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.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So many things to be thankful for

But first let's talk about food.

It's been a good year for us so I splurged on food and even bought flowers for the table. I haven't bought flowers all year. It felt good to have them in the house again.

I was only making dinner for our little family of three. But I still wanted it to be special so I asked everyone what they wanted, and that's what I cooked. Don wanted dressing, Elli wanted pasta, and I wanted gratin potatoes with gruyere cheese. So that's what we had with our smoked turkey (from New Braunfels Smoke House in Texas), gravy and cranberry/pomegranite sauce. It was delightful.

It took me all day long to fix everything. I had pots and pans juggled everywhere. Somehow I got it all done without an incident. I sure would like a bigger kitchen again. But for now we'll be happy that there are flowers on the table.

I used Don's dressing recipe. I usually buy a jiffy cornbread mix for the corn bread and I forgot so I had to make it from scratch. I realized it's not hard to make from scratch, so I may do it that way from now on.

And of course there was pie. You can't have Thanksgiving without pie. Don loves his mom's Coconut Cream Pie. It's become a Thanksgiving tradition. I made a home-made crust that turned out perfectly light and flaky. (Thank you Elise from Simply Recipes. Her tip on freezing the butter made all the difference. You can find the recipe for her perfect pie crust here.)

The coconut pies before the meringue.
Elli joined me throughout the day.  She was a big help with the pie crust and made the home-made crescent rolls with very little help from me. I showed her how to flour the board, and kneed and roll the dough. Then I let go of my desire to have everything perfect, and let her roll all the crescent rolls herself. Okay, maybe I did cut the dough. I promise, she did the rest. And guess what? They're perfect.

Making crescent rolls.

Here is the recipe if you would like to make the Flaky crescent rolls. It's Jenna Weber's recipe from her blog Eat.Live.Run  Click here.

Dinner is served!!!

As I cooked today I thought about all the wonderful things that have happened this year. It didn't start out wonderful, and there were a lot of stressful moments, but it has turned out to be an amazing year.

~ Don successfully ran his first half marathon in honor of our brother-in-law Mike who was battling leukemia. He is now in remission.

~ Don's mother, Rose, has been in and out of the hospital as was our sister-in-law and niece. They all seem to be on the road to recovery. We're so thankful they're all healthy.

~ Our store in Napa has had a major turnaround this year - just in the nick of time, too. We couldn't have survived another bad year.

~ I've been able to use my new social media/writing skills by working freelance for an old client. It's been a great career change for me. I love what I'm doing and am so grateful for the opportunity.

~ Elli is thriving. She's put up with our transition this year without a single complaint. When I grow up I want to be just like her.

~ Don and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this summer. It's been an amazing and wonderful journey. We've had our share of "in good times and bad." this year. But we've weathered those storms and still like each other. : )

~ And my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They're happy, healthy, and busy as ever.

Life is good.

I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving.


Kris and Elli (the celery Queen!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lunch at the Oxbow Market in Napa

I stopped by the Oxbow market in Napa on Friday to pick up some lunch. This is a regular occurrence for a lot of people judging by the crowd. But not for me, I'm a cheapskate when it comes to lunch. I would rather brown bag it and eat left-overs so I can spend my money later on dinner and good wine.

But last Friday was different, I had a meeting in Concord that was ending right before lunch. I wasn't sure what the lunch situation would be so I didn't pack a lunch. As it turned out there was no group lunch planned so I left the meeting and headed to Napa.

The Oxbow market is only about a mile from our store so I thought it would be a good place to stop. The last time I was there they had just opened and most of the restaurants weren't there yet so I was looking forward to seeing how it had evolved. I started imagining all the food and smells - freshly ground coffee, burgers on the grill, hot soups, taquerias, home-made pizzas, cured meats, olive oil, and cheese, fresh seafood from the oyster bar and cupcakes from Kara's Cupcakes. I could smell it all in my head. I'm pretty sure I ate a cupcake in my head too. They are soooooo good.

Once inside, the space reminded me of a fancy barn. There is a lot of wood and metal, with rustic yet very stylish finishes. Most of the restaurants are set up along the perimeter, like barn stalls. I started wandering around mentally taking inventory of my lunch choices. As I rounded the corner by the Oyster Bar I saw someone I recognized out of the corner of my eye. As I got closer I realized it wasn't anyone I knew, it was Chef Michael Chiarello!

I could feel my face get flush, and I'm sure I looked like a dork, as I walked past him trying to be non-chalant and cool. My immediate thought was "I have to Tweet this!" I'm a huge fan of Iron Chef and he's on the current series Next Iron Chef which I watch every week.

And then I thought, my tweet would be way better with a picture. I held my phone up in his direction to take the picture when he looked right at me. I wasn't expecting to make eye contact. It freaked me out.

I immediately walked away - without getting the shot. I totally chickened out! I felt guilty and weird about semi-stalking him in Oxbow. I glanced back and and he had walked the other direction. Then I saw him again as I rounded the next corner. He was with his wife and kids. The poor guy was just trying to have lunch with his family. He didn't need dorks like me taking his picture.

I quickly ordered a pre-packaged salad from the closest restaurant, which was Pica Pica Maize. I felt oddly stalkerish hovering over my phone while I tweeted that I saw him. (No mention of the wife or kids, just that I saw him.)

No real harm done I guess. It is a public place.

Oh, and my lunch? It was awesome. The restaurant, Pica Pica Maize specializes in Venezuelan food. I got the best salad for just five bucks! It was full of fresh ingredients like jicama, roasted corn, peppers, and organic greens. I loved it. I will definitely go back for another one. Especially since it was so cheap! Of course I'll also be on high alert for more celebs. You just never know....

The salad in the package.
The oh-so-delicious salad on a plate. Scrumptious!!
Cheese, glorious cheese!
C Casa Tacos
Ritual Coffee
610 & 644 First Street
Napa, California 94559

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011 Napa Valley Film Festival

Rachel and Kris
The invitation to attend the Napa Valley Film Festival came through the Clever Girls Network. I applied thinking I had a pretty good chance of getting picked since I live in the Bay Area and work in Napa. And I did!

Adrian and Rachel
Lucky for me two of my blogging buddies were also selected - Rachel of Mommy Needs a Vacation and Lizz of Am I A Funny Girl

What a fun time we had drinking with our Clever Girl friends on the rooftop deck of the Avia hotel, hob-nobbing with movie directors, producers and actors like Adrian Grenier. (The hunk on Entourage.)

Our passes got us in the TweetDeck VIP area, all movies, wine tastings all over Napa, and the late-night "after party."

George Clooney was there early in the week for the screening of his movie. Adrian Grenier was on a panel talking about his new online platform dedicated to sustainable design and conscious consumer. And they launched their brand new SHFT Pinot Noir that I tried and LIKED!

Seriously, do they think I'm the other Kris Mulkey spelled with a CH, the Twin Peaks Chris Mulkey? Holy guacamole.

Flora Springs was serving up their wine all day in the Tweet Deck bar. Really loved the Sauvignon Blanc. Although the Cabernet was pretty tasty, too.

We then capped off our super fun Saturday with dinner together at Carpe Diem Wine Bar in Napa. I was in heaven.

Truffle popcorn. OMG.
Seriously. I'm just a wee little blogger in the big bad land of blogging. How did I get here?

Thank you Clevers and blogging buddies. I had a great time.  See you next year!!!!??!!

Back L to R: Kris, Lizz, Kristy, Deidre Front Row: Ngan, Robin, Cat, Rachel, Erin

Hey, while you're at the Avia Hotel don't forget to visit my friends Kathleen and Elizabeth at their store WEST END NAPA and drink some wine in the JOHN ANTHONY TASTING ROOM.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Anderson Cooper Talk Show

Anderson Cooper and Gloria
Don and I were driving home from Napa last Wednesday when I got this email out of the blue.

TO: Kris Mulkey
FROM: Brian Grobman
SUBJECT: tv show


My name is Brian and I work at Anderson, a new daytime talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper.  I was interested in speaking with you about an idea I had for a story.  Please give me a call when you get a chance at 212 275 8939 or contact me by email at

It would also be helpful if you let me know a number I could reach you at as well.

I look forward to speaking with you as soon as possible in the near future.

Brian Grobman

1271 Avenue of the Americas // 16th Floor
New York, NY 10020

I responded immediately:

TO: Brian Grobman
FROM: Kris Mulkey
SUBJECT: tv show



He called me 5 minutes later. Holy crap. He thought my message was odd/sassy/funny. Okay good. That's me, I'm a funny girl.

He started asking me questions about my family, the holidays, cooking, and then he finally got to why he was calling.

"We're doing a holiday show about families getting together and differences you experience in the kitchen when everyone gets together. Does anything happen when you get together with your family?" he asked.

We drink a lot of wine. A lot. But I didn't tell him that.

The only thing I could think of was the differences we have with my sister-in-law. She wants everything to be organic and there can be no pork products, aka, no bacon or sausage. It definitely causes some drama because that's not the way we cook all the time. So I told him. And then I told them they are hosting all of us for the first time this Christmas.

"That sounds like a perfect fit for our show. Would you be willing to fly to NY with your sister-in-law to be on our show?" he asked.

"On the show WITH HER? TALKING ABOUT DIFFERENCES?" Hello? You don't know me very well. I'm not good at that. "No. No, I can't do that. I would be really uncomfortable. It would be weird. I can't." I said, as a hot flash overcame me head to toe.

He begged. "It will be friendly, I promise. Our show is not like Jerry Springer. It's supposed to be fun."


I wouldn't budge. The more I talked about our family differences the more I realized I sounded like an ass for not wanting organic products and wanting to make bacon and sausage. What was I pro chemical? Holy crap.

He asked if I knew anyone else that might be interested. I mentioned our CT friends and gave him their info. Who knows, maybe they would be less of a freakazoid stress monster and will think it's fun.

We hung up and I told Don and Elli the whole story. Of course they were in the car and heard my side of the conversation. They both thought I was nuts. We should totally do it. Everyone has differences in their family. Why not?? We can fly to NY, it will be fun!!! CALL HIM BACK!!!


YES!!! they shouted. They were super excited. EVEN DON!

So I did. But I was nervous about it. I mean it's one thing having a blog where I blab about everything in my life. But TV? That's something else entirely. Plus, what would I wear? And is it possible to lose 10 pounds in a week? I would be willing to stop eating right then.

My stomach was in a knot. I couldn't think straight. I immediately called my sister, and mother, and then my brother (husband of the sister-in-law.)

My mom: "Go for it!"
My sister: "I think I'm going barf."
My dad: "Can we be on the show too?"
My brother: "Yeah, sure, I'll ask Alix when she gets home."
Elli: "I want to go if my cousin can go to."
Don was already planning on how we would visit all our CT friends in a day and a half.

I spoke with another producer and passed her test.

She just had to talk to Alix.

I could not sleep that night. Was I doing the right thing? What if this went wrong? I don't want to create enemies with my family.

The next day Alix was busy and didn't get in touch with the producer which I took as a sign that she didn't want to participate.

The producers were hounding me with emails and phone calls (in a good way) so I finally sent them a polite letter saying we were declining the offer. I took her non-response as a "no."

She finally did talk to them, but by that point it was clear she didn't really want to do it.

And that was it. It was over. The producers moved on.

No all expense paid trip to New York. No 15 minutes of fame. No visiting our friends. And no potential public humiliation either.

My entire body relaxed.

The show airs this Wednesday afternoon. I wish I wasn't working so I could watch it. But then again if everyone is all nice and sweet to each other I'll be mad. So I better not.

What would you have done?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Neighbors helping Neighbors

My sister Kathy and her family are the kind of people you hope are your neighbor or friend. They're generous, and they're doers.

When they learned that a neighbor boy was in the hospital unexpectedly she and her family didn't just sit back and do nothing. They kept in touch with the family to find out how their son was doing. She asked everyone she knew to keep the family in their thoughts and prayers.

She listened when the worried mother expressed her fear and frustration with how her son was doing.  She felt sad when the mother told her they were staying at a hotel because the hospital was 45 minutes away from their home.

They were spending night after night in the hotel so they could spend more time by their sons bedside. 

The constant worry and financial burden were becoming difficult to deal with adding even more stress.

Kathy wanted to do something. But she wasn't sure what.

Then all the kids from the neighborhood had an idea. What if they organized a fundraiser to raise money? They knew that extra money for hotel bills would help take away some of the financial worry. And they knew which mom would take the idea and run with it.

My sister is not the type to sit back and do nothing.

So last Saturday they had a group of families gathered in front of their house washing cars, and selling cookies and lemonade. They spread the word on Facebook and by text messaging and calling everyone they knew.

The bake sale continued that evening at the local Haunted House.

By the end of the day they had raised $2,500 for the Wright family.


It gave me goosebumps when I read about how well they did.

She is a true friend. And an amazing sister. I am so proud of what they've done.

The local paper picked up the story and wrote about it. Hopefully they'll get even more donations to help Christian and his family. You can read the article here.

To help the Wright family financially, donors can write a check or contribute cash to the Christian Wright Benefit Account at any Rabobank branch. Checks can be mailed to the bank's Buellton branch:

Christian Wright Benefit Account
P.O. Box 225
Buellton, CA 93427

Thank you.