Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spinach Rice with Parmesan

Try this next time you're looking for a jazzy side dish to serve beside a protein.

Rather than the usual pasta or plain rice, add some fresh spinach, egg, and parmesan cheese to some prepared grain and bake until golden. There were no leftovers here.

Spinach Rice with Parmesan

1 cup rice, cooked and cooled slightly

1 egg, beaten

1 handful baby spinach, stems trimmed

3 Tbs grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small baking dish or oven-proof bowl, toss the spinach with the warm rice. Add the egg and 2 Tbs of the parmesan and mix well. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs parmesan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mom's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

We all have a banana bread in our lives. This is mine.

I can see the appeal it might have for a busy young mom like mine- it's easy to throw together and provides a more nutritious sweet alternative. She would bake it in a 9x13 pan, and my brothers and I would devour it for a snack or dessert.

If you have some really ripe bananas, you're in business. The riper they are, the sweeter and more developed the banana flavor will be. As for shape, you pick. Mom favored a 9x13 sheet cake pan; today I'm baking for a birthday, so little cakes seemed appropriate. The pan did not hold all the batter, so the remainder made a small loaf.

Please don't fool yourself; this is still dessert. But banana, whole wheat flour, and nonfat yogurt give more nutritional value than, say, a vanilla cupcake with frosting. You can cut the butter by a little bit if you must, but if you're baking for a special someone (and I am, for a good friend) show your affection with a little butta.

I hope you love these- I do.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup very ripe mashed banana (2 large)

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease the pans you plan to use.

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar and eggs well. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, then add the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. Fold together, adding the mini chocolate chips until combined.

Bake for:

1 large loaf- 1 hour

4 mini loaves- 40 minutes

9x13 cake pan- 28-30 minutes

12-cup muffin tin (which I used here)- 20 minutes

Cool slightly before eat, and completely before storing.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Bread, transformed to a muffin, transformed to a scone.

I get emails from King Arthur Flour with products and recipes, and this week I was intrigued by some Irish Soda Bread muffins. Bread in muffin form? Sounds like a great idea for breakfast.

With an Irish husband and St. Patrick's Day around the corner, I couldn't resist. The recipe isn't terribly authentic- traditional Irish soda bread only has flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk- so I felt free to add my own spin.

After mixing the dry ingredients, I realized I was missing the caraway seed in the original recipe. I added a bit of cinnamon for a spice (always love cinnamon) and decreased the amount of currants to better please my crowd.
The flavor is reminiscent of a scone, with the shape and texture of a muffin. Have you heard the term scuffin before? These are them. Delicious alone, or slather with a bit of butter.

Irish Soda Scuffins
makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup currants
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with baker's spray.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and currants in a bowl. In a second bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and gently combine until just incorporated. The batter will be fairly stiff. Spoon into the muffin pan evenly.

Bake the scuffins for about 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack cool completely.

Serve plain or slathered in butter and jam.


~oven ready, my baking assistant looking on~


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ray's White Bread


no whole wheat here.

Mine is a very healthy home for the most part. I try to use and consume whole grains and vegetables wherever I can. However, Ray is very particular about the kind of bread he likes:
not whole wheat.

No whole wheat and no embellishment; he prefers fluffy, fresh, plain white bread.
Despite being simplicity itself, there are infinite versions to choose from. I have a short list of white bread recipes that I make for him, and this is the most recent.

This bread is for the person in your life with similar preferences.
It's made like a French bread and gets tenderness and flavor from some milk and butter.
Ray likes to slice off a chunk and warm it with butter, or as a tuna sandwich for lunch.

Vienna Bread
taken from
The Bread Machine Cookbook

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 cups bread flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs gluten
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp bread machine yeast

Add all ingredients to the bread machine pan in the order listed above. Set the crust to medium and program for the basic cycle. Press start. When the baking cycle ends, immediately remove the bread and place on a rack to cool to room temperature before slicing.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Really Good Cookie

Here is a really good cookie for you.

You may have hit maximum capacity for chocolate/sweets this weekend, and might want to wait a few days to whip these up.
Just be forewarned: you may wish you had made them sooner.

This recipe comes courtesy of my friend C., who treated us to these on our Napa trip last weekend. She brought them in a Ziplock bag that was passed around in the car for snacking, and I thought they were amazing.
I'm generally amorous towards oatmeal, and the large amount in these cookies provide wonderful texture and flavor. I asked if she'd share the recipe with me and she kindly obliged.

I couldn't resist a few changes: I swapped all-purpose flour for whole wheat pastry, tinkered with the amount of butterscotch and chocolate chips, and made them smaller.
The original recipe says 4 dozen cookies- I made 70! We like smaller cookies in this house, but if you want go ahead and make them bigger.

Pleasing to any crowd and easy to make- enjoy!

Oatmeal Scotch-Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pasty flour (or all-purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp grated orange zest
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the eggs, orange zest, and combine, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture gradually, scraping down the bowl. Stir in the oats, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips. Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or tablespoons for larger and fewer cookies) onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the cookies to cooling racks. Store in an airtight container.


Monday, February 16, 2009

On the Fly

I had no intention of posting about this batch of pizza.

But fresh out of the oven, it was too beautiful not to document.

It has been raining HARD all day long, so any plans to leave the house went out the window. Since pizza takes a little longer than I usually have, I jumped at the chance to make it. Above and below you see Ray's personal pizza. I have a thing for calzone lately so I made one for me, just isn't as pretty as Ray's pizza.

How can this not make you salivate?

Not much of a recipe here- I've previously posted about the whole wheat semolina dough and the cheese we prefer (TJ's Quattro Formaggio mix).

However, I did throw together a delicious tomato sauce to share with you.

Sauce for Pizza, Version 2.15.09

1 Tbs olive oil
1 can chopped tomatoes in rich juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, sliced
2 splashes of red wine (we opened a Malbec tonight, but whatever you've got)
handful of spinach, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
generous amount of crushed red pepper flakes

Add the olive oil to a saucier pan on medium heat and add the shallots. Saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic and continue to saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and the red wine and increase the heat. Once it starts to bubble, lower the heat to medium low and add the chopped spinach, sugar, and crushed red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for 15-2o minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and reserve until ready to use.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

B Street and Vine

Winner of a 'Best Kept Secret' Award from the San Mateo Times two years ago- Secret no more.

Ray and I discovered this little place right away when we moved here two years ago. It was a secret then, we never had a problem grabbing a table on the fly.

Those days are over, this little place was packed when we dropped in for dinner on Valentine's Day this weekend. I guess we'll need to think about reservations in the future.
B Street and Vine is known for their interesting wine list, delicious bruschetta and salads, and live jazz nightly on weekends.

We sat at the bar for the first time and really enjoyed ourselves. Tables were few and far between so we stopped here to wait, but it was so nice we stayed. There's something very intimate about sitting at the bar- you are forced to sit tightly together and whisper in your date's ear.

You can order by taste, glass, or bottle at B Street. We like tastes so we can sample. I chose a Paul Strarr Riesling, Terra Rosa Malbec, and Zinfandel from Artisan Winery.

The menu features delicious salads and panini, but we (and many others- check their Yelp reviews) come back for the bruschetta. There are a dozen varieties to choose from, and it's perfect for sharing. This evening we selected our favorites.

Top: Smoked salmon with capers and mascarpone
Middle left: Brie with apples and spiced pecans
Middle right: Gorgonzola with honey
Bottom: Crushed tomatoes with basil

Simple and scrumptious.
We aren't big on Vday, but the evening did include a little sweetness from Ray on his iPhone:

Saturday was wet and cold in San Mateo, but the view from the rooftops of downtown was peaceful and cozy.


Before we left for dinner we had a little jam session on the Wii. During his college years, my husband was well-known in the area for being a great karaoke singer.

People would actually come specifically to watch him and his friend D perform.
These days we don't hit the bars on weekdays and nearly late enough for karaoke, so we've brought it home.
We have his and hers games: Guitar Hero World Tour for him (all boys songs) and Boogie Superstar for me (girls songs!)

..(Trying to) croon like Katy Perry..


Monday, February 9, 2009

Sharing the Love

The surprise? NH took me to Napa Valley for a day of wine tasting.

My sweet hubby rented a limousine so he did not have to worry about driving like usual. The best part? He secretly arranged with my friends who spent the day with us, and I was completely surprised!

The ladies~

~and the gentlemen


We met them at Silverado Resort and Spa, also where NH and I spent the night. The white columned main building was beautiful on a lucky sunny morning.

~a little birthday fun: that's a picture of me on the party hat, with a little mustache action~

We visited six wineries, the first of which was Chimney Rock. We'd never been here but received an excellent bottle as a housewarming gift, so NH fit it on the itinerary. He's so creative, he planned the whole day.

We stopped at V Sattui Winery for lunch. We aren't in love with their wines, but we keep coming back for the food samples and the lunch options.

NH and I shared a delicious margherita panini, with gooey mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.

Another favorite stop, and a repeat visit, was Rutherford Hill. Fantastic wines, and a beautiful tasting room.

Duckhorn Vineyards won for the most pleasant tasting experience.

By reservation only, the setting is well worth the advance planning.

Other visits included Clos du Val and Domaine Chandon, another repeat offender. By Chandon, I'm afraid the silliness had descended upon us.

Dinner was a fantastic meal at Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa. We had a private room housed in an old bank vault, and I dined on Pappardelle allo Zafferano ~ fresh homemade saffron pasta, jumbo prawns, with wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts, finished with roasted shrimp Sorry no pictures, by that time my camera battery was dead so it just lives in my memory.

This post is a love letter to NH, who gave me such a wonderful day. I don't know what I did to deserve it, I don't think it was in this life! :-)