  Remove the baking dish from the oven.  Add the berries and dissolved cornstarch and mix gently.  Return to the oven and continue baking until the blackberries are warm and softened (about 20 minutes).  Sprinkle with granola topping and bake for 5 minutes to heat the topping. 

Let cool for 5 minutes.  Spoon into bowls, top with ice cream and serve. 


Don't forget to leave a comment!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fresh Blackberry Shortbread Bars

Last week I attended a blogging event sponsored by Driscoll's berries. They had Chef Rick Rodgers there doing a cooking demonstration, photographer Caren Alpert leading a photo workshop, and a baking contest for us bloggers.

I brought Blackberry Shortbread Bars. 



Chef Rick and his team prepared some really yummy food. I'm going to post all their recipes tomorrow, they would be perfect for a holiday dinner.  My favorite dish of the evening was The Cheese Tartlets with Blackberry. They were light and flaky, salty and sweet, so good!

The menu. So delicious!!
Making the Savory Cheese Tartlets


Blackberry Cobbler Cocktails

 
Dinner: Pancetta Wrapped Pork with Blackberry-Sage Compote, smashed sweet potatoes, and roasted fennel.
Dessert: Blackberry Pumpkin Cake with Granola, and Blackerry-Pear Cobbler with vanilla ice cream
I brought my friend, and fellow blogger, Rachael Hunter as my guest. She's not the super model (although she is gorgeous) or a food blogger, but I thought she might enjoy this little event. She was quick to make friends and promote her mommy Happy Mommy Blog with everyone.

She had the Driscoll's guys cracking up, especially when she accidentally got locked on the roof of the building after sneaking up there to grab a smoke. She was frantically calling my cell which was in my purse, out of site, on the floor. Thankfully I saw the glow and we rescued her.



Some of the dessert entries. The winner was announced today. I didn't win. But it sure was fun participating.


I love making shortbread bars. Because I really love butter.


Who doesn't like fresh fruit, sandwiched between buttery goodness. They should be called Happy Blackberry bars.

Blackberry Shortbread Bars

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 t. vanilla bean paste
1 cup white sugar
1 t. baking powder
2 3/4 cup flour + 2 T
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 large egg
12 oz fresh blackberries, sliced in half (two, 6oz containers)

Brown the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and will finally start to brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Don't let it burn! Remove from stove and stir in vanilla. Transfer to small dish and cool in freezer until firm (~30 minutes)

Preheat oven to 375˚
Butter a 9 x 13 pan

1) In a medium bowl whisk together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and cinnamon
2) Dice chilled butter and add to the flour mixture; add egg; mix with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly.
3) Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan pressing firmly
4) Add blackberry halves in a single layer until crust is covered
5) Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over fruit. Bake 25-30 minutes until top is slightly brown.
6) Cool completely in pan before cutting

**Big thanks to Driscoll's for inviting me to the party and for giving me coupons to buy berries. YAY!

Come back tomorrow for the recipes from Rick Rodgers!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cleaning out the fridge

It's a cathartic experience. You should try it.

I cleaned the fridge out the weekend before Thanksgiving because company was coming.

I really didn't want my sister and her family to see my condiment collection, or the sticky stuff that had dripped on the shelf which we all saw, but no one bothered to remove, because it had turned into sticky cement.

A lot of the stuff in the fridge came from two neighbors who moved. I'm saying no next time. They can keep their own don't-know-what-to-do-with-this-food-we're-moving guilt. Don't dump it on me. I can't say no. Please don't ask me. I'm begging.


No one needs 15 kinds of mustard, or 10 jars of olives, three jars of capers or blueberry juice. And I have never made a martini with an onion ever. What is wrong with me?

And then there's the blue bread. I would love to tell you the blue bread is theirs, but it's mine. It wasn't tucked behind the Brita water filter either. It was just sitting in there with all the other crap. I honestly didn't notice it was blue until I yanked it out with everything else. I swear it was fine a few days earlier.


It is kind of a pretty shade of blue. More like a teal actually. HA.

I kicked everyone out of the kitchen, cranked the music, rolled up my sleeves and stripped the fridge. All the items were sorted in a "keep" and "toss" pile. Then I completely wiped everything down.

After I put everything back I just stared at it. It was beautiful. It sparkled. I could see everything. I felt like a new person! Silly I know, but the state of the fridge had been bothering me for weeks. I just didn't want to deal with it.


I was happy all day.

I showed Don, then Elli. "Nice, Mom." she said with a nod. Not impressed at all with how clean it was. And then she saw the bread. "Ewwwwwwww, I'm never eating a sandwich again. Ever!" She shouted. "What are you talking about. You don't eat sandwiches now!" I answered. "What about the fridge? Don't you like how clean it is?!! Isn't it nice!" I asked.

"Mom, it's a fridge." she quipped before walking away.

Whatever. I get no respect around here.

And then Thanksgiving hit. My fridge is packed again. This time it's mostly Tupperware containers, and extra food from hosting.

I'll be able to clean it out this weekend and it will look like this once again. I hope.

Does anyone like Firestone Pale Ale? I have some beer to give away.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yummy Mediterranean Herb Dip Recipe


I first tasted this dip in 2006 when we went to the Olive Oil Tasting in downtown Sonoma. It was a really fun event in the old mission off the square. There was lots of wine, olive oil, snacks, and this yummy dip.

The chef from Blackstone winery was mixing up a huge batch of it while we were there. I kept going back for more because it tasted so good with the wine and I wanted to know what was in it! I knew there was basil and roasted red peppers, but I couldn't figure out the rest. I finally asked the chef for the recipe and he led me to their website where they had it posted.

You can make this using a food processor, which is how I do it. You can also chop and mix everything by hand if you don't have one it will just be chunkier, which is okay too.

One batch makes four cups of dip. So if you are hosting a party, or attending a party, this dip is perfect. It can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Just divide it up in containers and you're all set. Or keep in one large container and scoop it out as you need it. That's what I do.

I must warn you though, it tastes mighty good with a glass of wine so be prepared to serve a lot of wine. 

Mediterranean Herb Dip 
adapted from Blackstone Winery

1 8 oz jar sun dried tomatoes, drained
1 10 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 4oz container feta cheese
1 8oz bar of cream cheese softened
1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh, flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh, basil

1. Put the sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. 
2. Add the feta cheese, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Pulse until combined.
3. Add parsley and basil. Pulse again until combined.

Makes 4 cups. Keep refrigerated.

Serve with pita chips or crackers. It also works well tossed with pasta or rolled up in a chicken breast and baked.

Monday, November 28, 2011

San Francisco with the cousins

We spent last Saturday in San Francisco with my sister Kathy, her husband Mike, and their two kids. We had a blast walking all over Union Square. We darted in and out of shops looking for the best Christmas decorations. Of course we did a little shopping, too. The Paul Frank store was definitely a hit with the kids.

Our first stop was Macy's. We were all quite impressed by the large, shiny red balls hanging in the entrance to Macy's. We ooed and aaah'd as we went up the escalator trying to find Santa. Once you get to the top floor (where Santa is) you can go up one last escalator to the Cheesecake Factory (inside Macy's) and go on a deck outside! It's pretty cool.

We all posed in the big window in front of all the beautiful Christmas decorations and experienced a bit of vertigo as we pressed our noses against the glass and looked down.

The best part for the girls?? Trying on glittery Ivanka Trump stilettos that were not on the sale rack. eeeks! After that I said "don't touch" about a hundred times. "Look with your eyes!" I kept reminding her. "Then why are you touching things?" she asked. "'Cuz I'm the mommy." Smarty pants.

Ivanka Trump Stilettos
I don't think they're ready for these shoes.
Remember the movie Elf? Yep. We watched it the night before.
We made quite the grand entrance at Neiman Marcus with the kids going round-and-round-and-round in the revolving door. Lucky for us there are other people out there that have seen Elf, so we were safe. In fact, they actually smiled as we walked in. Impressive for Neiman's.

We checked out their giant tree, even going up a few floors into the restaurant so we could pose for photos near the top! My sister and I drooled over the beautiful clothes, shoes and Christmas decorations as we zipped up and down the escalator.


Hi, enjoying your high tea? Don't mind me. Just getting a picture.
After a quick swoop through the huge Nike store we walked to Chinatown for lunch. Don and I wanted to take them to House of Nanking for some authentic Chinese food. It was a great lunch. I'm not sure my niece and nephew would completely agree with that statement, but my sister and brother-in-law seemed to enjoy the experience. It's definitely not like the Chinese food you eat in the burbs.

Chinatown in SF.
The House of Nanking is crowded, cluttered and the waitstaff can be a little, shall we say, short when it comes to serving? They were very nice to us - very accommodating and quite funny!

We sampled a bunch of stuff. That's the best way to do it. Some dishes take a little longer to prepare than others and they don't wait for everything to be ready before serving. They serve them as they're ready. So the best way to eat there is to serve everything family style and just start passing plates around as food arrives.

Our tasting menu:

Fried Pork Pot Stickers
Onion Cake
Steamed Dumplings
Sesame Chicken
Beef and Mushroom dish (special of the day)
House Noodles
Blossom Tea

House Noodles
Beef and Mushroom

This is what you get if you ask for hot sauce.
This is all that is left of the Sesame Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
Elli loved the Sesame Chicken. Maya, her cousin, is looking on saying "Ewwww." She was not very adventurous and spent the meal hugging her plate until the white rice arrived. Poor baby missed out on all the good stuff.
Blossom Tea (it blossoms right before your eyes in the mug.)
If you're ever in SF I highly recommend a visit. They prefer cash. But don't worry, if you forget your cash there are plenty of ATMs close by.

After lunch we wandered all over Chinatown going in a bunch of the crazy tourist stores. The kids were on a mission to find knit animal hats. Elli found hers and was dancing around the sidewalk like a proud peacock. We're not entirely sure what the animal is. But it sure is cute, and she loves it.

Silly monkeys.
The girls loved the Joe's Jeans store. Not sure the dude's there felt the same way.
The street performer captivated the crowd, and the girls.
Me and my honey bunny.
That's it! So glad my sister has a new iPhone 4G with an awesome camera, because I forgot my camera. DOH!! All these pictures are from her. YAY!  Thanks, Kathy!!!

Come back soon! The pink canopy room with the view of Mt. Tam is ready anytime.