Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday in the Park with My Camera


1. Where is your cell phone?
2. Your significant other?
3. Your hair?
4. Your mother?
5. Your father?
6. Your favorite thing?
7. Your dream last night?
8 Your favorite drink?
9. Your dream/goal?
10. The room you’re in?
11. One hobby?
12. Your fear?
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
14. What you’re not?
15. Muffins?
16. One of your wish list items?
17. Where you grew up?
18. The last thing you did?
19. What are you wearing?
20. Favorite Gadget?
21. Your pets?
22. Your computer?
23. Your mood?
24. Missing someone?
25. Your car?
26. Something you’re not wearing?
27. Favorite store?
28. Like someone?
29. Your favorite color?
30. When is the last time you laughed?
31. Last time you cried?

For the Love of Oats

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wine Walk

What can I say? I'm just not used to taking pictures of food in public. I want to share the delicious dishes I come across, but I can't remember to take a photo before we eat!!

I need to find a balance between
a) taking lots of pictures
b) remembering to take lots of pictures
c) not having it interfere too much with living in the moment and enjoying the event.

We had a good time at the Wine Walk last night. I had such high expectations and it was not the best wine festival event of the summer, but it was a good night.

Before NH came home from work to pick me up, I had a fun time messing around with the camera. Not a bad self-portrait session, now I have a new Facebook photo. :-P

We each received a map, a wine glass, and a plate with glass holder. Needless to say, I didn't have a hand to hold a camera so I couldn't take photos. 3rd Avenue was completely roped off to traffic, as well as part of Ellsworth. In addition, many of the businesses in the area were participating by hosting wine stations. Here's the one shot I got of NH, getting a taste of wine served in a video game store. I thought that was a hoot!

We got 10 tasting tickets each; I had 7 tastes before I was doneski. I recognized a few of the wineries- Hook & Ladder, Bad Dog Ranch, Ventana, and Hahn Estates. My favorite taste was a Syrah from Hahn- mild and nicely rich.

The extent of the food was cheese and crackers, so NH and I stopped into a favorite spot, B Street and Vine, for a little food.

We ordered 5 bruschetta to share and a little champagne to go with it. It was a mini bottle of Marquis de la Tour, quite delicious and light.

As I said, when the food came I forgot to take a picture! I guess I'm such a pig that I lunge at my food right when it arrives. I must practice more self-control. :-)
So you will have to imagine- 5 crusty pieces of bread, each sliced into fours and topped with delicious combinations: crushed tomatoes with basil; prosciutto with figs and masarpone; brie with apples and spiced pecans; smoked salmon with capers and mascarpone; and gorgonzola drizzled with honey. Yum!

All in all a quite enjoyable evening, especially since it ended with a little frozen yogurt and an episode of Prison Break, our new show via Netflix. Heehee, I am the definition of a homebody.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Uno, Due, Tre


Have you ever tried Oat Milk?

VeggieGirl suggested I try it a while back; she likes to use it in her morning oatmeal. I love the concept and made note to give it a try.

Recently I came across some in the store- Pacific Lowfat Vanilla Oat Milk. I've been waiting patiently to finish my current soy milk container before starting this new one.

I'm picky about my soy milk and only drink 8th Continent Light Vanilla Soymilk. It's the only one I really like. This presents a small problem because, out of my 3 regular grocery stores- Safeway, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods- NONE of them carry it!
I have to buy mine at Target, or a specialty store called Mollie Stone's that is out of my way. If the oat milk was a success, I'd be less reliant on this one.

I'm nearly at the bottom of the old container and couldn't wait any longer. This morning I used the oat milk in my breakfast.

I liked the flavor a lot and it's smooth and creamy; I give it an 'A' for taste. However, I'm disappointed in the nutrition facts, in comparison to the 8th Continent:

The oatmilk has the same amount of calories from fat, but double the calories overall. Yikes! 8th Continent contains more potassium too. The oatmilk has a small amount of fiber, but I'm getting that from the oatmeal :-)

I'm soo glad I tried it, but because of the higher calorie content (I'm particular about that) I'll be sticking with my regular soy milk.


Friday Kitty Blogging

Padma has been a lump this week! The temperature around here has been going up and down constantly, making me feel weird so I imagine it has a similar effect on her.





She's been all over me this week. In fact, as I wrote that last sentence, she plopped down on my legs, effectively pinning me down until I force her off. Argh! I hate having to 'boot' her, but I can't sit here all day!

Little does she know, she will be visiting the v-e-t this Wednesday for a check-up and two s-h-o-t-s. :-(
We'll have to give her extra attention this weekend.



Tonight is the San Mateo Wine Walk. It starts at 5:30pm, and I can't wait! I'll be purse-free, carrying my ID and chapstick in my camera bag. I can walk around unencumbered, sipping wine and taking pictures. I hope to have a good photo diary by the end of the evening.

Have a fun Friday!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Dishes

Look at this!

I stopped by Williams-Sonoma yesterday to make a return and found myself in the middle of a big sale. While browsing, I came upon this set of bowls marked down 50%.

I could not resist the vintage oatmeal label; I wouldn't buy them at full price but the sale made for a good deal. They are also microwave and dishwasher safe, which is key for me.
My oatmeal bowl collection is growing....slowly. I suppose one person doesn't need very many, but now that I have 6 bowls I won't need to handwash my oatmeal bowl every day.

And oh, how I love dishes. :-)


First Grill

We just bought an outdoor grill.
NH is going to learn to BBQ.
Me? Grilled pizza here I come!

Last night my youngest brother Matthew came by for dinner and we grilled for the first time. NH wanted cheeseburgers, and to do it all himself. He bought the patties, cheese, and hamburger buns, and agreed to make me whatever I wanted.

I had some portobello mushroom caps, and I discovered a veggie burger brand I actually like. I'm not a big fan of freezer veggie burgers I've tried in the past, but I like these: Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers.

All recognizable ingredients, these burgers have chunks of flavorful vegetables. The Tex-Mex flavor is good too.

Here they all are, burgers and veggies grilling away.

I had my veggie burger and one mushroom cap with a little ketchup and bbq sauce. NH did a great job cooking the burgers, he and Matthew ate 1 1/2 each. A successful first grill!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How to Grow Basil

This is a great trick that I learned from my mother-in-law Chris. She is a talented gardener who loves flowers, plants, and sharing her vast knowledge with eager amateurs. :-)
Thanks MIL!

I love basil, but I've been unsuccessful getting it to grow in my garden. I'll keep trying; in the meantime this is a great way for me to get more yield from a store-bought bunch.

1. Cut a few stems of basil from the bunch. Make sure to get the base of the stem, not just the leaves.
2. Place the stems in a glass of water and keep them on the kitchen counter. Here are my 3 little plants.

In a few days the stems will begin to sprout. Now you have several new basil plants for your garden.
*Perfect for a hostess gift:
Bring a sprouted plant to a friend you are visiting- I know I'd love receiving a little basil plant as a gift!

I put my basil in water yesterday, so I'll be back in a few days with images of the sprouts.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Cottage Cheese Muffins

I'm trying to think of new meal ideas for NH.

He wants to make some modifications in his diet, and has presented me with a challenge: high-protein, low in fat, and big on flavors.

These were inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, 101 Cookbooks. This site always has beautiful pictures and interesting ideas. The batter is similar with a few adjustments for ingredients that I had/didn't have; check out the original recipe for the changes.

We prefer mini-muffins so I modified the original recipe to use this pan. It makes a little more than twice as many muffins.
They smell amazing while baking, a deliciously complex cheesy smell. :-)

For the ground almonds, I used my almond meal from Trader Joe's. This is a great product.

Cottage Cheese Muffins

1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a mini-muffin pan with cooking spray, just enough so the muffins won't stick.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; stir to incorporate. The batter will form a chunky rather than smooth consistency, similar to this.

Fill each part of the baking pan about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of parmesan cheese.

Bake 25-30 minutes until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack.

As you can see from the pictures, I used liners. It appears that the muffins will stick a little too much to the paper, so my next batch will use no liners and a bit of cooking spray (changes noted in my recipe).

That being said, they taste amazing and NH consumed 3 minis this morning.



The Best Days Are Spent with Family & Centered around Food

On Sunday, NH and I traveled to Walnut Creek for a family visit. My sister-in-law Jackie just graduated from St. Louis University and started her new job here in California this week. Congratulations Jackie!

Everything in the East Bay Area is turning that lovely brown color that it does every summer. My in-laws' property backs up to the Sugarloaf Open Space. Although brown, it's still a beautiful view.


Before lunch we visited the Danville Arts Festival, a short drive away. This is one festival we had not been to in past years. The sidewalk artists were amazing.

It was nice to go for a walk and see such variety of art.
This display of blown glass in vivid colors caught my eye.

Look, apples!

My favorite stall was that of Locke Heemstra, a photographer based in San Mateo. We are looking for a wine-themed picture to hang in our dining room, and we grabbed his card and these photos to find him later.


After the festival, my FIL Mike prepared his famous paella. He enjoys barbecuing and makes a mean dish of paella. Today's dish contained no seafood because of NH's allergy, but shellfish is a traditional ingredient in most paella.
(*You could make this dish on the stove but it won't have the smokey flavor that a charcoal grill contributes.)
Mike is the grill master, but I did get to assist with the chopping.

Paella originates from Valencia, Spain; it's cooked in a shallow frying pan on an open flame.

Traditional paella has a dry consistency with a crusty bottom called soccarat that is quite prized. However, this family prefers a moister, more saucey dish similar to risotto. Each time they make paella it's a little different, but here is yesterday's combination.

Carroll Paella

roasted asparagus
frozen green peas
red bell pepper
chicken breast
chicken apple sausage
saffron threads
chicken broth
Arborio rice

Heat grill and add paella pan. Saute the chicken in some olive oil with the sofrito of tomato, red pepper, mushrooms and onion.

Add water and/or chicken broth. Cover and allow to cook until the vegetables are soft.
Stir occasionally.

Add frozen peas and incorporate into the mixture.

Next, add sliced chicken apple sausage and Arborio rice. Stir to combine.
Incorporate saffron threads and stir thoroughly. This creates that beautiful yellow color and exotic fragrance that paella is known for.

Cover the grill and allow to cook until the rice is tender, checking occasionally.

From grill to table, the beautiful finished dish.

Kudos to Mike, the paella was delicious. We were so full from this meal we hardly needed dinner in the evening. I always look forward to summer meals at home because I know paella might be on the menu.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fruits of Our Labor

Look at this gorgeous loot!

Mom and I have talked about berry-picking in Watsonville for 4 years. Something always prevents us, the season passes and we miss it. Well, yesterday we FINALLY went. It's been more than 10 years since I've picked berries, so I was excited.

I only have 'after' pictures because I forgot my camera; I'm disappointed in myself because the scenery and fruit vines were beautiful and I wish I had it documented. Hopefully this is the last time I forget my camera on such an outing.

Watsonville is about 1 hour from my parents home, 30 minutes south of Santa Cruz on the coast. It's in a valley where lots of fruits and vegetables are grown. If you don't live in California, you may not have heard of Watsonville, but you may be familiar with its neighbor, Salinas. Martinelli's Apple Cider is based here, as is Driscoll's Strawberries.

We visited Gizdich Farm, where olallieberries and strawberries are currently in season. Olallies are a cross between a loganberry and a youngberry, made in the 1930s in Oregon. They are pretty rare and their season is short, so I felt very fortunate. We spent an hour at the olallieberry patch, and another with the strawberries.

It's hard work picking fruit! I did a 1-hour workout beforehand, but I feel like I did double-days. I'm sore and I know it wasn't from the first workout.

By 11 it was HOT and we had filled our baskets, so Mom and I returned home. I picked some apricots from the family's tree before going home with my loot.

Here is a close-up of an olallieberry. They look a lot like blackberries, but the seeds are smaller and the flavor is more delicate.

Once everything was on the counter, I realized we had too much to eat before it spoils.

So...freeze them!
I put a single layer of olallieberries on a baking pan to freeze, then repeated with the strawberries. If you freeze them flat FIRST, the berries will hold their shape while frozen instead of becoming a mushy mass. After about an hour on the baking pan, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. Voila!- perfect summer fruit long after the season is over.

I only have 'after' pictures because I forgot my camera; I'm disappointed in myself because the scenery and fruit vines were beautiful and I wish I had it documented. Hopefully this is the last time I forget my camera on such an outing.

But, I did take quite a few at home. I really like pictures of fruit, I'm not sure why.

baby strawberry ;-)