Sunday, January 31, 2010

- --{:::}

~ best bite ~ snickerdoodle cupcake from Sibby's Cupcakery:

~ making hors d'ouerve crackers with whole wheat pastry flour

~ Donato Enoteca, Redwood City, CA

~ Ray's agnolotti del plin: housemade ravioli with sausage and veal

~ my crab pasta with housemade spaghetti, whole cracked crab, and light tomato sauce

~ vanilla cupcake and cinnamon cream cheese frosting, dusted with cinnamon sugar

~ classic red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and sugar flowers, and vanilla-confetti cupcake with vanilla cream cheese and confetti sprinkles


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Be Nice to Your Ahi

~ Start with excellent raw materials and treat them nicely,
and you'll be less likely to screw things up ~

I like to knit in any spare time I have left, using a simple stitch with gorgeous yarn to make a nice scarf. Or going out, it's one beautiful pearl bracelet instead of gobs of costume jewelry. How about a half dozen white tulips? In place of the massive mixed bouquet that is. I hope you're following the theme here. Sometimes a little timidity pays off- less effort, better results!
Ray offered to take me out for a birthday dinner, and I adore everything about restaurant dining. A little against nature, I declined in favor of something delicious at home. The beautiful ahi tuna steaks I found at Whole Foods that morning made it a done deal. I prepared this recipe one time in college and the glorious flavors returned to my taste memory when I opened this cookbook.

Ina Garten is quite a talented home chef and entertainer, and while I'm not a disciple, she does live by the 'great ingredients, simple preparation' mantra.

Fresh ahi tuna is certainly a treat, but this salad couldn't be easier to throw together. When you see the price of ahi tuna at Whole Foods ($15-$20ish a pound), don't be immediately turned off. I'd like to point out that this is a special occasion, and when you compare it to a meal out, (certainly what this dish would cost for two in a restaurant!), it's actually quite reasonable.

Promise me you won't overcook it!!! This tuna is meant to be seared on the outside and raw on the inside. You're buying quality fish so it's alright to leave it raw, and it's absolutely divine.
If raw fish bothers you, don't make this recipe.

If you're game, you'll be rewarded with an unctuous, expensive-restaurant worthy dish.

Your seared tuna should look like this on the outside (above), and this on the inside (below).

We ate the salad with some steamed rice and roasted green beans (tossed with evoo, salt, and 1 tsp soy sauce, roasted for 20 minutes at 400), and it was heavenly.

There's a good serving of grilled ahi salad left and though I love my husband dearly, we might come to blows over who gets it for lunch.

Grilled Ahi Salad
adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home, serves 3

1 lb fresh ahi tuna steak
extra virgin olive oil, for brushing the tuna
salt and pepper
grated zest from 1 lime
squeezed juice from 2 limes
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/4 red onion, sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts, minced
Tabasco or hot sauce to taste (I used about 1 1/2 tsp)
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Brush the tuna with olive oil and generously dust with salt and pepper; repeat on the other side. You can turn the tuna with tongs to prevent dirtying your hands.

Give the skillet a light spray of olive oil spray for extra security, then add the tuna steak. You might want to turn on your kitchen fan, there will get steamy/smoky. Cook for 2 minutes and flip the steak to other side for another 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine 1/8 cup olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi powder, soy sauce, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the avocados with half the vinagrette. Slice the tuna into bite-sized chunks, about 1/4 inch thick. Add the tuna and some of the sesame seeds to the salad and toss to coat with the dressing, adding additional vinaigrette if necessary. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with additional sesame seeds.


I mixed the dressing for the salad first, and wasn't convinced that I loved it. A quick internet search pulled up an alternative option, so a taste test followed.

The dressing on the right is the original from Ina's recipe. The dressing on the left is rich with tahini, additional wasabi powder, mustard and a bit of sugar.

It was good, but much too rich for the light salad I was striving for. In the end I stirred a few teaspoons of the second dressing into the first, et voila! [Comparing the two was interesting, but I will skip that step next time and use the original dressing solo.]


Friday, January 29, 2010

Today's my birthday.

Today's plans: some house-cleaning, homemade lunch with Mom, a simple dinner with Ray at night, and an episode of our current Netflix obsession, Friday Night Lights. Low key, that's my style. Dinner and birthday cake with friends will be tomorrow night, and hopefully I'll have a new recipe to share with you.

A few mildly embarassing pictures are in order. It's only fair, there aren't too many of those here (I hope). You deserve a few to keep it real; I'm inviting you into my world which is a wonderful place, but far from perfect.

(I'm sorry but isn't my mom beautiful? I mean beautiful. I may be biased, but I'm also right.)
It's safe to say she has made a birthday cake for each of my twenty-seven years. I'm guessing I didn't eat any of this first one. :P

But I think I had some of the second~

~ And definitely some of these cupcakes for my fourth.
Rockin a birthday headband! Probably #5?

How cute and girly is this cake? Fairly decent Minnie Mouse impersonation.

Getting a little help from my bros here. We lit the candles repeatedly for every birthday so each sibling could have a chance to blow them out. You'll be happy to hear we don't fight over that anymore.

Sucking in for the big huff and puff. . .

Ah the awkward teen years. . . get a load of that do!

Have mercy on me, North Carolina's weather never agreed with my hair.

Looks like a chocolate log for a cake in high school- and a questionable shirt. Yick.

This one's from last year. Mom is always on cake duty in these pictures!

I don't think I'll ever grow out of the birthday cake. I had the family one last weekend, she made the Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake which is my current favorite and I'm so sorry I don't have pictures to show you because I completely forgot to take any. It's beautiful though, I'll show it to you sometime. If you've had this cake you know what I'm talking about. For a girl who's obsessed with apple pie and cake, it's an absolute dream.

How do you like to spend your birthday as an adult?

Have a great January 29th- with a piece of cake for me!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Power of Blogging (?)

Did I have some influence on the weather?!
I've been MIA the past two days because I've been out enjoying this~


~That is one gorgeous shade of blue~

Back tomorrow with a foodie post!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I don't know who is reading that's in the Bay Area but I'm getting sick of this dreary, blurry weather. If I hear one more person say, "oh but we need this rain so it's good," I will fling my empty latte cup at them, spewing foam and coffee drops everywhere. This is no fun, I need some vitamin D! Yesterday, I grabbed the best sky we've had; this glimmer of light lasted about half an hour.

I'm an indoor girl so I can't imagine what this does to the outdoorsy. I suppose they don't care, it's in their nature. When it was blizzarding last week (CA blizzard- strong winds, heavy rain, thunder and hail), I was more than pleased to stay at home. As soon as I step outside, my hair gets frizzier than an 80s perm. It makes me a bit of a recluse.

So I have ventured to Starbucks for breakfast, armed with a skinny cinnamon dolce latte (first one, delish!), and one of Tina's 3 Minute Cookies (love these! thanks Tina!). My photos are as blurry as our atmosphere.

This is my fourth cookie- I've started calling it the Microwave Breakfast Cookie, since the original title doesn't illustrate the concept as well. The words 'cookie' and 'microwave' communicate ease and deliciousness. :-) Still Tina's recipe tho! I leave out the raisins (don't like them) and it's a great breakfast with a scoop of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl peanut butter and some Suite Apple granola.

How do you beat the blues after two weeks of no sunshine?


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Granola Bars for Someone Sweet

Ray's mom has a cousin named Anna. She and her husband John live in the East Bay near his parents, and we see them from time to time at family gatherings. John is well-educated, smart, and well-traveled. He knows a lot about wine, and loves to share his knowledge with us when we see him. Anna is more quiet and I don't know as much about her as John- which should be remedied, because Anna is sweet and friendly.

One thing we have in common is birthdays within ten days of each other. Anna's is January 19th, mine is the 29th. When we visit my in-laws this January, Anna and John will be there for a double birthday dinner.

The couple follows a near-completely vegan diet, so for a healthy baked birthday treat, I reached for these granola bars.

. . . and the first natural sunlight to photograph by in more than a week!

These treats are naturally vegan- *almost (honey).* They are crunchy, and sweet but not too sweet. I like crunchy almond butter, but swap any nut butter for an endless combo of flavor possibilities. If I ever get my hands on some hazelnut butter (got my eye out), I'll be giving that a try immediately. Add some chopped nuts for a little texture if your nut butter is smooth.

Granola Bars

makes 15 squares

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup crunchy almond butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the oats and coconut together on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until golden. While the mixture is in the oven, measure out the almond butter and honey into a small bowl, and nuke it for 30 seconds or so to loosen them up. Add the wheat germ, vanilla, and salt and mix well until smooth and combined.

When the oat mixture is done, remove from the oven and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients and start mixing away. Add the dried cranberries and continue mixing until everything is incorporated.

Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Wet your hands a bit and press the mixture into the dish until it's well squished- press down as much as you can!
Bake for 25 minutes until golden-brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before slicing into 15 squares. Place on a baking rack to cool completely. Wrap with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.