Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eggplant Caponata and Cakebread Wine. Yum.

Last night we opened a jar of Sicilian Eggplant Caponata that we picked up at Michael Chiarrelo's Napa Style store. Yum-my.

Elli and I were in there a few weeks ago and sampled all the different bruschetta spreads. Believe it or not, the eggplant was her favorite. So we bought a jar. (Only one, because it's 10 bucks.)

I have to tell you, the flavor is awesome. (And I'm not a huge eggplant fan.) It's made with roasted eggplant, capers, olive oil, roasted red peppers, balsamic, garlic, anchovies, italian parsley, and thyme. It tastes great with crackers and wine. Actually, that's all you need. Some nice fresh bread would have been nice, but the crackers worked just fine.

We pulled a bottle of red wine from from the wine cellar (aka, the hall closet.) The 2004 Rubaiyat from Cakebread Cellars tastes a lot like a zinfandel (I think.) It's fruity, jammy, with aromas of blackberry. It was totally delish. My kind of red wine for sure.

So the next time you don't feel like cooking. Or you have unexpected house guests. Grab a jar of this with some crackers and enjoy! And don't forget the wine.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure contest. Sign me up!

One of the demonstrations that got a lot of attention was sponsored by Scharffen Berger Chocolate and

Chef Elizabeth Faulkner took about 18 ingredients and mixed them all up in the biggest chocolate box you've ever seen. She had everything from pretzels and corn nuts to brownies, peanut butter, and home-made marshmallow (YUM!) to stranger stuff like Pandan Leaf, smoked paprika and chili peppers.

After she got it all mixed up everyone donned rubber gloves, and dug their hands in the mix and ate the ooey gooey chocolatey concoction.  I'm serious. They did. I have to tell you. I couldn't do it. Watching everyone eat it was hilarious though. And watching the people watch the people, was also hilarious. It looked like....well.... the pictures tell it all. I will say one thing. The whole area smelled divine.

I was standing with Danica from Danica's Daily Blog. She was a trooper and tried it. She said it was "interesting and smokey" or something like that. She wasn't jumping up and down, so I decided to just take in the delicious aromas and leave it at that.

But don't get too grossed out. Because, part of the demonstration was announcing a really cool contest they are doing. You have to create a recipe using their chocolate and include one or more of the 16 adventure ingredients - and the grand prize is 10,000 smakaroos. I've never created a recipe in my life. But $10,000 is a lot of dough. And I have until January. And I LOVE chocolate. Plus they gave us a nice bag of chocolate to get started.  So why not try, right?

Here are the Adventure Ingredients:

Fresh mint, fresh or crystallized ginger, Pandan Leaf (?), Banana Leaf, Sumac, Raw Honey, Cacao Nibs, Malbec (wine?), Peanut Butter,
Fresh or Whole Dried Chili Pepper, Black-Eyed Peas, Rice Flour, Papaya, Cumin, Paprika, Smoked Sea Salt.

This is the amazing goody bag we got from Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Somehow the canister of Cocoa powder didn't make it in the shot. This was quite a score!!

So I suppose I'll be doing some baking here soon. I can't wait! I'm sure I'll need some taste testers. So I'll let you know when the samples are ready.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

BlogHerFood 09

On Saturday I attended BlogHerFood 09 in San Francisco at the gorgeous St. Regis Hotel. I wish I got to stay there. But since I live about 25 minutes away, and I've only earned $1.09 from my blog. I couldn't cough up the $$$.

BlogHerFood was a one-day event filled with seminars, food demonstrations, food to eat, food to look at, and lots and lots of bloggers. Some bloggers were invited to special dinners in Napa and SF. Not me.  But maybe next time. Who knows.

There were some true Food/Chef celebrities in attendance. Rocco DiSpirito was there. And Elizabeth Faulkner, of Citizen Cake was there! I'm sure you'll recognize her from Top Chef Masters or Iron Chef. I got a front row view of her making this crazy chocolate thing for Scharffenberger Chocolate. I'm going to blog about it tomorrow.

I have to admit, I was completely overwhelmed most of the day. And I was not alone. A lot of bloggers knew each other. Many of us came alone and felt like very small fish in a very big, big pond of bloggers.

Luckily, foodies are quite the friendly bunch, so I did meet a lot of people and learned some great things. One thing we all have in common is that our parents are our biggest fans.

Here are some of the big "celeb" bloggers that impressed me. These bloggers have millions of eyeballs reading their recipes and looking at their photos. I do the happy dance if I get 50. Not that it matters. I'm just giving you some idea of how popular they are.

Ree Drummond - A great lady that lives on a cattle ranch, home schools her four kids and blogs. Uh huh. So for everyone that says they're too busy......check out Pioneer Woman .
David Lebovitz - A Californian, now living in Paris. Very funny. Sassy like me.
Elise Bauer - started recording her mom's recipes and it snowballed into an extremely popular site called Simply Recipes. Her parents came to support her. How sweet is that? (I'm going to make the lemon cake as soon as I'm done here.)
Helen Dujardin - a very funny french pastry chef. I can't wait to try her recipes. And she makes house calls! Her site is called Tartellete....on the sweet side of life.
Amy Sherman - a seemingly regular gal, with a hugely popular blog called Cooking with Amy. She lives here in the Bay Area, gotta love that for sure.

I did a bad job of taking pictures. Kath of Kath Eats Real Food did a great job. She already has them posted on her site. She was at my lunch table with Jenna Weber (Eat.Live.Run) and Danica Pike (Danica's Daily) and Jennifer Patterson (Unplanned Cooking) and a group from including Tracy Randall the President and Founder. We had a lively conversation about the food, wine and Rocco!

So what did I learn? Real food bloggers are a hard working bunch. They create recipes all the time. Take fabulous pictures. Write cookbooks. Write recipes for big corporations. It's a full-time gig. Who knew? I learned lots of tips to improve your blog ranking, taking better pictures, how to write so people will read and respond/comment. I guess I need to decide where I want to go with this little project of mine. Or not.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Calistoga Ranch....we miss you

Two years ago, this weekend, Don and I got to spend a glorious weekend at the Calistoga Ranch - all on someone else's dime.

First of all, anytime you can go on a business trip with your spouse it's fun. When it's a fancy schmancy resort made up of individual guest lodges, that includes cool dinners and spa treatments - - it's even better.
The picture to the right is just like the "lodge" we stayed in! I seriously didn't want to leave. Don had to drag me away.

This is a photo of the living room - looking out onto the deck.

We don't get perks like this much anymore. Which is a MAJOR bummer.

So all I have are the memories.  Ah, the memories. Driving up to Calistoga in a stretch limo with my friend James, his friend and two others. Drinking wine. Stopping twice to make pit stops and buy more wine. (The journey is only about one hour.) Don was already there relaxing on the deck waiting for spazzo to arrive.

We got to enjoy a delicious dinner in their cave/tasting room. Enjoyed the coolest suite of rooms which included our own private hot tub, indoor outdoor fireplace - a quaint 1200 feet of luxury. A concierge that set us up for tastings at Fleury Winery and Frank Family Vineyards, where the minute we said our name and where we were staying, we were treated like royalty.

I really could live life like a princess. I think I would be really good at it. And just think of all the shoes you would have as a princess. (Sorry, got off track there for a second.)

Check out the picture to the right of the tub and outdoor shower. Of course there is an indoor shower too. This was off of the master bedroom. Awesome!!

Here is "The Bathhouse." aka Spa. I don't know about you, but when I think bathhouse I think girl scout camp and lots of daddy long legs - and it's nothing like this.

So, Calistoga Ranch, can we please visit again? Is there a wedding or a conference we can crash?

We really miss you.

We are your biggest fans.

-Kris and Don

Friday, September 25, 2009

Holy cow. I think I'm a geek.

Tomorrow I am attending my first ever blog-related function. I'm feeling a little geeky about it. But I'm also really excited. Don thinks I'm losing it. I'm spending more time with Mac than him. I think he's just jealous. He spends more time with Sam than me - so we're even.

So I will be in San Francisco on Saturday attending an all-day conference called BlogHer Food '09.  It's being hosted by a group called BlogHer. This one-day conference is specific to food bloggers. It's basically going to be about 200+ super chatty girls at the St. Regis hotel - together - for a full day. And into the evening. Because of course there is a happy hour and after-happy hour-parties. Yippee!

There is a breakfast and lunch sponsored by California Milk and Bertolli. And breaks and demonstrations by TopChef, Pillsbury, Scharffen Berger Chocolate, Campbell's Soup Company and Swanson.

There are three types of breakout sessions to choose from. The first, on developing your blogging voice; the second, on food photography; and the third, something about the values of food.  I'm going to stick to the sessions regarding my "voice" and photography. I am not out to change the world and start a food movement. Sheesh. I can barely get Elli to school with a lunch. How would I have time to change the frickin world. Plus, they'll probably tell me not to say frickin. Actually, I suppose the "voice" group will tell me that.

I'm excited to get some photography tips because the whole photography thing is super tricky. I don't know if you have ever tried to take a picture of food and make it look good. But let me tell you, it is not easy. And that's why the pros make the big bucks. The sooner I learn the better, though. Because with every flash in the kitchen I get major eye-roll from Don. (He's still in denial about me and this whole blog thing.)

I have two cameras that I use. I keep the COOLPIX in my purse. And use the big fancy Nikon (which is Don's) at home. It has the potential to take great food shots - I've been successful a few times. But not enough. The lighting is the tricky part. And the little one does a fine job when we're out. (I'm trying to keep the geekiness to a minimum.)

So there you have it. Wish me luck. Biggest issue of the moment - - I have not decided what to wear!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My name is Kris. I'm a speed eater.

We get tons of magazines at our agency so I picked up a few in the mailroom to read over the weekend. As I was flipping through Body + Soul I came upon an article called "How to Eat Slowly". The girl in the article even looks like me. Have I been punked? Is Martha spying on me?

Ok, I admit it. I eat fast. It's kind of a joke in my family. I don't know why I do it. But I have always eaten fast. Sometimes it's embarrassing. I'm often done way before everyone else. Elli is the opposite. We call her pokihontas. She is so slow it makes me nuts.

According to the article, if I slow down it will help with digestion, weight and my overall health. So if I quit eating like a woodchuck maybe I can wear a bikini like Elli.  Just kidding. That is not a pretty image. I think I'll aim for wearing jeans comfortably (without having to do knee bends.)

Here are the tips. I'm laughing. #1 is especially funny. Here we go.
1) Mealtime pause. Have another family member plate my food and bring it to me.
2) Put my fork down in between bites.
3) Eating at a candle-lit table with soft music will slow down my eating.
4) Don't watch tv while eating.
5) Eat in slow motion. Tune into the flavors playing on my tongue.

All of this advice has scared me. No wonder I eat fast!

In the article they actually refer to us speed eaters as "Inveterate potato chip gobblers who chew like woodchucks until they hit the bottom of the bag." OMG. That image is enough to get me to slow down. Holy cow. Or should I say holy woodchuck.

My pledge: "I promise to slow down, stop eating like a woodchuck and always sit at a candle lit table."

So there you go. Let's see what happens.  "Honey?  Is my dinner ready?"

Honey???  Don?

Photo from

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Herbs, garlic, EVOO - what's not to love?

I've been on a huge kick lately making different salsa's, pesto's and chimichurri type sauces and pairing them with grilled steak, fish, pork, pasta and chicken.

These sauces add so much flavor and are so easy to make in the food processor. They take minimal ingredients, and are pretty much risk free - which I really love. You really can't go wrong with fresh herbs, garlic and good olive oil, right?

So I found this recipe in a new brochure promoting the fall wine releases from Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena - and I can't wait to try it. Have you ever had their wine? OMG it is good. Smooth, rich, delish. It's kind of on the expensive side. I've been lucky enough to taste quite a few of these wines at BevMo! events. The merlot they pair with this recipe is $85. Gulp.

So here's the recipe.

Ribeye with Salsa Verde  

Salsa Verde
3 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of Italian Parsley, stems removed
Zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 t. kosher salt

In a food processor combine garlic and parsley. Pulse to a thick paste. Add the capers, lemon zest, red wine vinegar and 1/4 t. of kosher salt. Continue combining ingredients and slowly drizzle in 2/3 cup of good, extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with a Ribeye, steak of your choice, or fish
The actual recipe cooks the steak on a pan on the stove. I think it's much better on the grill. We used filet mignon instead of Ribeye. The sauce would also taste really good on fish, like Halibut - which we made the second night!  Season the meat with salt and pepper. Grill. Place a pat of butter on top, cover with foil. Let rest 5 minutes.

Serve with a nice Merlot.  Like the Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms vineyard Napa Valley Merlot. Or another Merlot of your choice. I'm also a huge fan of Twomey Merlot (which is related to Silver Oak) or Cakebread Merlot.

We drank a really delicious Merlot from Chateau St. Jean and some Cab from Pine Ridge. These are two of our favorite wineries in Napa and Sonoma. Ch. St. Jean has the best patio and overlooks the most beautiful lawn and Pine Ridge is just plain yummy. Plus they were in the cellar, aka, hall closet.

Little tidbit.....I checked the Duckhorn website and learned that they served this dish in the White House in 2008. How cool is that?

*photo from Duckhorn website

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Breakfast for dinner.

I got home last night and had a taste for breakfast. Amazingly, Don was ok with this. Elli was psyched.  She immediately asked for a bowl of cereal. That was not exactly what I had in mind. But ok. Here's your cereal, milk and banana. Yeah! You're fed. Now what about me!?

I have eggs, cheese, a leftover baked potato, bacon, and some fresh herbs. I think I'll make a frittata. Giada de Laurentiis is always making yummy looking frittata's. So I pulled out her Everyday Italian Cookbook and made a few modifications (based on what I had on hand.) It was super simple and quite delish I must say.

I made some toast to eat with it. All we had was wheat bread. Which is fine. But sourdough toast would have been divine. Next time.

Of course I had a glass of wine with dinner too.  I brought home an opened bottle of Tapiz Malbec from the tv shoot we did today. Believe it or not, the wine tasted fantastic with the frittata. Who knew? You really should try a Malbec if you haven't already. And Tapiz is a good place to start.

Frittata with Potato and Prosciutto (or Bacon) 

2 T olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
1 potato, peeled, and cut into small 1/2-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
6 large eggs
1/4 c. whipping cream (I used lowfat milk)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 ounces prosciutto (I chopped and cooked 4 slices of bacon first, then added to egg mixture.)
2 T chopped fresh basil (I used fresh, chopped cilantro.)

In a 9 1/2" diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the potato, garlic, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium-low heat until the potato is tender and golden, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the boiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, Parmesan cheese and prosciutto, and basil to blend. Stir the egg mixture into the potato mixture in the skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the egg mixture is almost set but the top is still runny, about 2 minutes. Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the top is set and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittata from the skillet and slide it onto a plate. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve.

Changes I made: I don't have a 9 1/2" nonstick skillet, so I added 1 T butter to the pan before I poured in the egg to help keep it from sticking to the pan. This helped a lot. 

Here in the Mulkey household we have a name for breakfast when you eat it for dinner - Brinner. And the beauty of a frittata is how versatile it is. Use whatever you have in the fridge, open a bottle of wine, relax and enjoy!  aaaaahhh. You can't see it, but I have a happy face!

One more does Giada stay so thin? Anyone know her secret?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Would you like a glass of cab to go with your sweater?

Have you shopped on the Piperlime website yet? It's awesome. They started with really cute shoes, expanded to handbags, and now they have clothes. They recently posted the top 10 trends for fall. So when I saw this on their website I immediately  made a mental checklist of what I would be shopping for and what wine would I pair with each trend.

Strange, I know. It's probably not healthy. But fashion and wine go hand-in-hand. They change with the season. Each one has personality, depth, history. Sometimes "you're in" and sometimes "you're out."

So here are my picks.

I have a bottle of Cava in the fridge that I'm dieing to open. I better order these little ruffle boots pronto. Won't they look cute with a pair of jeans?

Click here to see the Piperlime Fall Trend Guide for yourself - without the pairings.

Oh, did I tell you how fun it is when you receive the Piperlime box?  It's like getting a present. You'll have to place an order to see what I mean.

Plus, Piperlime is part of the Gap Company. So you can use your Gap Card - and shop at all their stores on one order. Order stuff for the kids and throw in a pair of shoes for yourself. Happy Shopping!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sharpen up your neckajility. huh?

I saw this last year and thought it was hilarious. I swear I watched it five times in a row. I could totally see my brothers doing a stunt like this when they were young.  In fact, I think my brother Bill is the one who forwarded it to me.

My sense of humor leans more towards tasteless, stupid human tricks. Nothing serious. Nothing too political or with much, if any, meaning. It's basic stuff like tripping or crashing into something. And I love pranks and practical jokes. Most of the jokes I see are forwarded from my brother. I don't know where he gets them. But they are usually hilarious.

So here you go. I love a good laugh. I hope it makes you laugh too.

Ya gotta love New Zealanders. Neckagility....that's funny.    

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't be afraid!

I had a pretty long day yesterday. So by the time I got home I was wiped out and definitely didn't feel like cooking. I needed something super simple. Hello freezer. Speak to me.

Potstickers. Excellent. I can make some sticky rice and I'm done. Not the most nutritious meal on the planet. But no one will go to be bed hungry. And I have some champagne from my TV shoot today which I might just have to drink with my potstickers. Say what?

Yes. Champagne, or, Sparkling Wine actually. It goes fantastic with spicy asian food. And, the new handy champagne stoppers really work in the fridge to keep the bubblies bubbly.

So there you have it. Don't save champagne for a special occasion,  it will make those frozen potstickers taste super duper special. This rule goes for wine with every day foods too. Just because you're eating something simple doesn't mean you can't enjoy it with a great glass of wine.  Like burgers, they go really well with practically any red wine - try cabernet, zinfandel, merlot, or malbec;  the next time you have a margharita pizza try pairing it with a red zinfandel; or how about a nice Malbec the next time you make spaghetti and meatballs?

So now you know when you see me at P.F. Changs, with a glass of champagne, that I'm not strange.  Well, I am strange. But my choice of drink is not. So there.

Changing subjects.......

Watch this. It will put a smile on your face. I guar-an-tee it!!

Thanks to my friend Sue Keever for sharing it on Facebook.

Later alligators!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Name Game.

The other day Elli asked me why we named her Elli. We've had this discussion before. I told her again that we thought it would be nice to give her a family name. So we named her Elliott Grace. Elliott, after her grandmothers maiden name on Kris's side, and Grace, after her great-grandmother on Don's side. We knew we would shorten Elliott to either Elli or Elle. But we also thought we would reserve picking the main name until we met Elli.  If she was full of spunk and energy we would call her Elli.  If she was more reserved and quiet we would call her Grace.  She is definitely an Elli.

She asked if we thought about any other names. I remembered that I had a list in a diary that I kept about our whole adoption journey and trip to China. We looked in the back of the book and sure enough, there was a list of names. She thought this was the coolest thing ever.

We've actually had many discussions with her about her name. A few years ago some kids told Elli she had a boys name. This did not make her happy. She is a girly girl. She stormed home demanding to know if this was true.  And was quite upset when we told her there were probably more boy Elliott's than girls but quite a few have the name now too. I told her my name, Kris, is also a name for boys. Of course my full name is Kristin, which is much more girly. Anyway, this helped her a lot.

So I found it interesting the other day to read an article in SF Gate about weird baby names. I laughed out loud at some of them.  Can you imagine going through life as Sparrow Madden, Apple, Audio Science, Moxie Crimefighter, Rocket Rodriguez, Sage MoonBlood or Tu Morrow? Her mom is Debbon Ayer. Ay yay yay. Elli is nuthin' compared to these beauties!

A few years ago I was in the airport with my client and we got the sales report emailed to us from a new person in accounting. Her name was Jingli Dong. I just about died laughing. Seriously I did. I could not stop laughing. I know that's mean. But the more I looked at the name the harder it made me laugh. Bad, bad, bad. For months I would have an email in my inbox at 6am from Jingli Dong. It still makes me giggle a little.

Don just told me there was a kid in his elementary school named Frances with a dead arm. I'm going to H.E. double hockey sticks because I cannot stop laughing.  Oh, sorry, I had a good upbringing, I promise.

It's hard picking a name. You don't want your child to be made fun of or laughed at. You want it to be just the perfect match for your little bundle. Elli said she wants to name her first baby Clementine. Hmmmm. That could be bad. Real bad. We'll see if she changes her mind.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Super easy oven baked potatoes.

I've been making these potato wedges for a while now.  Everyone seems to like them - kids, adults, even picky eaters. They taste better than french fries - and they're not fried! The recipe originally came from an issue of Everyday Food . But I cannot find it on Martha's site.

So, what makes them so yummy? Well, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, of course! It gives them a nice, salty, cheesy flavor. They get really crisp when you bake them in the oven. And they leave yummy, cheesy bits on the pan.

The potatoes pair really well with grilled chicken, barbeque, steak or burgers on the grill. They take about 30 minutes to bake, so they can be cooking away while you are at the grill.

Parmesan Steak Fries

2 Potatoes - yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into wedges
1 - 3 egg whites whipped until frothy
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven  to 425. Bake 30 minutes.

The recipe is really flexible. You decide how many potatoes you want based on the size of your group. One egg white will cover about 2 potatoes - unless they're really teeny. You can always whip another egg in the bowl if you run out.

You basically whip egg white with some salt in a medium size bowl until it's frothy (see note below for amount of salt.) Coat the potato wedges in the egg white, then dip them in Parmesan cheese until they are covered. Place on a baking sheet that is lined with a Silpat or parchment paper for easy clean up.

Example: 3 egg whites add 1t. salt.

Place all the cute little cheese covered potatoes on the baking sheet. Grind some fresh pepper on top. Bake for about 30 minutes. Do not turn. Just bake until they are fork tender and golden brown.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Failing Bites.

On Sunday I decided to make chili and cornbread. It was a gloomy morning. Football would be on all day. It just sounded good.

Instead of letting Don make the chili. I decided to make it and use a new recipe. I found one in my Bobby Flay cookbook. I'm a huge fan of Bobby's. So I knew it would be full of flavor and have some heat to it.

I had to go to two stores to get all the ingredients. He uses a lot of chili spices that apparently are not stocked at every grocery store. The cornbread recipe called for white corn meal. Couldn't find that. So I bought yellow.

Things did not go well in the kitchen. The recipe is time consuming. Definitely not worth all the effort and ingredients. I should have checked the recipe and reviews online first. Of course I did after. I think the people with positive reviews were telling a little white lie. I believe the people with multiple exclamation points in their answer were truthful.

The chili took forever to make. And it was horrible. Un-edible. It wasn't because I didn't like it. It's true, I didn't like it. But the heat and flavor from the chili's, especially the Chile's in adobo sauce, were so strong, it was just awful. Plus it was like soup. Don tried to fix it. He took out 4 cups of liquid and added more stuff. Nothing could save this big pot of yuckines.

Even the cornbread was not quite right! It was moist and looked perfect. But it was a bit crunchy. The corn meal was kind of gritty. How is this possible?

Thankfully, there was one thing that tasted good - the sour cream topping with diced poblano peppers. It was simple to make and tasted really yummy with tortilla chips.

By the time I was done in the kitchen it looked like a warzone from all the cooking. We didn't have anything ready to eat other than chips and I am just ticked off. So writing this is my therapy session. I know it's not nice to bash someone (Kanye, Serena) but I know what it's like to be frustrated and just want to tell someone off. Not a great idea to do it on stage and ruin someone's big moment. Or threaten to hurt someone. So I am going to vent here.

So, did I learn anything? Yes, let Don make the chili. Just kidding. I'm glad I tried. I wish it had turned out better. But I will try again - with a different recipe. (I will read reviews first.) And I will quit beating myself up about chili. It's wrong to be so mad about food. (It's just time, money, ego, hunger....ego...)

The day ended with Elli patting me on the back and saying "It's ok Mom, you did your best." Sweet. But actually made me feel worse. Then she said "I played upstairs to give you some space. I could tell you were frustrated."  Sighhhhhhhh. Again, so wrong.

So, as you can see, I still have a long, long, way to go in the kitchen. I think I'll take it easy this week. Stick to the simple stuff. Like nuking stuff in the freezer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

There's nothing better.

We had grand plans to go to the beach on Saturday. Unfortunately, there was a killer rainstorm with thunder and lightening on Friday night into Saturday morning. The sky was gloomy.  It was definitely not going to be a beach day.

So I took our sandwich fixings and made some killer grilled cheese sandwiches instead. I didn't have any fancy ingredients. Just basic stuff. Of course if I had some better bread and different cheese I definitely would have used that.

I don't know about you. But I love grilled cheese. When I was young I loved it made with Muenster cheese for the excellent stretchy factor. It seemed like it could stretch, and stretch and stretch.  When I worked for Einstein Bros Bagels they had a grilled cheese sandwich that was made with three cheeses and in my opinion was too die for delicious. It was called the Ultimate Toasted Cheese Sandwich.

Today I made us grilled cheese with ham, Tillamook cheddar and a huge heirloom tomato that we bought on Friday. I seasoned the tomato with salt, pepper and just a splash of Lawry's Seasoning salt.

There is something about the buttery crunchy bread, the salty ham, the subtle taste of the cheese and the juicy flavorful tomato that is oooooooooh so delicious. So simple. Yet so tasty.  Halfway through eating the sandwich I realized I forgot to put the mustard on. Didn't even need it.

I paired it with a nice salad. Using the rest of the tomato. Because we all know you cannot save half a tomato and have it taste the same.  It just doesn't work. It gets mooshy, loses it's flavor and starts to look weird. It just gets yucky. Plus, those darn heirloom tomatoes cost a bloody fortune. So it's best to eat it all. And now I'm full.

Tomorrow morning I'm making banana bread. Another one of my favorite comfort foods!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Sunday. Go Niners!!!

It feels like fall here in Northern California. Yeah!

I finally did something with the very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl. So now we have some nice, warm banana crunch muffins. Ya gotta love the Barefoot Contessa. She has the best recipes. Yum.

This afternoon I'll be making chili and cornbread. I'm trying two new recipes from my Bobby Flay cookbook. He seems like a chili-kind-of-guy to me. So I trust that it will be full of flavor and have some heat to it. Don will probably be glued to the tv all day watching football. So it's going to be a somewhat lazy day here in the Mulkey household.

My mom sent me this picture this morning in the t-shirt we sent her from the Sausalito Arts Festival. She looks awesome doesn't she!

So Mom, hate to to this to you, but.......the 49ers play the Cardinals today. Go niners!!!!!

"I don't know, but I've been told
The Niners rock and the Cardinals are old.
We'll kick your butt, you better watch out.
Game on Cardinals, hear me shout!
Niners.... Rock the house!
Niners... Rock the house!"

Hee hee.  I just made that up!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sausalito Art Festival Update

The festival was last weekend.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. We rode bikes.  Ate some food. Drank some wine. And some beer. And some water. Looked at art. Bought art. Listened to music. Had a great time.

Click here and you can see a few more pics.

The artist, Pop Zhau, who paints the Mao paintings wasn't at the festival in 2008. He was commissioned by the Chinese Olympic committee to do work there. But he was back this year.

Here is Elli in front of the same painting we saw in 2007. Weird.

Then (2007) and now (2009.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The September Issue - luscious, fascinating, dishy fun. I'm in.

I don't know where I've been. But somehow I missed that there is a movie coming out about Anna Wintour, Editor of Vogue.

Sometimes referred to as "The Devil." Ms. Wintour has quite a reputation. Remember the movie "Devil Wears Prada"? Well Anna Wintour is the real person that Meryl Streep portrayed in the movie. Aaaah, now you're interested, right? Powerful women. Claws. Supermodels. I'm in. (kidding about the claws. They are beautifully manicured nails.)

The movie "September Issue", is a documentary by director R.J. Cutler, about the making of the single largest issue of Vogue ever printed - weighing in at a whopping 5 lbs! The magazine hit the news stands right as the economy was starting to tank in the fall of 2007. Remember?

The movie is a behind-the-scenes peek at how the September 2007 issue was put together. It follows Anna Wintour and her creative director Grace Coddington, as they made major decisions involving big buck photo shoots with famous photographers, selecting designs for the issue, models, celebrities, famous designers.........meoooooooow, daaaahling.  I can't wait to see all the action! (This is me pretending to be a fashionista. Ha! Don't all celebs wear sunglasses inside?)

Review from Time Magazine.

In theaters tomorrow.  

Will someone please bring me my feather boas?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I have an idea.

This has to do with laundry. Sheets in particular.  As my client would say, "I have a nit." He's British.

I was doing laundry the other night. I put the sheets in the dryer to dry. When I went get them out of the dryer the sheets and pillowcases were in a huge CLUMP.  All balled up in the fitted sheet.

AAAAHHHHHHH!!!  Does this happen to anyone else, or just me?

Stuff like this makes me cranky.  The sheets get all wrinkled. And everything that gets caught in the fitted sheet doesn't dry and is so krinkled it looks like a piece of paper you have crumpled up and thrown in the trash. Inevitably, I end up taking everything out, but the flat sheet, and drying it separately. How mad would you be if your beautiful Bella Notte linens (shown here) were in a clump in the dryer!

Here's my idea.  Instead of making the fitted sheets with elastic. Which turn into nice little pockets for everything to get caught in, use snaps.  Yes, snaps. This way, you can snap the corners together to keep the sheet on tight. But unsnap them when you want to wash them so they wash like a flat sheet. I think it's pretty ingenious. What do you think? (People could do laundry in a Snap!  Get it?  Ha Ha.)

(PS. If you like the look of the Bella Notte linens shown above, give Don a call at Pollin's, we rep their fabric line so we can custom make linens using their gorgeous, luxurious fabrics.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My baking adventures (misfires is more like it.)

I go through phases where I bake all the time and then not at all. I've been going through a baking kick lately. I love desserts with fruit in them, and now's the time to bake with fruit. My favorite recipes are from Nancy Silverton from LaBrea Bakery. I've had pretty good success with her recipes. They are not simple or quick to make, but they are always delicious.

Baking is tricky. The slightest mistake can mean disaster. Sometimes you don't know what you did wrong. It just didn't work out for some reason. I often wonder if the recipe is right. I knew a woman a few years ago who wrote cookbooks for a well-known, high-end kitchen store/chain. She said they often created recipes without really making them! That was eye opening to me. Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's the recipe.

See this image here? It's for a Brown Butter and Fruit Picnic Tart that called for butter and vanilla bean cooked until you get brown butter. mmm, mmm, mmm. (Elli is shown here licking the butter bowl clean.) I have no idea what I did wrong. All I know is that it was definitely not right. The pastry had a buttery, carmel/brown sugar flavor with the yummy raspberries on top. But when baked they became hollow. And they would not fall out of any of the tart pans. You had to eat them with a spoon and dig out every last crumb. We didn't toss them because after tasting them the flavor was SO GOOD we just couldn't. So what did I do wrong?

Anyway, my disasters are often not too pretty to look at. Or won't come out of the pan. But ALWAYS taste good. Because when I bake the recipe usually calls for butter, sugar and real vanilla. What's not to love with those three ingredients, right?

I don't usually improvise (I leave recipe making to the pros). Because baking is such a science I trust that someone else has tested this first. And when I do - it's usually not good. It's best for me to stick with the recipe.

One of my favorite summer dessert recipes is again from my Nancy Silverton's, Pastries from LaBrea Bakery, cookbook. It's called Everybody's Mother's Berry Cobbler. When made correctly (i.e. follow the recipe) it's awesome. Lately, I've tried to improvise. Not a good idea. Peaches don't work in this recipe. Too much juice. Doubling the strawberries and blueberries for a fruitier cobbler is also a BAD idea. The cake suffocates and you end up with fruity mush. Which tastes good. But is not what you were expecting. (That's what happened here.)

So I wonder, how many recipes do people make that don't make it on the blog or the website? It's all real here in the Mulkey household. I figure I should share the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep it on the up and up. Because I am the average test cook guinea pig. I have distractions (kid, family, dogs) a busy schedule, and a fair attention span for all the details. Pretty typical, right?

Lucky for me, I have very willing test subjects. Don and Elli are always willing to taste and tell. I'm super critical. They are much nicer, because they see me freaking out in the kitchen. I'm very lucky.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Return of shoulder pads. NO!!!

Oh jeez. I just had a major flashback to 1987.

True story: I walked into my office and realized that one of the foam shoulder pads I was wearing was missing. MISSING! I panicked. I quickly patted down my entire body to see if it had moved to a new location. Which happened a lot. Nope.  Where is it?  I quickly retraced my steps and found it on the ground in the parking garage. It had fallen out and I didn't even notice. I wonder if anyone saw it happen? It must have looked like I pooped out a big piece of foam! Nice.

This was a sign and I completely missed it.  I should have realized that foam shoulder pads worn with every clothing item I owned (including t-shirts) was a bad, and ridiculous looking idea.  But no, I stuck it back in its place and went on with my day like nothing happened.

So to my horror, I read on the front page of the Style section in the SF Chronicle that bold shoulders and shoulder pads are back.  No way. Not gonna do it.  I've been there, done that.  Am not repeating it.

The one thing I will pursue is finding the shoe they featured.  Those gorgeous, strappy sandals have my name all over them.  They better not cost a jazillion dollars or I'm going to be cranky.

Shoe update: It took forever to find these shoes on line. They were not at Nordstrom. I finally found them but they were $225. And the heel is over 4". I'll probably kill myself walking. So, no shoes for me!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One more artist to mention.

Here's one more exhibitor for the Sausalito Art Festival that I want to mention.

The company name is Chajo. They are based in Napa and make gorgeous custom wood furniture. The owners are Jonathan and Chanin, really nice youngish couple (as in my age. So youngish!) We do all the leather work for their cubes and chairs, so in essence, we're at the festival too!!

Here's a peek at a new chair we've been working on with them and their super-cool cubes with fossilized limestone tops. (You know you want one.)

Now, before you go, take at look around you. See an empty space on the wall? Are you tired of staring at the cheap print you picked up at Ross or L-N-T? Is your coffee table from 1980? Measure the space, and get your tooshie over to the festival and start shopping. It's time to spruce up. Forget about the price tags. They all take plastic. Support these talented artists. Buy some art!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Art, music, food, fun - this weekend in Sausalito.

The Sausalito Art Festival is this weekend. Yeah!

This is really the only art festival we go to anymore.  It has the most interesting and professional art of any show in the area - in our opinion anyway.  And it's rated the #1 outdoor art festival in America. Not sure who voted them #1. But I completely agree. I've been to a lot of festivals in my lifetime (used to do corporate event sponsorship.) I've seen it all.

They have an interesting mix of art, sculpture, music, food and wine. Here is Elli, in 2007, standing in front of a painting and a sculpture that we saw. 

We didn't buy the Chairman Mao painting, or the horse sculpture, but they definitely got our attention and got us talking. Which is what I think art should do -get your brain churning.

One of the nice things about the festival is that it's close enough to where we live in Mill Valley that we can bike to it. They have V.I.P. bike parking right up front in a secure area. It's free. Super convenient. And you feel good about not driving, especially when you live so close.

And we're not just festival window shoppers either. We always buy something. One year we bought a print. The next year a piece of pottery. And last year a huge painting from Scott Olson. Here's a sample of his style. The Olson painting is my favorite. It also cost the most, but it's something we'll have forever. 

This year I'm going to check out the wine area too.  Now that I'm on my mission to taste California wines this whole month, I should be able to check off a few new wines on my list. Not too much though. I do have to bike home.  

I love the image for this year's t-shirt. (It's the fish image above.) It was done by Tanya Doskova from British Columbia. Very cool. It's on the cover of the program too. For a copy, click here.