Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween weekend! Woo hoo!

I love Halloween. I totally get into dressing up and getting into character. This year I'm a go-go girl. Although, several people have asked me if these are regular clothes from my closet.  Hmmmmm. People think I have some sort of alter-fun existence outside of work. I'm cool with that. Not true. But a girl can always dream.

So here I am.

Go-Go "Party" girl - lookin' good.
Check out the boots!

And here is my scaaaaaaaary sister who posted this picture on her facebook page. Hopefully she won't KILL me for putting it here. But it's pretty hilarious. Gene Simmons, you better watch out!

Don't have any pics of Elli yet. They brought their costumes to school.
Have a good weekend everyone!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Crazy hair day.

Not mine. Although mine has been looking a little sorry lately. I was supposed to get it cut in July. And it's October. So that means I'm 3 mos overdue. It's to the point now where I've decided to just let it grow. I'll get it cut again someday.

Today it's all about Elli's hair. Last week was Spirit Week at school. It's one of Elli's favorite weeks. There is a different theme each day, ie. Pajama Day, Backwards day, Crazy Hair day. You get the idea.

Here's what we did for Elli's hair on crazy hair day.

Yeah. It's crazy. Not sure the shade of pink we chose is her best color. All I know is she had this grin on her face from the minute I dropped her off in the morning until the minute I picked her up.  It's great to be eight!

Gotta love her energy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chocolate Croissants (you can make at home!)

Yeah right.

Make chocolate croissants at home.

It's true! You can do it. No baking skills required. All you need is a cookie sheet and an oven.

A little back story......I've always thought about making croissants. Until last year when I went with Elli's class on a field trip to the Noe Valley Bakery. The owner showed us how they make croissant dough. It's incredibly time consuming. You add layer upon layer of butter to the dough which you roll and roll and roll and add butter to, and roll some more, add more more butter, more rolling until you have a million layers of dough and butter which give you that flakey, butter crust.

It's definitely one of those baking projects that is better left up to the professionals - as in go to a bakery and buy one. UNTIL NOW!!!

You're not going to believe this, but you can buy frozen croissant dough at Trader Joe's that tastes exactly like the real thing. I ain't kidding. You can make this anytime. You won't believe it.

You do have to plan ahead a little. But that's the hardest part. The night before you want to eat them put the croissant dough on a cookie sheet before you go to bed so it can proof overnight (rise.)

In the morning the croissant dough has risen (doubling in size) and are ready to pop in the oven. And this is what you get. Absolute heaven.

Look for the brown box at Trader Joe's
So you know what you gotta do. Go to Trader Joe's. Buy the dough. Let them proof overnight and and bake them in the morning. Your family will be stoked. I will be your hero. It will be our little secret.

Here's the final product. With a few bites missing.

And check this out. Click here to read a little story about the dude who makes these little beauties. Nice.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The little things.

You know how just a few little things can make or break your day?

Like coffee. If you're out of coffee in the morning, or it tastes bad, or say the coffee machine goes wacho and overflows all over the counter. Stuff like that just gets your day off to a very bad start. You can wake up all happy and ready to have an awesome day. And this kills it. Really kills it.

So what brought this on you're asking? I had a good day yesterday. Start to finish.

Well, first, it's about coffee.

We like to drink coffee made from good, quality beans. But we've had to downgrade because of the cost of coffee. (no more Blue Bottle Coffee for a while. Boo hoo.) But I'm happy to report we found some beans we like that are great - even when you're drinking it black like me. And I bought it from Smart and Final. (Not a chain known for its gourmet ingredients.) Although I must say I shop there more than I ever thought I would. I picked up their Peerless Coffee beans, Hawaiian Island Blend, and I have to tell you, it's pretty good and the price is right. Two pound bag for $13.99.

I drink it black. So it HAS to be good beans, or blech!

Second, it's about food.

Not really a little thing. But when a super nice neighbor and friend makes dinner for you and your family, well, it's nothing short of heaven. Especially when she's a really good cook. mmm, mmm, mmm Although I think I kind of overdid it. I was really stuffed. Happy. But stuffed.

Third, it's about homework.

Not my homework. Elli's homework. 4th grade homework. Nothing will ruin your evening faster than an 8 year old crying over her homework, and two tired and stressed out parents trying to get her to do it. It's not a pretty picture. So when we can get through an evening without crying - it's absolute heaven. You have no idea.

So today I'm just happy for all the little things. Cuz often it's the simple things in life that have the biggest impact on our lives.

You know what I mean?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chili failure. Again.

I did it again.

I made the most disgusting chili. Honestly, I didn't think it was possible to make the most miserable chili on the planet two times. (The last time I used a Bobby Flay Recipe. This time I tried a recipe in Food and Wine Magazine.)

I have successfully ruined chili twice. As in unedible chili.

I should create some sort of trophy for myself. It was so bad we ate the pepperoni pizza I got for the girls to eat. And it tasted like grade school cafeteria pizza. I wasn't even able to buy a frozen pizza that tasted decent.

Then to top it off, I dropped the apple pie I made upside down on the oven door as I was pulling it out of the oven. It slipped right off the cookie sheet. SPLAT! onto the oven door. I seriously had bad kitchen mojo.

The apples and juice were everywhere. The fruit fell between the door and the floor and spilled in the drawer where all the pots and pans are. I had to pull out the drawer and wash everything inside. Including the drawer.

I cleaned everything up and made myself a bowl of the chili. 'Cuz I refused to admit that it was unedible.

Don came in the kitchen and found me eating the bowl of the chili.

"I'm going to rename your blog the MARTYR CHEF." he said.

"Very funny. It tastes better now that we've added more stuff to it." I respond as snotty, and immature as possible.

"You're such a martyr." he says. "Why didn't you didn't make the corn bread." he said. (He saw cornbread ingredients on the counter. But no cornbread.)

"Why would I make the cornbread? The chili sucks. You're going to eat pizza." I say with a little bit of psycho chic taking over.

All this time the poor guy is reaching for a bowl to get chili. He's probably thinking to himself. "Geez, I have to eat this horrible chili so she won't feel bad. Wait? Did she say I can have pizza? I think I'll just put the bowl back and grab pizza and leave before SYBIL eats me alive."

Apparently he's not too scared of me, because he popped in the kitchen one more time. "Why did you make chili with short ribs anyway?"


Poor Don slipped away with his crappy pizza and ate it while watching the baseball game. 

The minute he left the kitchen I put the bowl of chili down. It was disgusting. Then I tasted the pizza. I honestly think it was more disgusting. So I poured myself a glass of wine and a bowl of goldfish crackers (which Sam the dog proceeded to stick his nose in and eat) and here I am now.


Here's a pictorial of my Saturday. Enjoy.

Look how pretty!
Holy CRAP! SH@#%  @%#& is pretty much what was said.

Goin' back in. We'll see what happens.
This chili..........

Oh well. You win some. You lose some.

Today the kitchen won. I lost.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Super Easy Homemade Flour Tortilla's

I've never really thought about making home-made tortillas. But I love eating them.

My favorite is the Mexican restaurants that have someone sitting at one of those tortilla making machines rolling dough and placing little dough balls in the machine which then magically spits out one delicious tortilla after another. I could seriously go to one of these restaurants and eat warm tortillas with butter, salt or guacamole and salsa for dinner - and not eat anything else. Of course I would have a margarita or two, too. But we're not talking about that today.

So this summer when Elli came home from Steve and Kate's camp talking about making yummy tortillas I thought I would look into it.

Of course I forgot. Until recently, when I found a recipe in my new client's in-store magazine called Something Extra. It was a sign. It was time to make tortillas.

So on Saturday morning I made homemade tortillas for breakfast. We topped them with salsa, a fried egg and a little bit of cheese. Mmmm,mmmm,mmmmm.

They were so easy. I'll definitely make them again.

Make sure you let the dough rest at least 30 minutes.

The tortillas that rested longer came out lighter, and rose a little more than the first batch.

They look pretty good, huh?

Homemade Flour Tortillas
2 cups flour
3 T shortening
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. water

1. Combine the flour, shortening, salt and baking powder with a fork until it resembles course crumbles.
2. Add the water, stir to combine.
3. Place dough on a floured surface. Kneed a few times until it's smooth.
4. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rest at least 30 minutes. (I rushed the first batch. Don't do that.)
5. Divide dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each piece with a rolling pin into a 6-7"circle.
6. Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high, place tortillas on the pan, cook ~2 minutes on each side, or until slightly browned and bubbly.
7. Eat and enjoy.

Makes 12 tortillas
*Recipe from Raley's Something Extra Magazine, Fall Issue, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Trés Chic Wine Wednesday!

Hello my wine loving friends.

What have you been drinking? I'm dieing to know!

The BevMo 5¢ sale is on. Have you gone? I haven't been myself, but Don meanered over and picked up some goodies.

One wine he picked up is one of my favorites, the 2009 Zolo Gaucho Select Malbec, it's on sale for  $15.99 + .05¢ for the second bottle.

Look who's hiding.
On Sunday night I brought a bottle of 2009 The Honorable Pinot Gris to book club. Cuz that's what book club is all about. Us mom's drinking wine, gabbing, and eventually talking about the book OUR DAUGHTERS READ for THEIR book club. Yeah, that's pretty much how we roll around here. It's fuuuuun. The book was good and scary too "Tales of Desperaux."

Anyway, it was really tasty. I'm glad we have a second bottle, I really like it. It's perfect on a hot summer night in the middle of October! I would definitely buy this again. And drumroll's only $14.99 + .05¢ for the second bottle. Oh yeah.

Here are Wilfred's picks for the sale. One of them is the Shiloh Road Chardonnay. Check out this picture! We just drove past this on Sunday. I had to get a picture!

Taken on 101 heading north to Healsburg
And here it is on the shelves at BevMo!

Wilfred gives it 91 pts. It's on the 5¢ sale right now too for just $16.99 + .05¢ bottle.

I can't help myself. I still love BevMo. No, actually I love wine. BevMo has some good juice at a good price. So I heart BevMo.

Warning:  keep track of your little pink piggies. According to their new TV commercial it's a dangerous world for little pink piggy banks.

It's very.........very......... scary.

eeee eee eee eeee

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Pioneer Woman Was Here. Holy Schnikes.

I have no idea why. All I know is that 14 hours ago she was here. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw her blog there "The Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummand." gaaaaaaaaasp!

I literally screamed in the middle of the Giants game. Don thought I was screaming at the game. But apparently I screamed at the wrong time, or maybe it was just loud, cuz he looked at me kind of funny.

"Whaaaat?" I say, with just a titch of attitude.

"It's the Pioneer Woman!" Holy Crap! So then I try to explain it to him.

"I can't believe it. The Pioneer Woman was on my site. She's like the grand poo bah of bloggers. She's uber famous. The queen mother. She's been on the Today Show. She wrote a book. She lives in Oklahoma on a ranch and home schools her kids. Remember I saw her at BlogHer last year? Aaaaaaah. Oh my gosh!"

I said all this without taking a breath and I could literally feel my eyes start to bug out. I realized I must sound and look ridiculous. Elli got caught up in my excitement and enthusiasm.

"Yeah, Dad! She's the cow lady!" she shouts.

Don was looking at me like my head was spinning.

And then I panicked. My photos! The photos in my new post looked terrible. The color of the pictures are all wacky. The apples don't look right. I have a serious white balance problem.

Who cares. The Pioneer Woman was here. That is so cool.

Maybe next time we can have a glass of wine together!

Apple Crumble

It's apple season. Yeah! There are so many yummy recipes to make. I was totally craving an Apple Crumble pie like Don and I used to get at Silverman's Farm in Easton, Connecticut. But I didn't want to make a pie. So I found an apple crumble recipe instead from my favorite baking cookbook, Pastries from the LaBrea Bakery.

Now, I'll have to confess. It wasn't perfect. The crumble topping got really dark in the oven, but the flavor was super yummy. The apples could have been juicier. So look for really fresh, juicy apples when you shop. 

The recipe was easy. Some of Nancy's recipes get complicated. Ok, most of them. But this one was actually very easy. I will definitely make it again. But I think I'll adjust the cooking time slightly - won't bake it as long next time.

Unfortunately I don't have a finished picture - we had company, things got crazy, and I never got the last shot. All I can say is there were 9 of us and there was one small spoonful left.  So this recipe definitely serves up to 10 like it says.

I had an excellent helper. Elli helped me peel the apples. She made crazy little hula apple dolls. And then I chopped off their skirts and the fun was over. 

Elli's apple hula lady.

Browned butter with a vanilla bean. mmmmm
Apples with sugar and the vanilla bean specks.
I kind of over-mixed the topping. It should not have been such large clumps.

Apple Crumble (from Nancy Silverton's Pastries from LaBrea Bakery)

3 lbs large, tart green apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch cubes, to equal about 6 cups
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 T light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 T unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
2 T cornstarch
2 T apple juice or water

1/2 cup + 2T all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2T granulated sugar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 stick + 2T unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/2 cup + 2T rolled oats

6-cup capacity baking dish

1. In a large bowl, toss together the apples and sugars. Set aside for an hour until the apples start to break down and just begin to release their juice.

2. To prepare the topping: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and cinnamon and pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off or mix on low until it's the consistency of a course meal.

3. Transfer to a bowl and, using your hands, toss in the oats. Chill until ready to use.

4. To prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan over high heat, begin to melt the butter. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of the knife, scrape out the pulp and the seeds and add the scrapings and the pod to the butter. Swirl the pan to ensure the butter cooks evenly and doesn't burn. It will bubble somewhat vigorously as it browns. Continue cooking 3-5 more minutes until the bubbles subside and the liquid is dark brown with a nutty, toasty aroma. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the butter and brown flecks over the apples, tossing to combine.

5. Adjust the oven rack to the upper position and preheat the oven to 450º.

6. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the apple juice or water, mixing well to remove the lumps. Place a strainer over the bowl of apples and strain the cornstarch liquid into the apples. Toss together and transfer to the baking dish.

7. Crumble the topping over the apples, squeezing it together in your fist to create a coarse, uneven, lumpy texture.

8. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, until the juices are bubbling. Turn the oven down to 375º and bake for another 50-55 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and the juices are caramelized.

Hint: If you over mix the butter in the streusel and it clumps, freeze the streusel until firm and grate it - on the largest hold of the grater - directly over the fruit. (I did not do this. But I think I should have.)

Delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream.

8-10 servings

Happy eating!

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'll be back. I promise.

It's been a really hectic week.

I haven't had a chance to write anything. I thought about it a few days ago for about a nano second, but that was before all H E Double Hockey sticks broke loose at work.

I'll be back next week with so much witty commentary that you won't even remember that you had multiple 80's flashbacks this week reading the Groove post over, and over again.

Here's what's happening here this weekend.

The Blue Angels are in town.
The show in the sky is very cool. They fly right over my office. It will be VERY loud today.
We might do a little of this.....

Muir Beach
And this......
Maybe a drive up to Napa to see this.

And most definitely this.....

Have a good weekend!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Groove

"Dude, you're on my blog." I say to my brother-in-law in an imaginary conversation.
"What? I thought you wrote about cooking?" he responds (in my imaginary conversation.)

"Yeah, but I write about other stuff too. That's the "life" part of the title. So yep, you're on the blog. You and your band! Isn't that cool?" I happily respond.

And then he watches the attached video and is not happy with me, due to the poor quality of the recording and shoddy film work.

I shrug my shoulders and just give him my best. "Dude, you're a rock star!" I say.

The end.

Last weekend we hosted my sister and her family. They were in town so my brother in-law could have a reunion with his college band mates, for a 20-yr "gig" reunion at a local hole-in-the-wall pub in the South Bay.

Mike's band was quite popular back in the day at UCSB. The Groove was "the band" at many, many functions from bars to sorority events, like the Gamma Phi Beta Ice Cream Socials.

Here they are circa 1989!!!

Ya' gotta love the 80's! The hair, sunglasses, and fanny packs. Oy.

1988 - 1990
So the guys got together and put on a pretty good show! They actually sounded great. Mike (the bro in-law) is on the trumpet.

October 3, 2010 - Belmont, CA
Imagine how good they could be if they practiced all the time. And imagine how much better they sounded in person versus what you see on my iphone!

Way to go Mike (and band) I hope it's not another 20 years before we hear you again. And hopefully Bruce (lead singer) will post his video. Which I'm sure is much better than what I got.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Baked Chicken Parmesan

I made this last Friday night. It is sooooooo good. It's easy to make. Tastes great. And it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. PLUS you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. Those are my favorite recipes.  It's a home run. Which is what SF Giants will hopefully do tonight. Geez Louise. They're making Don nuts. They better win!!!!! But back to this winner of a chicken dinner.

Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

Crunchy chicken. Sweet, flavorful tomato sauce. It doesn't get much better than this. I know the picture is not doing it justice. I was in a hurry. No time for getting fancy. I had hungry people to feed.

I made a few of the chicken breasts without the breadcrumbs for Elli and her friend. One, I wasn't sure they would like the mustard, and two, her friend has Celiac disease. So I just sauteed the chicken for them. No crispy panko breadcrumbs for her.

Don and I immediately knew this was something we would make again. For one, my hubby with his southern roots is a SUCKER for crispy chicken. And the mustard gave it a mysterious delicious flavor that you couldn't quite identify. But it worked so well with the sauce. It was awesome!

So whatever you do, don't leave out the secret ingredient. I used this mustard from Trader Joe's. I highly recommend it.

Now. For those of you that don't like mustard, like my mom who's going to read this and say "yuck." And my dad will read this and say "yum." Don't dismiss the recipe because of the mustard. Don't do it! I say go for it mom. You just might be surprised! If you don't like it you can give me a razz in the comments.

So here's the link to the recipe. The only thing I did that is different from the recipe (and HIGHLY recommend) is using Panko instead of regular bread crumbs. You can find them in the Asian section at the grocery store. They might be in baking section too, with regular breadcrumbs. The Safeway here has it in both places.

The recipe is from Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes. She has amazing recipes. Some of my favorites from her are Lemon Bread recipe and Chicken Piccata. Her Lemon Bread is sooooooooo yummy. Oooh. I wish I had some now.

Chicken Parmesan

Tomato Sauce:
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and ground black pepper

3 T. whole grain Dijon mustard
1 T. white-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 T. unsalted butter, melted

1. In a large saucepan, heat the garlic and oil together over medium high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until sauce thickens, about 10-12 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

1. Cut each chicken breast half in half for smaller pieces. With a meat pounder, pound the chicken pieces to flatten them to an even thickness - between 1/4 - 1/2 inch.
2. Whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, tossing to coat well.
3. In another bowl, mix together the panko, grated cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix well and add in the melted butter. Transfer to a shallow plate. Dredge the chicken pieces 1 piece at a time in the crumb mixture, coating completely. Press the crumbs in gently to adhere and transfer to a stick-free baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
4. Serve with a side of rice or pasta. Ladle sauce over the chicken.