Monday, January 30, 2012

French Onion Soup

We finally had a bit of winter weather here in Northern California this past week. Perhaps we'll be able to hit the slopes now on real snow. has come back around to high 60's, Spring-like weather within 24 hours, so it will probably be melted before I can hit 'publish' on this post.

The day of heavy rains, I pulled out all the stops on my comfort food inclinations. Much tea was consumed. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Crockpot stew accompanied by warm French dipping bread. French onion soup with lots of gooey cheese.

This was my first encounter with French onion soup. Stephen's been talking about it every time there is a drop of rain from sky. After 48 hours non-stop, it was time.

Caramelized onions steeped in a rich beef broth, topped in a generous layer of cheese-covered bread. It doesn't get much better than this. Well, maybe enjoying it in a Paris bistro. But this is considerably less expensive....

French Onion Soup

3 large onions, finely sliced
2 T. olive oil
dash of sugar
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 c. beef stock
1/3 c. dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 t. dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
slices of French bread
1/2 c. grated Gruyere or other Swiss cheese (I used Jarlsburg)

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for about 30-40 minutes, adding sugar after about 10 minutes to aid in the caramelization process. Watch them carefully, stirring every few minutes to ensure they don't burn. Scrap up burnt bits from the bottom, as these greatly enhance the flavor of the soup. The onions are done when they are soft and browned. Stir in garlic, cooking for about 1 minute to unlock the flavor.

Pour in beef stock and red wine. Mix in thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow it to cook for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using oven-proof bowls or ramekins, pour a serving into each bowl. Top with a piece of bread (or a few if it is a small baguette) and sprinkle a generous helping of cheese on top. Place in oven about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Enjoy with additional bread to soak up the delicious broth and a glass of the leftover red wine.

We ate leftovers the next day with grilled cheese sandwiches...mmmm, yum!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gathering of the Clans

This, my friends, is 'The Gathering of the Clans.' Simply one-third shot of each whiskey, combined with one shot of Bailey's. Think of it as an enhanced shot of Bailiey's.

It is a great means of getting in touch with your Celtic side.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Hard-Boil an Egg

This may seem at first glance an unnecessary piece of instruction, but stick with me. This is vital information and there is much to learn about boiling an egg of which many people are, sadly, unaware. I, for one, have come a long way since my first over-cooked, busting-out-the-shell egg. It seems as easy as spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread, but it is actually a lot more technical than one might think...but still easy!!

First things first. Place your egg inside the pot and fill it with cold water until it just covers the egg. This important detail will help ensure your egg does not cook too long. Also, if you place your eggs in already hot water, there is the danger of them cracking upon impact with the warmed water.

Heat the burner to medium high. If this produces a very rapid boil, turn it down a tad. Eggs boiling too vigorously will hit the bottom and sides, splitting open too soon.

Set the timer for 20 minutes. This produces a fairly solid yolk. If you like it on the softer side, perhaps 15 minutes but no less than 10.

As soon as the timer goes off, empty the hot water into the sink. Immediately fill the pot back up with cold water. This stops the egg from cooking any further. Dump again. Refill with a bit of water, enough to cover a third of the egg or so.

When you get ready to peel your egg, tap gently on the counter, or any other hard surface (a hard head will
do), until it has tons of tiny cracks. Start from the pointy end where there is a gap between the shell and egg inside. Your peel should come off easily. Very fresh eggs are a bit tougher, but a little patient coaxing should do the trick.

Enjoy with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Irish Latte

With a somewhat well-rounded liquor and other miscellaneous beverages collection, we are slowly making our way into the world of mixed drinks. I, for one, find the land of 'mixology' a bit foreign. My familiarity with it involves Sprite and orange juice (an essential hot-summer-day, poolside concoction). When it comes to the other brand, namely that involving alcohol, I am quite the novice. But I do enjoy creativity and experimentation, which, I find, will serve me well in the venture into the land of mixology.

Gathering a little assistance from our online resources, Steve ran across cocktail builder, an amateur drink-builder's dream. You simply enter in all of the available liquids you have at your disposal - alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike - and the cocktail builder will provide you with a nifty little list of possible drinks you can make with them. It is a great resource to expand your horizons for your next cocktail party.

However, with all that said, I am proud to say I followed none of it and branched out on my own. (I was always loathe to play by the rules.) Although, my creation is eerily reminiscent of another 'Irish' drink I have had....

Irish Latte

1/3 c. milk, heated and frothed
1 shot of espresso
1 shot of Bailey's Irish Creme

If you prefer mochas, add 2 tablespoons of your favorite hot chocolate mix. I prefer Ghiradelli's Chocolate Mocha.

Stay tuned for another creative concoction.....

Friday, January 13, 2012


It is beautiful how food brings people together. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate, reminisce, discuss, imagine, familiarize, entertain, postulate, create....

Or simply just be in each others' presence.

Some of the best memories of my college years were times spent in the kitchen preparing a feast with friends. We typically attached a holiday to our feasts. There is always some reason to celebrate, right? The end of midterms, a saint's feast day, the beginning of a new season, the completion of a term paper, a fresh haircut, the arrival of a care-package, the purchase of a bar of chocolate. I tell you, we could come up with just about any reason to eat and procrastinate.

I was part, then, of an informal Breakfast Club. Those of us who were early birds would gather in the Commons before the breakfast line even opened, teasing each other, sipping our warm cups of tea, avoiding last-minute preparations for class. We would speak of absorbing current events, argue perennial questions, relate the happenings of relationships on campus, debate the effects of various wars on our country. Motivation for an early wake up call more often than not came from a desire to find something a bit more nutritious and filling than the standard cafeteria fare -- which did not always come in the form of physical nourishment.

I still crave these moments of togetherness. The moments in the day where we nearly stop the pull towards sunset which seems taut and rushed. It is a deliberate moment, albeit often spontaneous. A moment of ingenuity, if just the smallest spark. These moments are quintessential in the lifespan of a human existence.

I find those moments now again as I construct gingerbread houses with mini wheat tiled roofs alongside my brothers, slice into half moon raviolis during an Italian festa with my mother, mix inventive cocktails with my fiance, sip tea and nibble shortbread with a friend, can steaming jars of apple butter with a patient team.

The collaborative creation of a meal and the communal enjoyment of it. Opportunities for togetherness.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I've been rather infrequent the past two weeks with posting. I'm in the midst of transitions and preparations -- moving things into a new apartment which will be our home after the wedding and, of course, finishing up those last minute details for the wedding itself (24 days!). Minutes to eat and relax have been scarce, and I don't have much to say right now in terms of creativity.

But please don't scurry away. Although postings will be infrequent over these next few weeks, I promise a few will pop up here and there. And then, after all is settled, I'll jump back on the bandwagon baking and cooking and writing to my heart's content.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kinfolk Magazine

I am absolutely in love with this magazine/journal. They had me at 'hello.' It is about simplicity. About savoring the moment that you are in, whether that be alone, with another, or with a group. The experience of preparing the meal, the experience of sharing the meal, the experience of consuming the meal. It is so human. It is so true. Plump full of essays, interviews, and beautiful photos that give you a glimpse into these experiences.

After reading through their first volume, I couldn't wait for this one to come out. Be sure to snatch up a copy asap as they sold out quickly of their first volume upon initial publication.

It is best enjoyed from cover to cover with a large cup of tea in hand. It is one of the few things that has truly given me a sense of rest and relaxation over this past month of holiday preparations and wedding planning.

And don't miss their online journal with frequent postings.

Friday, January 6, 2012

100 Foods to Eat Before You Die

56 of these foods have crossed my lips, most of which I've been happy to be acquianted with. The remainder I hope to try someday with a few exceptions. It is a great spread for challenging your palate. I will definitely add a few of these to the list of foods to try this year.

100 Foods to Eat Before You Die

1. Venison ~ Yes, I do believe I had this a few times in Italy.

2. Nettle tea ~

3. Huevos rancheros ~ The best Mexican breakfast dish which I have a recipe for here.

4. Steak tartare ~

5. Crocodile ~

6. Black pudding ~

7. Cheese fondue ~ Yes, please! The Melting Pot knows how to do this right.

8. Carp ~

9. Borscht ~ Yes, at a Ukranian friend's funeral reception. His mama made a huge pot of this delicious soup.

10. Baba ghanoush ~ Love this dish with a big hunk of pita bread!

11. Calamari ~ Yes, but I'm a bit squeamish about its stringiness

12. Pho ~

13. PB&J sandwich ~ Yes, at least a million times...and it still one of my favorite lunchtime meals.

14. Aloo gobi ~ Yes, although I didn't remember at first. I'm not so great with the names of Indian foods but I've had many of the dishes.

15. Hot dog from a street cart ~ Yes, most certainly. Although it has been a really long time...

16. Epoisses ~ Yes, one of the best French cheeses.

17. Black truffle ~ Yes, I've had it quite a few times in Italian dishes, especially at Il Fornaio.

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes ~ Yes, pineapple wine is a favorite. Super sweet.

19. Steamed pork buns ~ Yes, at a dim sum restaurant.

20. Pistachio ice cream ~ Yes, one of my favorite flavors, particularly as gelato.

21. Heirloom tomatoes ~ Yes, and I prefer these over the plain ol' red ones. The flavors are so diverse!

22. Fresh wild berries ~ Yes, numerous times, but my favorite memory of them is walking along the bike trail and eating them straight from the bush.

23. Foie gras ~ Yes, but not as gourmet tasting as it is claimed to be.

24. Rice and beans ~ Yes, do cows 'moo'?

25. Brawn, or head cheese ~

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper ~

27. Dulce de leche ~ Yes, and Safeway's store brand makes a delicious ice cream of this flavor.

28. Oysters ~ Yes, at Mont St Michel in France, when I was feeling a bit adventurous.

29. Baklava ~ Yes, would love to make it some day...

30. Bagna cauda ~ Yes, sometime while I was travelling in Italy.

31. Wasabi peas ~

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl ~ Yes. Hello, Boudin in SF!

33. Salted lassi ~ Yes, sort of. I don't think it was salted but I've also had a version with rum.

34. Sauerkraut ~ Yes. The perfect accompaniment to a big German sausage.

35. Root beer float ~ Yes, some of my best summer memories include this tasty treat.

36. Cognac with a fat cigar ~  Yes, to the cognac but I will never have a cigar. That's not even food.

37. Clotted cream tea - Yes, but prefer the clotted cream on my scones.

38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O shot ~ Yes...but not a fan.

39. Gumbo ~ Yes, in New Orleans.

40. Oxtail ~

41. Curried goat ~

42. Whole insects ~

43. Phaal ~

44. Goat’s milk ~ I'm going to say yes because I eat goat's milk cheese and yogurt on a regular basis.

45. Single malt whisky ~ Aye. Stephen made me do it. Don't like it straight up...burns.

46. Fugu ~

47. Chicken tikka masala ~ Yes, learned how to make it once at a cooking class but haven't had it since.

48. Eel ~ Yes, but it is too slimy for me.

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut ~ Yes, but it has been a while. They are kind of like cotton candy, melting upon contact with your mouth.

50. Sea urchin ~

51. Prickly pear ~ Yes, but it didn't have much flavor.

52. Umeboshi ~

53. Abalone ~

54. Paneer ~ Yes, mixed with a bit of spinach.

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal ~ Yes, but never again.

56. Spaetzle ~ Yes, another German favorite.

57. Dirty gin martini ~ Yes, I've tasted one, but I wouldn't order one myself.

58. Beer above 8% ABV ~ Yes, definitely. Love the strong Belgian brews.

59. Poutine ~

60. Carob chips ~ Yes, but not a fan.

61. S’mores ~ Yes, I especially like them wrapped in foil over the coals after the marshmallows initial toasting.

62. Sweetbreads ~

63. Kaolin ~

64. Currywurst ~

65. Durian ~

66. Frogs’ legs ~

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake ~ Yes to all of the above.

68. Haggis ~

69. Fried plantain ~ Yes, as a dessert covered in chocolate sauce at a Mexican restaurant.

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette  ~

71. Gazpacho ~ Yes, my own that I made from fresh tomatoes once.

72. Caviar and blini ~

73. Louche absinthe ~

74. Gjetost ~

75. Roadkill ~

76. Baijiu ~

77. Hostess Fruit Pie ~ Yes, when I was little, but prefer to make my own now.

78. Snail ~ Yes, I finally had my first experience with escargot a few months ago.

79. Lapsang souchong ~ Yes, but it isn't one of my favorite teas.

80. Bellini ~

81. Tom yum ~

82. Eggs Benedict ~ Yes, but I'm not the biggest fan of hollaindaise sauce.

83. Pocky ~ Oh, yes. Used to buy these from World Market frequently when I was younger.

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant ~

85. Kobe beef ~

86. Hare ~

87. Goulash ~ Yes, my father liked to make this with leftover spaghetti.

88. Flowers ~ Yes, love lavender!

89. Horse ~

90. Criollo ~

91. Spam ~

92. Soft shell crab ~ Yes, but I don't remember it being anything spectacular.

93. Rose harissa ~

94. Catfish ~

95. Mole poblano ~

96. Bagel and lox ~ Yes, cream cheese included.

97. Lobster Thermidor ~

98. Polenta ~ Yes, I like it with a lot of added cheese. Yum.

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee ~

100. Snake ~


How many have you tried? Any favorites or ones that cause complete disgust?

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Holy Guacamole!

The college football season is winding down. This past Monday we watched the Nebraska Huskers get pummeled by the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl. (Not exactly the outcome we wanted but....)

I can't keep track of all the college Bowls that take place nowadays. The Tostitos Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Music City Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl, the Pinstripe Bowl.... There is literally a Bowl now for every company and occasion. I remember the days of perhaps four or five Bowls, when only the best teams of that year were worthy of competing. As someone remarked to me the other day, they've arranged it now so that not one college football team will be left out of playing a Bowl. Wouldn't want to make anyone feel bad.


However, the biggest football Bowl and party of the year has yet to arrive. NFL is still in full swing, and Superbowl Sunday is only one month away. I wonder who will go head-to-head this year?? In any case, it's high-time we begin getting ready for those tailgating parties. My interest, in truth, really is in the preparation of a feast for the outdoor picnic....

This guacamole dip is a solid addition to the spread of Game Day appetizers. It is fantastic for dippin' chips or to wrap up in your favorite burrito or taco. What really makes it is the lime and cilantro combination. Don't skimp on the juice!
Zesty Guacamole

2 avocados
juice of one lime
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/4 c. chunky salsa (I use Pace Picante Medium)

Choose avocados on the softer side. It is easier to make this guacamole with ones that will easily mash. Cut your avocados into sections. This will help with the mashing process too. Pop sections into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add lime juice and continue until completely mashed.

Sprinkle in cilantro and mix well into the avocado mixture. Do the same with the salsa. You can add a little more or a little less depending on your taste and tolerance of spiciness.

Grab a bag of your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy! (The Tostitos Lime are a great choice.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year to you too!

Steve and I stopped in at a Buffalo Wild Wings Sunday night for a quick dinner in between moving loads to his new apartment. The line was out the door due to the televised game inside between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

A rather intoxicated woman ready to make her exit, came stumbling down the hallway boldly stating to each passerby, "Happy New Year," to which she received few replies as most were too intent upon watching the game to pay her any mind. She was rather flustered with the unresponsive types. Because it was New Year's Day and a time for celebration, she felt people should make an effort to reply accordingly.

Steve and I were standing in the breezeway waiting for a vacant seat to fill in the waiting area. As she approached us, we were at the ready, sure to answer loudly and proudly. We did so on cue. She replied without batting an eyelash, "Hey, you guys should get married this year!" Well, thanks, stranger. We plan on doing just that.... :)

I've been a bit absent the past few days because we are in process of moving as I mentioned above. Barely time for eating, let alone cooking...will get back on the ball here shortly! :)

Hope the new year is off to a great, fresh start for each and every one of you!