Cloudy with a chance of Nachos?

When I was a little kid I was sure of two things if nothing else. 1) If I ran fast enough in circles I could make butter out of thin air like Little Black Sambo and 2) one day it would rain food just like in the book Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Never mind that I wasn’t particularly fond of meatballs and dreamt of nachos falling down from the skies instead. It would happen one day. I was confident.

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It’s funny looking back the things we believe as children and why not I suppose. I mean, my mom really did feed us Green Eggs and Ham for breakfast after all. Then there was the time we told all our neighbors we were making Stone Soup but were short on supplies. They were very generous just like the villagers in the story. Yummy soup for one and all!

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There were cautionary tales, like I just knew to not accept a red apple from an old lady. That foolish Snow White. She had no common sense! Never eat an entire bowl of honey. Like Winnie the Pooh said, its not good for your tummy! If I ever had a pet mouse, I was sure to not give it anything! It’s amazing what can happen If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

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This is really valuable life experience I plan on passing to my daughter. I’m sure she will thank me one day!

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Latte Love

What was our life like before Starbucks? How did our parents and grandparents survive on plain boring old black coffee at just nickels a cup? I wonder what they would think about us all paying $4-5 per coffee, errr, Latte.

Now just to really make sure we are all getting our money’s worth, the bar has been raised even higher! It’s not just coffee. It’s art!

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My older brother is obsessed with the art of latte foam. He loves coffee and is a talented artist so it’s kind of a no brainer. We stayed at his home over Thanksgiving and were treated to morning cappuccinos complete with artsy foam leaf designs. Fancy smancy! Let me tell you it was tough to leave!

But alas, first world problems…

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Between you and me, I don’t think it makes the coffee taste any better but there’s something good for the soul to see that foam design on top. Puts a smile on your face and warmth in your belly!

Still I think my brother has the right idea. Buy your own cappuccino maker and just keep practicing on that leaf. Save the spotted giraffe for your $5 coffee!

Mommy Smells Like A Tamale

Wow, just when I thought I’d heard everything! The latest trend in perfumes? Food scents!

Yes, you too can go through the day smelling of Eau de Tamale Pie!

Somewhere in the house I just heard a belly laugh and I’m sure it’s my husband reading the Huffington Post article I forwarded him. Now just silence….which means he’s actually considering how awesome it would be to have his wife walking around smelling like tamales. All day. Every day.

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Reminds me of when I was taking large doses of fenugreek while breast feeding. It was supposed to increase my milk supply as it has done historically for women over the centuries. There was one strange side effect to taking the capsules. I reeked of maple syrup! It came out my pores and other ways we won’t go into. My husband walked around for a week talking about pancakes and how much he craved them. Couldn’t get it out of his head. I was torturing the poor guy! Ha!

But if I was going to wear a perfume scented like food I don’t think maple syrup or tamales would be high on my list. Maybe apple pie or blueberry cheesecake. Perhaps minestrone soup or a mushroom risotto.

If you asked my husband I know exactly what he’d say: nachos and hot wings. No question.
Oh gosh, I think I know what I’m getting for Valentine’s Day.

Hippie Food

By chance, I came across a documentary today called Following Sean. It is actually a sort of sequel to a film made by the same director 30 years before called simply Sean.

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The original 15 minute student film documented a conversation between the director Ralph Arlyck, and a boy named as you may have already guessed, Sean, who happened to be his neighbor in the Haight Asbury neighborhood of San Francisco back in 1969. Sean’s parents were the poster children so to speak for that time and that place. Their little 4 year old son was given an incredible amount of freedom to come and go as he pleased, running barefoot up and down the streets of the Haight. It’s a stunning film which definitely left its audience wanting to know more about the sweet talkative boy.

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30 years later we have our answers in the feature length film Following Sean. I can’t recommend it enough. I found the original on YouTube and the follow up can be found on Netflix.

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I've been thinking about the film all day. In particular, I've been thinking about the ways in which my upbringing paralleled Sean's, as well as the ways it didn't.

The first few years of my life were spent within about a 20 minute walk away from Sean's house in the Haight. My free spirited mother remarried when I was 2 or 3 and we moved to the suburbs. She and my stepfather were never as extreme as Sean's parents but there's definitely some similarities. If they'd ever had crossed paths I'm sure they would've all made fast friends.

What we never saw in the film was how Sean ate or slept. I'm not sure why that's been on my mind all day. But considering our parents, I have a hunch it wasn't too different than what we ate at our house. So all day my mind has been stirring up memories of my mom and her meals.

When I close my eyes and think back to the late 70's/early 80's, I see my mom barefoot in shorts and a tank top, with her long red wavy hair held back by a bandana handkerchief. When she wasn't working in the backyard garden, she was inside cooking and doing laundry for our family of 7. She ran what she liked to call "a tight ship", which I suppose is necessary with 5 kids.

She was very against brand name labels and buying very much that wasn't generic. "It's just marketing and packaging", she would say. "It all tastes the same", she would say. The same would go with anything she grew from her garden. Our dinner salads were plucked fresh from the backyard. I can still hear the grit of the dirt in my teeth from the hastily rinsed out lettuce. Makes me shudder to this day.

But breakfasts were her pride and joy. Her own invention she called a Super Drink. I'm still not entirely sure what was in it but milk, wheat germ, and possibly egg were involved. We used to have races to see who could chug it down the quickest without throwing it up before dashing off to school. I don't ever remember winning. Not even once.

Looking back now as a mother, I realize it took a lot of effort for my hippie mom to feed us as organically as she did. It wasn't the status quo. She didn't have to but I can appreciate her efforts now and I hope one day my daughter will too. But heck, believe me when I say that I wouldn't order up a Super Drink right now even if you paid me. Yuck!

Consider the Fork

I’ve spent the better part of 2012 in a post pardum mommy brain haze. Just the typical hormonal and sleep deprived state most new moms find themselves in. Well, for me that meant that I had neither the attention span nor general interest in reading. No interest in anything really, other than my baby and some sleep.

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I missed my monthly Book Club gals. But even when I finally managed to show up at a meeting or two of our group BookMARC, (that’s an acronym for Meghan, Audra, Roseanna, and Carleen…aren’t we a clever bunch?!), I really had nothing to contribute. Mostly because I hadn’t read the book. Usually, I didn’t even really know which book it was that month. It was just too much for me to keep going and not fair to them to show up for cocktails and dinner with my baby in tow, offering little or nothing to the conversation. I regretfully bowed out of our group.

Fast forward to the end of 2012, after multiple blood tests, a visit or two to a nutritionist and I was diagnosed with borderline anemia and a Vitamin D deficiency. Turns out it wasn’t all mommy brain after all. Now 3 weeks into my prescription supplements and I’m starting to find the old me. More energy, focus, and a desire to read again. The timing couldn’t be better when I came across the book Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson.

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Ok, so I’ll admit what first attracted me to this book was the cover. I’m a sucker for anything antique or old fashioned. Plus, it’s a history book! About cooking and eating? Oh yeah, I thought, thank you Amazon Prime. I’ll be seeing you in my hands soon enough!

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The author, Bee Wilson, is an English food writer and historian. She’s written a few other books with quirky titles like Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud and Sandwich. She’s won a boatload of awards in her field and judging from the photo on the book jacket, she can’t be much older than me. She has this look where I can imagine in her Mary Poppins voice saying “Oh, so you think you know it all do you. Hmmm, well now just sit back and listen to this little bitty…”.

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And so I plan to do just that tonight. I recommend you do the same. Just think, we could even chat about it. Sure enough, you’ll be hearing more from me (and Bee) here soon!

Colonial Keggers

Watched an episode of The Layover with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel last night. This time he was visiting Philadelphia and if you are a fan of any of his series, you already know that Chef Bourdain NEVER misses any opportunity to go to a bar wherever he is in the world.

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Now I’m not a beer drinker. I never really have been. Ok, sure there was that one week a few years ago after I saw a documentary on New Belgium Brewing Company and was so impressed with them that I actually bought a six pack of their Fat Tire brew. I though it was my little way of supporting an eco-friendly business with the lofty goal of running completely of wind power. Plus, they gave all their new employees a brand new custom red bicycle on their one year anniversary of work! You know the cute red cruiser seen on their labels. Seriously, how great is that?!

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Ok, off topic. So on this particular episode of The Layover, he wobbles (yes, wobbles because there are always multiple bar hops on his show) on down to a Philadelphia original, The Yards. It’s a brewery started in 1994 by Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit. It’s my kind of brewery (as my hubby will tell you), just a typical trendy micro brew spot. I’m no dive bar girl but giddy as ever in an old brick building with wall-to-wall dark woods and a menu filled with Cobb salad, wood fired pizzas, and organic beef hamburger options. Sign. Me. Up.

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What was especially unique about The Yards is that Jon and Tom have really taken their love or brewing and the history of Philly to a whole new level. They have a line of beer called Ales of the Revolution, which are crafted from actual recipes of beers during Colonial times. Hearty beers that founding fathers like George Washington and John Adams would’ve chugged down back in the day.

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Apparently, getting together for a good old fashioned colonial kegger would've had an alcohol content close to 14% for our first President. Pretty incredible when you consider that in modern times, it's more like 4 or 5% for a Budweiser.

Here's a few other little bits of trivia for history buffs out there:

– Beer was an important part of the Continental Army’s rations. Spruce beer, ale flavored with spruce, was rationed out in pints and quarts (which is one interpretation of where the expression “Mind your Ps and Qs” came from).

– Beer was brewed either at the local public house or at home. The beer found most commonly in the colonial period was English-style brown ale or a porter.

– The most popular style of beer brewed in the colonial period was the porter. It is a dark beer made from roasted malt, which was both inexpensive to produce and filling.

– The majority of beer in the 1700's was either home-brewed or made at a local public house. You did not see larger breweries in America until later, when transporting the beer became more viable.

– The average colonial ale was much more sustaining and nutritious than today’s light beers.

– Because of the lack of potable water in the 18th century, beer was a safe way to hydrate. It was readily available to men, women, and children and rarely drunk to excess. Toward the end of the 1700s, a temperance movement began to gain popularity. This and the Victorian Era helped shape our unfortunate attitude toward alcohol in this country.

– Beer can be served anywhere from ice cold to room temperature. Traditional German lagers are stored in cold environments and ferment at a lower temperature; therefore, they are best served cold, while traditional English ales are fermented at room temperature and were traditionally served quite warm.

– Commonly served with breakfast porridge. Beer in much of the world was very much like bread on the table up until the late 20th century. It was not very varied, and that was rarely questioned.

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Hello 2013, Let’s Get Blogging!

Oh gosh, is all I can think of right now. What have I committed myself to here? Blogging every single day in 2013! This from someone who is notorious for overcommitting myself and becoming easily distracted by the next super fun thing. Drives my husband batty!

So what’s my plan for staying on track you might ask? Well, I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve decided to just give into my jumpy attention span. So I’m gonna be all over the place here. One day I may want to talk about a culinary book I’ve read whether it’s a cook book or on the history of cooking. There may be posts on my favorite chefs or on a technique I’d like to learn more about. I’d also like to learn more about organic farming here in the Bay Area and so I envision some posts about local CSA’s and Farmer’s Markets.

My brain is just overwhelmed with topics I’d love to learn more about and so I’m hoping to use this blog as a way to sort it all into some sort of way that makes sense. In the process I hope to meet some new friends! Wish me luck!

Butternut Squash Bliss

Oh, it feels so good to be home! We had a great time at Disneyland and California Adventure. Lots to see and plenty to do. Not much great to eat though. Well, that is unless it’s shaped with Mouse Ears and smothered in chocolate or some other yummy goodness. But who can live on that all day?!

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I woke up this morning on our first day back home with an urge for the comforting scent of roasted butternut squash in the oven.

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I just threw together some chunks of butternut squash I had in the fridge with melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Then I roasted it at 350′ for 45 minutes.

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The smell of roasting butternut squash was amazing! Which I have to admit was a bit better than it tasted. Next time I’d probably skip the salt and pepper. But it was still edible and well there’s nothing better than that wonderful Fall smell wafting throughout the house. It’s like a little peak of Thanksgiving dinner!

For other Butternut Squash ideas I’m going to try some of these next time from Martha Stewart. Let me know if they work for you!

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S’mores On The BBQ

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Feels good to check off a fun activity from our bucket list! S’mores on the BBQ were a huge hit but honestly who doesn’t love s’mores? No one here in this family that’s for sure!

I did learn an interesting tid bit about my hubby. Poor guy had no clue how to properly roast a marshmallow! You can imagine my horror watching him fumble around. But this is what love and marriage is all about and like they say, “for better or worse”…. So we had a little recap on the wonderful world of marshmallow roasting. (Guess I took my summers at camp and our late night marshmallows over the fire pit for granted).

Not to worry though! Crisis averted and he’s on his way to becoming a pro! He has a real appreciation for the fire induced crust that forms on a marshmallow after turning it into a mini flame thrower. Is there anything better than the smell and gooey goodness of what lies under that charred crust? I think not!

All in all it was a winner Blog Land! I’m so glad we did it. (And no one even could tell we used Gluten free marshmallows!)

Tonight we are off to the pumpkin patch and hope to conquer the infamous corn maze!

Our Fall Bucket List 2012

• Pumpkin spice latte and a walk with family (somewhere with lots of trees before leaves fall)

• Bake mini pumpkin pies in pie maker

• Zucchini bread

• Fly our kite

• Minestrone soup

• Family caricature picture

• Fall pictures

S’mores over BBQ

• Decorate house for Halloween

• Pumpkin patch and corn maze

• Carve pumpkins

• Disneyland for Halloween

• Trick or treating with warm “spiked” drinks

• Apple picking in Sonoma

• Crock pot applesauce

• Risotto

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The Other Big Mac

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If there was just one meal my husband would eat day after day, breakfast-lunch-dinner it would have to be Mac n’ Cheese. That guy is loco for cheesy pasta! Now that our little babydoodle can indulge in some Italian delights he’s decided that its time to pass on his love of the cheesy Mac.

That’s where I come in and rain some vegetable goodness on his parade. See hubby’s idea of Mac n’ Cheese is what I consider a heart attack on a plate. His recipe calls for creme fraiche and bacon with buttery bread crumbs on top. Sounds divine I know but wowza, someone here needs to be the voice of reason. Our little babydoodle will need to pace herself with that level of cuisine! So Mom comes in with a bag of frozen peas et voilá…it’s comfort food without the heartburn.

Oh, and yes, hubby loved it! Nom Nom…

Babydoodle Mac ‘n Cheese

Ingredients:

16 oz pipette pasta or other small pasta shapes
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
12 oz cheddar cheese shredded
1 tsp Kosher salt
Bag of frozen peas
6 slices bacon diced

Instructions:

In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

Cook bacon slices in a separate skillet, drain grease and set aside on paper towels to cool.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 1/2 minutes whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.

Remove skillet from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheese allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the bacon, salt, and green peas. Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the sauce pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce.

Heat frozen peas to boil, drain and set aside.

Cook pasta mixture for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Stir in diced bacon and cooked peas. Serve hot in bowls with spoons.

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