22 December 2009

me, as a garden

Don't you love it when you come across something... a picture, a book, a song, heck a piece of clothing... and you get that quiet/excited/tingly feeling of just: YES. That is so me.

Just happened.

Usual lunchtime clicking... found a UK gardening site/blog called Fennel and Fern. On which is posted a bunch of garden-style mood boards. I love mood boards! I do them for work sometimes, for new projects. I scan them quickly and there I am... apparently I'm a potager (pictured above; click to see big).

What are you?

Image from Fennel and Fern.

i love felt

Maybe my meds are off, but I'm totally kookoo for felt right now. Especially when I see this pure genius idea, from Rachel at Heart of Light:

I may be a wee bit over-caffeinated this morning, but I literally clutched my heart and said, Ohhhhhh..... preeeeeetty.

Image from Heart of Light

20 December 2009

happy birthday toby

Today is Toby's birthday. Not the big one... yet. This year, we're happily homebound, so we had a quiet homemade dinner. We were talking tonight about how old he was when we met. Twenty-five. TWENTY-FIVE! I had just moved to San Francisco, post-college... I was just 23. He was Mister San Francisco City Kid Cool Guy. Self-sufficient, walked everywhere. Owned his own company. Probably went to indy rock shows every night. Mission kid. I was such a newbie... fascinated by it all.

We've both changed in certain ways since then... new situations but same essentials. Above is how I know him now, in his present incarnation. Wonderful, nurturing father. Comforting, calming presence.

Happy Birthday, Toby.

19 December 2009

pizza of the week: radicchio, fontina & walnut

Um yeah, I did just do a pizza post. It's not that we actually eat pizza more than once a week, it's more that I really like posting about them. I feel inspired by a blank slab of stretched dough. And, vegetarian pizzas are what I'm really into these days... the options within the plant (and cheese, let's be honest) world are many. I like picking one interesting ingredient and then trying to match it up with friendly partners.

Like tonight's pizza--yep, I'm blogging on a Saturday night; it's how I roll these days--I had some gorgeous, glossy radicchio hiding amongst some braising greens. I'm a big fan of bitter winter greens, so I pulled out a handful of the maroon leaves. Taking cues from some delicious radicchio salads* I've eaten, I put this one together. To me, a bitter green lover, it was delish.


Radicchio, Fontina & Walnut Pizza

Start with basic dough recipe. Chop one clove garlic and steep it in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Roll out your dough and brush with garlic oil. Sprinkle with a handful each of grated mozzarella and fontina cheeses. Chop 6-8 leaves of radicchio into 1/2" strips and sprinkle over pizza. Add a few rings of thinly sliced red onion, 1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary, and a small handful of chopped walnuts. Spray or drizzle lightly with olive oil and a tiny sprinkling of salt. Bake. Garnish cooked pizza with chopped Italian parsley and a squirt of lemon juice. Slice and serve.


*Speaking of salads: as he was assembling his customary Meat Masterpiece, Toby regarded mine and paraphrased a semi-famous (at least in our house) quote from Alton Brown's hamburger episode: "This is a [pizza]. Not a salad." Wah wah.

17 December 2009

recipe alert

People, I have two important culinary items for you... one addresses the seemingly impossible. And the other is long overdue.

First, if I told you that a delicious brunch dish--as I mentioned, I'm very into brunch these days--exists that is at once rich, prosciutto-y (yes, that's a word), satisfying, decadent AND low-calorie... would you believe me? Nope, I wouldn't either. Brunch is all about eggs, cheese, cream and bread. Lubricated with gallons of coffee and champagne.

But, it's true. The morsel of deliciousness (and wee cuteness I might add) shown above is apparently a paltry 27 calories per cute little serving. Recipe here. If you wanted to get crazy and gild the lily, nutrition-wise, throw in some chopped spinach or sauteed mushrooms... or scallions or zucchini in another season. Too cute.

Second, a sad fact: apparently my beloved Nutella is filled with trans fats. Bummer... I love that stuff so much that I've made Nutella ice cream for my also Nutella-loving husband. So, instead of abstaining from chocolate and hazelnut heaven, why not make your own? Always a reliable recipe source, my boss Robin clued me into this recipe from the L.A. Times. First, YUM. Second, where has this recipe been my whole life? I'm thinking shortbread window cookies filled with homemade Nutella. I see you nodding.

15 December 2009

pizza of the week

This is my current favorite, delicious and seasonal,
from the excellent Chez Panisse Vegetables: Butternut Squash Pizza.
Very simply, it's a sauceless pizza: brush a pizza crust with olive oil in which you steeped chopped garlic. Sprinkle over a small handful (each) of grated mozzarella and fontina cheese and top with a few slices of pre-roasted Butternut squash*. Bake in the oven. During which time, fry up a handful of fresh sage leaves in hot olive oil. Drain on paper towels and salt lightly. When the pizza is cooked, garnish with the sage leaves, some chopped Italian parsley and a squirt of lemon juice. Maybe also a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil!

*So, remember this photo of Jacky & the squash?

So far, that one monster has yielded:
- healthy cupcakes for Jacky's birthday (two batches!)
- butternut squash bread (thrown in the freezer for later)
- a big batch of random roasted squash slices (frozen for later)
- TBD: I still have a big bag of uncooked slices in the fridge (any ideas?? soup anyone?)

14 December 2009

something about colder days...

I just love dressing him up in warm things... hats, jackets, sweatshirts.
And, look, big boy shoes!

11 December 2009

what to bake?

So, this Sunday my dear friend Kristen and I are getting together for Holiday Baking Extravaganza 2009. I can't wait... tomorrow, we're both picking up packaging materials: me, boxes and bags; Kristen, ribbons and baubles. Sunday, it's on! We'll be baking, drinking tea... there have even been rumors of watching P&P while we bake... Did I say Baking Extravaganza 2009? I meant Girly Dorkfest 2009 :)

But, what to bake? How to narrow it down? Such dilemmas, people! Toby will be "manning" the little guy, but we only have a certain amount of time. The list can't be endless. What I'm currently considering for this season (no, I won't get to all of these):
  • Madeleines: this is a must in my book as well as Kristen's: for her, she's always made them and she makes them so very well. For me, my mom always made them (she'd send me all-Madeleine care packages in college... awww), so it's kind of a Proustian thing. I'm still trying to re-connect with my mom's original recipe, but in the meantime, this one from Heidi @ 101 Cookbooks looks great.
  • Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies: doesn't that just sound great? Rich and refreshing. The master shortbread recipe can also be applied to Raspberry Window cookies and others.
  • Minty Chocolate Christmas Cookies, from 101 Cookbooks. These crazy-cute little Oreo-meets-an-oyster jobbers (click link for photo) contain whole wheat pastry flour, which makes them just slightly healthy-ish. But, I do love the idea of more wholesome treats, which makes me kind of Heidi's groupie.
  • Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies: Hmm, I'm noticing a trend. I like lemon stuff and I like sandwich-style cookies. I'm going with it. This one is from Gourmet magazine (thank goodness the recipes archive is still accessible).
  • Linzer Torte cookies: I made a full Linzer Torte for Toby's December birthday a couple of years ago... an almond and hazelnut lattice crust with raspberry preserves, topped with crunchy Demerara sugar. It was super tasty and delightfully labor-intensive, so I'd like to transform that exact recipe (I think it was from The Joy of Cooking) into cookie form.
  • Espresso Caramels: another one from 101 Cookbooks. I've been meaning to make these for two years. This is the year! Hopefully.
So, are you baking this holiday season? What's on your must-bake list??

Photo via Sunset.

10 December 2009

a little jacky time

It's been all food here for a while, so let's take a Jacky intermission. Shall we?

These are the first few days of his second year, and this sweet little boy is lately looking like... well, a big little boy. He's taking first steps, he's using first words. Out of baby-ness is emerging a little person: a sweet, pensive and hilarious little guy.

Current faves: toast, blueberries, doggies, books and "Da-da."
(Oh, and the hammer. Viva la hammer!)

07 December 2009

december brunch ideas

We recently had a brunch for friends at the house... the thing that I most like about these things is the menu-planning*. Out come the cookbooks, but I also check my archives of saved recipes. Do you use "del.icio.us"? It's genius for bookmarking everything with nifty tags and labels, but I mostly use it for recipes. If I come across something that would be a great cookie or brunch or weeknight recipe, I save it and tag it as such.

So, in pulling together this menu, I basically checked out my "brunch" file and picked out some seasonal options for this time of year. Here's what we served...

Early Winter Brunch

Egg Tartlets (or "Egg Flowers", see photo above--cute, no?), from Taste Buddies
I turned these into a vegetarian option, by trading out the bacon for sautéed chard and Fontina. Also, I obviously used puff pastry rather than short crust. Almost too cute to eat.

Canadian Bacon Strata, from Everyday Food
The un-veggie option. I upped the nutrition factor with whole-wheat, organic English muffins. I've made this recipe with regular muffins, and this worked just as well.

Winter Fruit Salad, from Smitten Kitchen
The antidote to the above :). Super tasty, wintry flavors. I decided to leave the pretty red, green and golden peels on the fruits, and added slivered almonds on top to garnish.

Cranberry Cream Scones, from Smitten Kitchen
with Orange Butter (blend 1 stick soft butter with 1 t. orange zest and 2 T. fresh orange juice. Add a tiny bit of salt (or use salted butter) and sugar (if needed) to taste).
If you ask me, scones are always part of brunch.

Oven-roasted Potato Wedges
Russets, cut into wedges, tossed with oil and spices, roasted at 400-degrees until crisp.
Toby made these delicious little slivers.

...all served with Mimosas (OJ & Grapefruit style), juice and lots of Peets coffee.


* The other thing I love about hosting brunch is it's over so early, so people can get on with their days... and we're left to enjoy a clean house full of flowers for the rest of the day. Yep, I'm officially old ;)

03 December 2009

oh carbonara...

How I love thee. Let me count the ways:

You're easy, satisfying and flexible. (Ooops, this is a family blog!)

Stupid jokes aside, is pasta carbonara part of your easy-cooking-night repertoire? For some of you, I'm sure it is. But for others... please listen up. This is a fabulous dish to master. It's perfect for almost any setting: from cooking for yourself to impressing others*. It's an alchemistic melange of egg, cheese, bacon and whatever else you want.

Lest that would make you think pasta carbonara is all sin and no vitamins... I'll have you know that we often make ours kinda healthy. Shhhh, don't tell. Whole wheat pasta, spinach, kale and other veggies routinely make an appearance in our Thursday Night Fave.

Pasta Carbonara
Chez ST&F style**

Makes 2 main-dish servings (doubles easily)

5 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
3 rashers of bacon, stacked and cubed
1/2 c. peas (organic frozen for us, this time of year)
1 large egg
1/4 c. cream
Lots of freshly ground pepper
Teensy bit of sea salt
1 c. parmigiano-reggiano cheese, finely grated
small handful of Italian parsley, chopped
  1. Fry bacon in a non-stick skillet. When crispy and delicious, push bacon pieces to one side and drain most of the fat out (do with it what you will), leaving a scant amount in the pan. Leave heat on very low. You want the pan to still be warm, not hot.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions.
  3. When 4 minutes remain in pasta cooking time, add frozen peas. When cooking time is complete, drain pasta and peas, leaving plenty of pasta cooking water clinging to the noodles.
  4. Turn drained pasta and peas directly into the bacon skillet. Toss in the bacon-y goodness to coat.
  5. Whisk egg, cream, pepper and salt together in a small bowl. Pour into skillet and quickly stir to coat noodles. Add 2/3 of the cheese, half the parsley and continue stirring. Adjust the heat as needed: you want the egg mixture to thicken gently, not scramble. If you keep the heat sufficiently low to begin with, you may need to raise it slightly to ensure the egg mixture clings to the noodles. Don't overcook.
  6. When the egg mixture clings almost completely to the pasta, plate it. Divide pasta between two plates and garnish with remaining cheese, parsley and your best extra virgin olive oil. Dig in.

* As far as impressing others, I'll confess: my Mister always makes this dish. My job is to chop the parsley, throw in the cheese and look on admiringly.

** Some people say cream doesn't belong in carbonara, but this silky version works great for us.

02 December 2009

goodnight moon

last night... right before tucking Jacky in,
the backyard was bathed in a silver spotlight.
misty fog enveloped the neighborhood,
just like a fairy tale.

Lucky me, I slipped away and followed the moon
over misty Golden Gate Bridge...
for dinner on Dana's Sausalito boat.
Beautiful night.

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