Archive for October, 2008

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2008

I thought it was time to share a couple of photos of my guys. They are beyond excited for the trick or treating to begin!

On another note, I think I was able to change my comment setting successfully, so you no longer have to have a google account to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Tomorrow I will be starting NaPoBloMo, National Blog Posting Month in other words. I will be posting every day for the month of November. I’m not exactly sure how this is going to work, but wish me luck! Lots of recipes to come!

Soup for Deb

October 29, 2008

A few years ago, I decided to lead a PEPS group. PEPS stands for Program for Early Parenthood Support and it is, as it sounds, a support group for new parents. I joined a group when my older son was just a couple months old and, while I loved the concept of the group, I just didn’t get that much out of it. I liked a lot of the women in the group, but didn’t think our leader did a good job of keeping things real. I felt like the only one who was having a hard time with the whole newborn thing and I think the leader could have helped some of those issues come out.

Because I really support the idea, I thought I should lead a group and help other women (or men) live through those first few months. Lucky me – I got an extraordinary group of moms and leading that group is one of my best experiences of the past five years. We met for four months and saw the babies go from tiny little bundles to sitting up and interacting with the world. These moms were very honest with the struggles they were having and I really felt like they all got a lot out of the time we all spent together.

One of the women was a real treasure. Deb is that incredible cheerleader type who is completely and 100% sincere. She is tirelessly positive and yet the first to admit when things aren’t going right. She injected humor and caring into all of our discussions. Early on, she told me her husband was a builder and was in the process of building two houses in a neighborhood that I love. They planned to move into one and the other was going to go on the market once finished. At the time, we were thinking about getting pregnant with our second child and our house was feeling a little small. I went to take a look at the house in question and fell in love.

Fast forward many months, many sessions of Randy crunching numbers, many decisions and choices on how to finish the house, and having my second baby – Deb is my neighbor. She is also a true and wonderful friend. We have spent a lot of time at one another’s houses and my older son and her daughter are best friends. She has helped me innumerable times – whether just pouring me a big glass of wine just when I need it, or watching one or both of my kids. We have shared many many meals together and one of her favorite things that I made for her was this soup. She keeps reminding me that she wants the recipe and the time has come to put it here. I made it for my clients last night and it is as wonderful as I remembered. A delicious way to start a Mexican meal – I served it with Baked Rice with Tomatillos and Poblanos and Black Bean Salad.

Deb and her lovely family are moving in the next month to another house and I am just sick about it. It is only 6 or so blocks away but I will so miss having them next door. Here is your soup, friend.

Sopa de Calabacitas (Zucchini Soup)

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Makes 6 first course servings

I made substantial changes to this recipe which I have included here. The original calls for a lot more cream (1 cup) which is too rich for my taste, but feel free to add as you like. Fresh epazote can be hard to find – I used dried as I was sauteeing the onions and added slightly less fresh dill.

1/2 lb. poblano chiles
1 1/2 lb. zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 cup chopped white or yellow onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water

2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

3 tbsp. chopped fresh epazote leaves
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

Roast poblanos: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place poblanos on a baking sheet and bake until brown and wrinkled, about 15 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven and carefully wrap a sheet of foil to cover the baking sheet. Let rest 10 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and discard the seeds and ribs.

Make soup: Cook zucchini, onion, garlic and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a wide pot, over medium heat, stirring often until vegetables are softened. Add broth, water, poblanos, and corn and simmer, partially covered, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Puree 2 cups soup in a blender with cilantro, dill or fresh epazote, and jalapeno until smooth (use extreme caution when blending hot liquids). Return to pot. Stir in cream, pepper and salt to taste. (Soup can be made one day ahead. Allow to cool completely, then cover and store in refrigerator.)

What Does Love Look Like?

October 28, 2008

Here is a confession. I don’t really like to make cookies. Yes, you are at the right blog – Dana Treat – the woman who is a personal chef and who brings her clients a “treat” each week because she likes to bake. I do like to bake, I just don’t like to bake cookies.

It seems that most people who bake start out with cookies and I’m not really sure why that is. Perhaps it’s because that is what they did with their mother in the kitchen and is what got them interested. That is how my baking journey started. But really, I think cookies are much harder and more temperamental than most cakes. The fact that you have to form them individually, do all kinds of switching of baking sheets once in the oven to insure even baking, and that there is still so much room for error, just makes me feel hopeless before I even start. But people love cookies and so I bake them.

My very least favorite type to make is holiday cut out cookies. While this dough is dead simple to put together, it needs to be rolled out between layers of wax paper and then requires time in the refrigerator. No matter how long I leave that dough in there, it totally sticks to my cookie cutters and forces me to use a thin spatula to transfer the cookies to the sheet. Even then, some don’t make it and I have to re-roll that dough into the scraps. The scraps get smooshed together, rolled out again, refrigerated again, cut out again, transferred to the baking sheets again, ad nauseum. I only ever have the patience to do it twice before I chuck the dough and concentrate on the icing and decorating.

Because this whole process takes much longer than I would like, by the time I get to the “fun” part, I’m done. I used to decorate each cookie individually with charming sprinkle patterns but now I just rush through it.

Now, you might think that I go through this laborious process for my kids. Admittedly, they love these cookies – who wouldn’t? They are very sweet and cute looking. But really, the person who loves them most is my husband and that is who I make them for.

Easy Powdered Sugar Icing
Adapted from
The All American Cookie Book
Makes enough for approx. 50 3 inch cookies

I’m not giving out the recipe for the actual cookies because clearly I need to find a new one – one that is not so tricky and sticky to work with. But I think this icing works great – just the right consistency and hardens up just right.

1 16 oz. box powdered sugar, plus more as needed
2 tsp. light corn syrup

tsp. vanilla, almond, or lemon extract (optional)
Liquid food coloring (optional)

Using a whisk, mix together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, extract (if using), and 3 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl. Adjust the consistency as needed with more water (if too thick) or more sugar (if too thin). Using a small spatula or table knife, spread the icing on the cookies. Be sure to allow to rest 6 hours before storing.

Vancouver Weekend

October 27, 2008

When I was pregnant with my older son, Randy and I decided to take a Lamaze class to prepare us for childbirth. Because his work schedule was even more crazy then than it is now, we opted to do a weekend away instead of a class meeting once a week. As luck would have it, 11 other really cool couples made this same decision and we had a truly wonderful weekend meeting new friends and getting scared about our impending births.

As we all had our babies within two months of each other, we formed a support group. We would get together once a week and cry and laugh and nurse our newborns. If I hadn’t had this group of women, I’m not sure how I would have survived my son’s first year. Of the twelve couples, six have moved away and the rest of us don’t get together as often as we would like. We have all had second children now and our lives are crazier than ever. I have been trying to get away with my friends Joy and Lauren for the better part of a year now and this past weekend, we skipped town and went to Vancouver, B.C.

If you have never been to Vancouver, it is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I think Seattle is beautiful, but when I go there, I am truly blown away. Like Seattle, there is water everywhere, but there the mountain practically sit on top of the city. There are terrific neighborhoods, great shopping, a very vibrant restaurant scene, and everyone is nice. I won’t go into exhaustive details about our weekend but I will say the following…

– sleep in a great bed in a nice hotel

– have wine with lunch

– shop for and buy a little black dress

– have INCREDIBLE Indian food at
ViJ’s Restaurant
– have incredible ravioli at
Parkside Restaurant (the menu was specializing in game meats)
– have uninterrupted adult conversation

– enjoy time with two good friends

– miss my boys

– drive

– do dishes

– go grocery shopping

– change a diaper

– check email

– cook

– think much about cooking

All in all, a great weekend!

Farmer’s Market Bounty

October 23, 2008

If you are a blog reader, you are probably tired of being told you should shop at Farmer’s Markets. Enough with the local and seasonal song and dance, you may say. But look at these radicchio. You can’t tell from this photo, but they were the size of heads of romaine. They had dirt still attached to the outer leaves and they lived for four days in my refrigerator and still seemed as fresh as the day there were picked. I paid $4 each for these guys which is probably less than they would have cost in the supermarket, assuming I could ever find anything this gorgeous in the supermarket.

From the same farmer, I bought a type of squash that I had never seen before. It is a close relative of the delicata but with a rosier color and a rounder shape. Most importantly, it has that lovely thin skin that, when cooked, is entirely edible. These beautiful examples of fall produce starred in a gnocchi dish that I got from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers cookbook. I made some big changes to the method but used her advice for ingredients. It feels almost sacrilegious to try and improve on a recipe that one of the all-time great vegetarians wrote, but I think my changes impart a little more flavor and allow you to do some steps ahead of time.

Gnocchi with Winter Squash and Seared Radicchio
Adapted from
Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 4

If you can’t find delicata squash, you can always use butternut, just be sure to peel it first. Per Deborah Madison, you can also make this with cheese ravioli or tortellini.

3 lbs. delicata squash
Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp. maple syrup

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 large head radicchio

2 garlic cloves, minced

Big handful parsley leaves, finely chopped

12 or more sage leaves, finely chopped or 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 lb. potato gnocchi

Freshly ground Parmesan cheese and/or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash(es) in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Slice cross-wise into 1/2 inch wide slices. Place on a baking sheet, then drizzle with a little olive oil, the maple syrup, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix well with your hands and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, turn slices over and bake another 10-15 minutes, until slices are nicely browned. Allow to cool, then cut into 3/4 inch pieces. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.)

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and add the radicchio, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, tender, and no longer red, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, garlic, sage and parsley and cook for 5 more minutes, until the garlic is no longer raw.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi and simmer until done, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove to gnocchi and place them in the skillet with the radicchio along with some of the cooking water. Add one or both cheeses and stir together, adding more cooking water as necessary to keep the dish moist. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

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