Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mitchell Katz Syrah

Another great wine from the Livermore vineyards


This is the last bottle we retrieved on our most recent visit to the tasting room, and I'm always astonished at the wonderful flavor in each sip. Katz never lets us down for a delicious glass of wine; one glass usually turns into the entire bottle for us because it's so good we can't waste it!

Oh, and can you see that cork? How sweet is that? I love the attention to detail here.


Another Mitchell Katz cork, from a bottle of Zinfandel.

Love this cork

Maybe I should be the Mitchell Katz poster girl :-)


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Favorite Combination

I nearly succumbed to eating out, and I'm so glad I didn't.


Tired at the end of a long week, sometimes it's hard to remember that cooking can be therapeutic. The idea of being served and cleaned up after can be really appealing. But it's important to remember that you can make a special and memorable meal at home- it doesn't have to happen in someone else's kitchen.

I have been saving the Suite Pea Bundles for the right evening and the right dish. I decided on a simple preparation, using them as a side dish with protein- seared scallops for me, grilled chicken for NH.

My scallops are a wonderful find, a frozen bag of jumbo scallops from Trader Yo's.


I like to slice them in half and sear them in a VERY hot pan for maybe 2 minutes per side. This used to be special and rare in a restaurant and now I can have them anytime at home. NH grills his chicken with canola oil, garlic salt and pepper.

For the Suite Pea Bundles, I made half the frozen bag by boiling in water for about 5 minutes. Can you see the green color? Beautiful.

Cooking Pea Bundles

I rubbed our plates with a teeny bit of walnut oil and sprinkled some sweet white corn over the plates. Next the bundles (2/3 for NH, 1/3 for me), some more corn and then a shower of some lovely Parmiggiano Reggiano grated with a microplane.

Parmesan Cheese


My dinner plate

Plates View 2

The Suite Pea Bundles are delicious!!! What a wonderful recipe, I highly recommend this filling.

I have half the batch left in the freezer, what to do with them? I think I see a Miso soup with Dumplings in my future. . . .


Thursday, September 25, 2008

12 Hours by the Bay

A recent post titled 12 Hours in New York by The Amateur Gourmet is a love letter to his home city. If you were leaving home for an extended period, how would you spend your time?
The Bay Area is my home, so these are my last 12 hours by the Bay.
It's a Tuesday in autumn, from 8:30am to 8:30pm. The fog rolls in as usual in the morning, burning off midday until it's sunny and clear. Since it's autumn there is a crisp breeze, just enough to create sweater-scarf conditions.

I emerge from The Bar Method studio in San Mateo at the end of the intense 1 hour class. The Bar method uses elements of pilates and yoga in minute movements to really sculpt your body. I'm never that sweaty after this class but always exhausted.

After a quick shower I head to Fraiche Yogurt in Palo Alto for a quick and healthy breakfast. Owners Patama and Jessica are so nice, and the half-oatmeal, half-yogurt mixture hits the spot after a hard workout. In Her Shoes next door provides a little eye candy while I eat. All proceeds benefit the Global Fund for Women- cute shoes and a great cause.

After breakfast it's time for a little shopping at Stanford Center. There are lots of great shops including J.Crew, Nike, Kate Spade, and Williams Sonoma. The big outdoor complex houses beautifully manicured flowers, perfect for a little practice photography. I can get my rings cleaned at Tiffany's while I browse at Bloomingdales or sip samples at Teavana. If I get hungry I could stop at La Baguette for a croissant, but I think I'd like to save my appetite a bit.

Since we're going out this evening I don't need much lunch, but I do want an afternoon snack. Time for my favorite stop on the way home- Yumi Yogurt in San Mateo. They have 8 flavor bursts every day as well as 6 rotating frozen yogurt flavors. It's my special day so of course they have my favorites: Pumpkin and Pistachio. I get a small size with half of each flavor topped with toasted almonds. No better afternoon snack, even on a crisp afternoon.

After my snack I need to pick up a few local staples to have at the house. I stop at Suruki, the Japanese supermarket in downtown San Mateo. They have loads of special goodies, many unidentifiable if you don't know what they are and can't read Japanese. Despite being imported prices are amazing- rice, sesame seeds, and wonton wrappers are cheap here. I grab some frozen dumplings, nori, and soba noodles to stock my pantry.

Dinner in Burlingame wouldn't be complete without a stop into my favorite store of all: Anthropologie. I sometimes spend more time in the kitchen/dining room sections than in clothing. . . sometimes. But today I can't resist a necklace with beads and baubles. Perfect for my outfit this evening.

Burlingame Avenue's sidewalks are full of people on the weekends but it's quieter on Tuesday. We have no competition for the cozy velour chairs in the lounge at Nectar Wine Lounge for a flight. The bar is funky with a honeycomb theme, and the small plates are scrumptious. Just wine tonight because we will be moving on, so we sip our South American and Greek flights with leisure. There's plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere in the cozy bar.

The two block stroll to dinner is giddy after our drinks and we arrive on the doorstep laughing. We've arrived for a delicious meal of sushi rolls at Barracuda Sushi, where the live jazz and rosy light create a wonderful atmosphere. We order miso and a selection of rolls with names like Sexy Mermaid and Lady in Red.

It's almost time to go, but there is just enough time for one more treat for the road. Down the street we pop into Copenhagen Bakery for a cappucino. I can't help drooling over the gorgeous pastry case filled with dozens of pretty confections.
Can I resist? . . . Not tonight. I share half of a small kransekage and I'm ready to go.

But only for a little while. I love this home of mine and can't wait to return.
The Bar Method
128 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo
(650) 573-3330
Fraiche Yogurt
644 Emerson, Palo Alto
(650) 566-0055
Kate Spade at Stanford Shopping Center
El Camino Real and Sand Hill Road, Palo Alto
(650) 324-3813
Yumi Yogurt
3955 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo
(650) 341-0939
Suruki Supermarket
71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
(650) 347-5288
220 Primrose Avenue, Burlingame
(650) 685-6637
Nectar Wine Lounge
270 Lorton Avenue, Burlingame
(650) 558-9200
Barracuda Sushi
347 Primrose Avenue, Burlingame
Copenhagen Bakery
1216 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame
(650) 342-1357

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One Hundred...

...thanks for all your great suggestions for work lunches!! They are all great ideas, please keep them coming.

I mixed it up a (little) bit on Day Two.

Day Two

The other half of carrot and two leftover beets, a yogurt with a little cereal, some grapes, and a 100-cal bag of popcorn for a snack.

Day Two Yogurt

White Chocolate Raspberry, mmm. One of my favorite Bay Area food bloggers, Cheryl of 5 Second Rule, wrote a terrific post on her kids' school lunches in August. I come to her frequently for great writing and great recipes, and this particular post will help me out in the coming weeks.

My work schedule is late which is a little rough for me since I'm such an early person, but I'll adjust.... I hope :-/

**Update** I forgot to mention: I had a few comments on my cute lunchbag yesterday, asking where I got it. I have a "real" lunchbag but I couldn't find it Monday. The green bag? I actually made it myself. I knitted the outside and sewed fabric on the inside. It makes a better lunchbag than a purse! I'll probably keep using it. Thanks for the compliments :-)


On my way to my car Monday, I had a nice surprise. The whole family was very tame and hardly noticed me.

Deer Four

The whole family was very tame and hardly seemd to notice me.


Monday, September 22, 2008

I Need Your Help

It's been a very long time since I've had to pack a lunch every day.

That might seem hard to believe, but with this and that it's true.
Today is the day I need to return to thinking ahead about exciting and healthy lunch items.


This is what I've packed for today:
Half a big carrot and zucchini to be dipped in some homemade hummus, along with a few crackers and grapes.
I think I might throw a banana or apple in there as well, for an afternoon snack just in case this is not enough.


I'm at a bit of a loss for what else to bring, and I could really use your help with suggestions.

1. I like to eat lightly during a workday because sometimes I get stomach aches :-(
I also want it to be healthy, with just enough calories to get me through the day but no excess.

2. Some ideas I have so far include yogurts with cereal and fruit, leftover soup from a big pot the night before, more crackers and mozzarella cheese sticks.

3. Any ideas on something genius to do with more hummus so it doesn't get boring?


I'm so grateful for any and all ideas; thanks!! Wish me luck today.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wine and A Wedding

This is what happens when you have a wedding at a winery

Little Glass of Wine

It means the bridal party is fortunate enough to imbibe prior to the ceremony. While we awaited the ceremony in the bridal suite at Byington Winery, the wedding coordinator offered to pour the bride and her girls some wine. Here I am, caught by the maid of honor, sipping a little 2004 Alliage, my favorite Byington wine. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Merlot. Our friends bought the remainder of their stock of that year, but the 2005 is available and is equally good.

The wedding was beautiful! Perfect weather and lots of loving family and friends to share in the festivities. I have NEVER seen such a gorgeous bride as my friend C, and I can't wait to see her when she gets home from her fabulous South Pacific honeymoon.


When I share memories and pictures of friends in this public forum, I like to request permission first. I neglected to do this with C and K yesterday so I won't share much, but myself and food are always fair game. Here are just a few 'bites.'

Salmon pate appetizers at the rehearsal dinner

Appetizers at Rehearsal Dinner

Fondue dessert at rehearsal, my first experience with such a thing. The chocolate seemed burnt to me :-( but the oranges were sweet.

Fondue at the Wine Cellar

A nice Viognier, accompanied by a waiter who poured 2 glasses-worth at a time!


Receptions at Byington Winery are held in the Barrel Room. It's a unique setting but also very cold because the room must be kept at a certain temperature for the wine. It works out nicely when the room is full of bodies because it feels just right.

Barrel Room

A beautiful fruit platter at the buffet dinner

Fruit Platter

My favorite dish at dinner was this Israeli Couscous, with curry and chutney. I need to work on duplicating this soon.

Israeli Couscous

My dinner plate is a bit blurry because I couldn't get my flash to turn on. A large serving of roasted vegetables dominated the plate, along with a piece of salmon, some couscous and linguini.

My dinner plate

A beautiful Princess wedding cake. My piece, umm, disappeared before a picture could be taken. Princess cake is a traditional Swedish birthday cake and consists of vanilla custard and raspberry jam with vanilla cake and marzipan fondant. This was our wedding cake too, it's delicious.

Wedding Cake

That concludes the photos I feel comfortable sharing. I do want to end with one more: a great picture of NH and I, which I think we'll use for our Christmas cards this year. No one is so handsome in a suit <3

Ray and Sarah - Copy


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Freedom of Eats

I had not intended this cake for breakfast eating, but that seems to be the preference.

Ray's breakfast- orange juice, rainbow cake, hard-boiled egg, Count Chocula

NH has been eating it for breakfast along with a few other components:
orange juice, a hard-boiled egg with Sriracha, and some Count Chocula cereal.
Where do men get their nutrition info??


The cake is now about half gone; I made it earlier this week and posted this morning because I'm gone.
One of my best friends is getting married today!!! I'm in my hometown of Los Gatos with the rest of the wedding party getting ready for the 5pm ceremony at Byington Winery.

My bridesmaid dress is cute and I'm looking forward to the delicious food, especially the wedding cake.

Vineyards at Byington

~It's going to be a fabulous night~


A Box Cake


I think I've mentioned that Rainbow Chip cake is NH's childhood favorite.

Mixes were on sale and I still have 1/2 container of icing from his birthday cupcakes. So I made him a little midweek treat.



Hard to believe but this cake is too sweet for me. More for him to enjoy!


Friday, September 19, 2008

So Good It's Almost Dessert

I must have done something good because I had this for an evening meal

This is art and must be shared

My Sushi Blossom Roll

Flavor is my #1 priority, but if food is also beautiful...
Half of me wants to devour and half wants to sit and admire.

Sushi perfection to me means a roll that contains all of my favorite components; this particular roll (the Sushi Blossom Roll) is as close to that as I've ever come.
The interior of this roll contains tuna, crab, and avocado, with thick slices of fresh salmon on top. The rose in the center is salmon and tuna with a bit of tobiko (teeny fish eggs) on top.

The one missing component is some sweet and creamy unagi (freshwater eel). As the owner sweetly explained to me, it sounds nice but the flavors would not blend together well; it would be better in a separate roll. As you can see from the size here, this is plenty of food for one person.

Look at the size of NH's Crunch Spicy Tuna roll- huge!!

Ray's Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll

And the appropriately-named Monster Roll (from a previous visit). It's a splurge of soft shell crab, unagi and salmon, with some teriyaki and mayo sauce on top.
This is not traditional sushi but boy is it delicious!

Monster Roll with Salmon

Sushi Blossom is a wonderful local find in Belmont, just south of San Mateo. The owner is sweet, attentive, and will customize any roll for you (if you ask nicely). They also have a frequent diner's card, with a free roll after 8 visits. How nice!
The green tea is well-brewed, the miso soup hot and flavorful. Each roll is ginormous and generous with fish, so you really get your money's worth.
It has quickly become a favorite casual spot, and I can't wait to sample their udon once cold weather arrives.

Sushi Blossom Interior

Sushi Blossom
550 Masonic Way
Belmont, CA 94002
(650) 593-2291

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Midweek Indian Supper

For a quick dinner with tons of flavor and nutrients, look to Indian cuisine.

My plate with yogurt

Masoor dahl (red lentils) is a common dahl variety within a rainbow of lentil dishes.
Saag is a spinach- (or other greens) based dish often combined with other elements such as aloo (potatoes) or paneer (homemade cheese).
The two pair very well for an easy meal; add a generous dollop of yogurt and some flatbread or naan and you'll be stuffed in no time.

Indian cuisine is known for its exquisite spices; the toughest part of preparation is probably obtaining all of them. Once you possess them you can make a myriad of meals. Garam masala is a wonderful spice blend that's delicious with lentils, rice, eggs, or anything else you can come up with.

Best of all, the cooking process for both dishes is identical so you really can make both at the same time, in less than 30 minutes from first chop to serving.

Finished Dal and Saag

I discovered these recipes while reading Happy Herbivore's archives, and I'm so glad I did.

Red Lentil Dahl

1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbs ground ginger
a dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup red lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1 chopped tomato with its juices
2 heaping Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs fresh cilantro
2 tsp garam masala

In a small bowl, mix all spices together except for the garam masala.

Saute the garlic and onions in the 1/4 cup water until translucent. Add the spice blend and cook 2 minutes, adding extra water if necessary. Add the lentils, broth, tomato paste, tomatoes, and cilantro.
Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook 15 minutes or until lentils are done. Add the garam masala and stir. Let stand for 3 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Spinach Saag

1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup water, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch grated fresh ginger
2 tsp fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp sal
a dash of cayenne pepper
2 cups tightly packed fresh spinach
2 tsp garam masala

In a small bowl, mix the ginger, cilantro, turmeric, and cayenne pepper.

Saute onions in 1/4 cup of water until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger-spice mix; saute for 2 minutes. Add the spinach, water, and salt; simmer for 10-15 minutes on low, to wilt the greens. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Using a hand blender, puree greens until smooth (or you can use a food processor). Stir in the garam masala.

Serve with thick yogurt, and some flatbread to scoop up juices if you like.

Ray's plate with yogurt and flatbread


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Frittata Soup

Anything can be made into a soup- even a frittata!

For Sunday brunch with my family, I made a delicious frittata dish in the oven with shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and a mixture of cheeses.

Vegetable-Four Cheese Frittata
serves 12

12 eggs (6 whole, 6 whites)
1 cup milk
6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used TJ's Quattro Formaggi blend)
a big handful baby spinach, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat eggs, milk, and cheese together. Pour into a 9 x13 baking dish and add the tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach. Stir to combine. Bake for about 50 minutes until puffed through the center. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

I neglected to take a picture of the finished dish but we had a nice bowl of leftovers.


Not wanting to waste it, I borrowed Mom's #1 trick for Monday's dinner: add chicken broth and make a soup!

I put about half the leftovers into a bowl and added a good amount of broth. Reheating caused the cheese to melt and the eggs to break down a bit more. It was more delicious than the original dish!
I read an article recently (I can't find it right now and I'm so sorry) about homemade soups and healthy people. Studies have shown that those who make and eat homemade soups on a regular basis are thinner and healthier than those who don't or eat canned soups (which have more sodium and calories).

So make and eat your soup, it's good for you! With autumn fast approaching on Monday, what better time to bring out the big pot and whip some up.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lemony Apple Cake


My family is currently without an oven.

My gourmet mother is finally getting a fabulous kitchen; in a few weeks they will be blessed with new appliances and a new look. Until then, the place is gutted and dusty, and the stash of frozen baked goods is dwindling.

So when they came to visit on Sunday I had this delicious cake waiting for them to take home. Don't misunderstand me, my actions are not selfless. It gave me the opportunity to test-drive this recipe and feed a crowd.


To be up front, I learned a valuable baking lesson regarding my impatience.
I didn't allow my cake to cool nearly enough, and as I unmolded it it fell apart!

I was disappointed but glad of the lesson. My sweet family didn't mind and it still tasted great.

This is another recipe from my Apple Cookbook, from which the Apple Oatmeal Cupcakes come. I made a few modifications which I've posted here. I use the same glaze with the addition of lemon zest.

Lemony Apple Cake

adapted from The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier

3 large apples
1 lemon
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/c cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and and flour a bundt or tube pan.

Peel, core, and chop the apples. Place in a bowl. Grate the lemon zest and set aside. Squeeze the lemon over the apples and toss to coat.

Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the sugar and lemon zest.

Sift together the dry ingredients and stir into the batter. Fold in the pecans and apples. The batter will be rather thick.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes in the pan.

Invert onto a wire rack and prick with the tines of a fork. Drizzle with the glaze (recipe follows).

Lemony Apple Glaze

1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tbs confectioner's sugar
3 Tbs lemon zest

Combine the cornstarch with the juices and cinnamon. Cook over low heat until thick and smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and lemon zest and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before pouring over the cake.

A cross section view. Well ok, where the cake split because I couldn't wait. But it did allow us to see the inside earlier... and scoop up some of the crumbs a little early. You know, testing in the name of science and better baking. :-)


Monday, September 15, 2008

Samples of Weekend Bites

Cafe for moi


Smoked Salmon

Chicken Apple Sausage and Pineapple, ready for the grill

Spaghetti with Mussels and Clams, baked in parchment paper


To end with the beginning, here are the Strawberry Pancakes I made for NH on Saturday. This is a 1/2 recipe, the perfect amount for one guy to enjoy.

~:::~ Strawberry Pancakes

makes 4 small pancakes for one hungry person
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup nonfat milk
4 strawberries, sliced

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients and fold together with a maximum of 10 stirs. Try not to overmix, it's ok if the batter isn't completely incorporated.

Ladle 1/4 cup of batter to a heated griddle pan. Place strawberry slices on top. Once bubbles start to form on top, flip and cook for a little bit more. Serve with remaining strawberries on top.