Archive for October, 2012

A Slice of My Life – Week 43

October 29, 2012

This was a relatively quiet week with a busy weekend.  As we have started to settle more and more into our new life in Oakland, I am starting to really miss my friends.  We have had some lovely interactions with people here and everyone is so friendly that I know I will make friends here.  But at times I really miss just being able to sit down with someone who I know well and just chat.  Just catch up.  It takes time and energy to build those relationships – I realize I just need to be patient.  I also need to be proactive.  Not always easy for an introvert.  (I know I may not seem like an introvert.  I’m good at pretending to be an extrovert.  It makes me tired.)

Anyway!

I got two cookbooks from publishers this week, both from bakeries in Seattle.  Perhaps they contributed to my homesickness.  I’ve long been a fan of Macrina Bakery and love the first book.  There are about 100 things I want to make in here.

While Graham and I work on his homework, Spencer plays.  It often involves tape.  Why do my children love tape so much?  This is the, wait for it, pencil-vania bridge.  He kills me.  The best part is he wasn’t trying to be funny.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I often post photos of my shoes.  What can I say, I love shoes.  These are a recent purchase.  Cute and comfortable.

I repeated a dinner from last week so I could take pictures and tell you about it.  Also because my mom said I should definitely post about the salad.  So you can thank her.  Stay tuned.

I mean to include this last week.  October 20th marked the anniversary of the Oakland fire that destroyed over 3,000 homes.  Our house is in the area that was destroyed.  Our street is long and only two of the houses are original.  This plaque is at the end of our street and I just found out that the woman it honors lived in our house.  Or the house that was here before it burned.

The second book’s arrival.  Tea, new cookbook, sun.  Not a whole lot better than that.

We went to the Jack London Square area of Oakland on Sunday to check out the farmers’ market and get some lunch.  The place we chose had us wait so long for our food that we missed the market.  I had to take the boys walking around the block four times to distract them.

Our real estate agent kept telling us that this part of Oakland is poised for a great revival.  I was skeptical, especially after brunch, but then I saw Miette was there.  I think that is a good sign.

October 28th.  Open back door to cool off the house.  Pinch me.

Fancy.

This is blurry and dark but it is Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  They were in town to celebrate the release of their new book, Jerusalem.  They did a very cool event at a local restaurant where they signed books and then the restaurant prepared a four course dinner based on recipes from the book.  The two of them were very charming and it was a wonderful night.  Toward the end, about half the room starting cheering and it turns out the San Francisco Giants had just won the World Series.  When the guys got up to say a few words, Yotam said, “I have to admit, I have no idea who the Giants are”.  Cute.

To all of my East coast loved ones, friends and family, please be safe.  We will be thinking of you.



A Slice of My Life – Week 42

October 22, 2012

How was your week everyone??  I did lots of cooking, more than usual.  I catered a party for a neighbor and had a dinner party on the same night.  Thankfully, years of multi-tasking in the kitchen made this possible.

Banana peanut butter bread from the new Baked cookbook just because.  I let this have an extra 5 minutes in the oven because I often underbake quick breads out of fear of overbaking them.  I thought I had, in fact, overbaked this one because the outside was rather dark.  But nope, nice and moist inside.

Randy was out of town two nights.  Dinner for one.

I met Tracy and Denise at our friend Allison’s restaurant Homeroom.  It is a mac and cheese restaurant with plenty of other delicious things too.

Spicy mac.  Sooooooo good.

Graham had a sick day this week.  No other symptoms besides a fever, thankfully.

I decided to make an apple cake for the catered party and decided on this one.  I posed this question on Instagram (I’m @danatreat), does anyone else hold their breath when they release a Bundt cake from its pan?  I do every time.

Found in a random box.  Not our official wedding portrait but taken on our wedding day. Ten years!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream.  Nothing else to say about that one.

The chocolate chip cookies I love so desperately.

Just because I won’t eat figs doesn’t mean I won’t cook with them.  These are marinated in balsamic vinegar, sugar, and water and then seared.  Served with greens and Camembert.

Pumpkin patch!

Stinson Beach.  Can’t wait to go back there.

Both my boys have awesome hair.  Spencer always has bed head.

Hide your candy!

Tomatoes and even a few strawberries from the garden.



What is Your Comfort Food?

October 17, 2012

Comfort food.  What does that mean to you?  For some it means food from their childhood.  For others it means food that is homey and simple.  Others would say it means the most decadent unhealthy thing you can eat.  As with most things food-related, there is no absolute definition of comfort food – it is different things to different people.

For me, comfort food is something I dearly love that I don’t eat all that often.  And when I do eat it, it makes me very happy.  It feels warm and nourishing but it is not something that I will regret eating the next day.  French fries would fit the bill except for that last part.  I would probably include the things that my mom used to make (flank steak, bbq chicken, meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, fried sole) but I don’t eat those things anymore.

So I offer up polenta.  Very cozy, somewhat nourishing, kind of special without being fussy.  For me, it’s a joy to eat.  Especially when there is fresh corn in the mix.  Polenta made with just cornmeal can get a little oatmeal-y on me.  Let me explain.  I like my oatmeal salty not sweet.  Brown sugar, raisins, maple syrup – none of those things are welcome in my bowl of oatmeal.  Salt only.  There is exactly one other person I know of on earth who eats oatmeal this way and he is my father and he taught me that oatmeal should be salty.  So, when I tuck into a big bowl of oatmeal, it tastes so very good at first.  I rejoice in the first few bites.  And then I get bored.  The texture is a bit gloppy and the flavor is very one note – salty.  Kind of like polenta.  I serve myself a big bowl and I am so happy for a few moments and then it starts to feel gloppy and salty – like oatmeal.

Not, however, if you add the kernels from two ears of corn and a dollop of ricotta cheese.  It becomes something much more complex.  The corn adds sweetness and crunch and the cheese adds richness but not so much that you regret eating it the next day.  Really, I would have been very happy eating it all by its lonesome but I saw a recipe for a bowl of polenta with tomato fennel broth that was topped with wild mushrooms and greens, and it was one of those where I basically stopped all my cooking plans so I could make it.  Except that I couldn’t get fennel at my small local grocery store and I’m not all that into the wild mushrooms I can find here (I miss my chanterelles!), and greens felt like they would mute my dish, so I went in another direction.  I used the corn cobs and lots herbs to make a flavorful broth, which I cooked long enough to reduce down and concentrate flavors.  I bought cremini and shiitake mushrooms, both of which keep their shape nicely and bring earthiness without weirdness to the bowl.  Yes, you will dirty three pots making this dish.  Sorry about that.  You won’t notice after the first bite.

One Year Ago:  Arugula Salad with Asian Pear and Roasted Onions
Two Years Ago:  Cranberry Soup with Farro, Graham Cracker Pound Cake, Roasted Pear Salad with Chèvre and Fig Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago:  Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing, Holly B’s Cappuccino Bars
Four Years Ago:  White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage

Fresh Corn Polenta with Tomato Corn Broth and Mushrooms
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

For the broth:
2 corn cobs
½ onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
4 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 cups water

For the polenta:
4 cups water
1½ cups polenta or medium cornmeal
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
¼ cup ricotta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

To finish:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed, slice in half
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, slice in half
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (or more) basil, cut in thin ribbons, for garnish
½ (or more) cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Make the broth:
If you haven’t already, cut the kernels off the two ears of corn.  Set the kernels aside in a bowl.  Place the cobs, onion half, garlic cloves, parsley and thyme spigs, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, and tomatoes in a soup pot.  Pour in the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a lively simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about 1½ cups, about 45 minutes.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a smaller pot.  Press on the solids in the strainer to extract the juices.  Cover the broth and set aside.  (This can be made earlier in the day.  Reheat it when you are ready to use it.  You will want it nice and hot.)

Make the polenta:
Pour the water or broth into a pot that has nice high sides.  Bring to a boil.  Slowly drizzle in the polenta, whisking constantly.  It will seem like too much liquid for the amount of polenta, but the liquid absorbs pretty rapidly.  Turn the heat to low.  Continue whisking until the mixture is very thick, just about 5 minutes.  Make sure the heat is on low and allow to cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  It will bubble thickly and may mess up your stove, the higher the sides on our pot the better for reducing mess.  After 10 minutes, stir in the fresh corn kernels.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the ricotta cheese and allow it to cook for another few minutes so that the flavors can meld.  Season to taste with pepper and salt.  Cover and it should keep warm for about 30 minutes or so.  If you need to reheat it, you can do so gently over very low heat.  Be sure to stir it well so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Finish the dish:
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt the butter, add the olive oil, and add the mushrooms.  Allow them to cook without disturbing them for a few minutes so they can get a bit of a sear.  Then stir occasionally as they cook for another 5-10 minutes.  About halfway through the cooking time, add the fresh thyme leaves and a good pinch of salt.  Once the mushrooms are nicely browned, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon a healthy portion of polenta into 4 shallow bowls.  Top with the mushrooms, fresh basil, and a shower of Parmesan cheese.  Carefully ladle the broth around the very edge of the bowl, so it moistens the polenta without making the mushrooms soggy.



A Slice of My Life – Week 41

October 16, 2012

After 14 years of doing yoga, with a three year hiatus for birthing and nursing babies, I decided it was time to take a little break.  Yoga classes in my neighborhood are an hour and a half – 15 minutes longer than classes at my studio in Seattle.  For some reason, that extra 15 minutes sent me over the edge.  I’ve been taking these barre type classes at the Dailey Method and they kick.my.butt.  Like legs shaking during and can hardly walk after.  Ouch.

I did a post about my hair.  That is the most I have talked about my hair ever.  If you have curly hair, it’s worth a read.

Smoky brownies from the new Baked cookbook.  Lots of cinnamon and a full tablespoon of ancho chile powder.  They were great.

I took BART into San Francisco for a day.  I can’t believe I live so close to such an amazing city.

I almost bought these shoes.  They look weirder in the photo than they did in person.  Still just a bit too weird for me.

One of my most favorite things I have made recently.  Fresh corn polenta with sautéed mushrooms and a tomato corn broth.  I know I’m behind with my promised recipes but this one will be posted this week for sure.

Advice we all could use from Spencer’s kindergarten classroom.

My parents came to visit.  They taught the boys how to play checkers and Old Maid.

We took them into the city for dinner.  How do you choose a restaurant in San Francisco?  I decided to go with a classic and we had a very disappointing meal.  Total bummer.

Apple pie filling.

Apple pie.  I made dinner for my parents on the last night they were here.  I made a great Thai green curry dish with eggplant, mushrooms, and delicata squash.  I also made a salad with roasted portabello mushrooms and asparagus with a ginger vinaigrette.  Everything was delicious and we all ate so much that no one had room for pie.  Except the boys.

I now live on a street where the neighbors gather on nice weekend nights and drink wine while the kids play.  They order pizza or sushi and pull out the fire pit to make s’mores.  We lived on our street in Seattle for 5½ years and I only knew the people right next door to us.  I’m pretty excited about this street.

It’s not the Marais in Paris, but there is some very good felafel and hummus in Oakland.

Sunset.



Curly Hair Public Service Announcement

October 11, 2012

Okey dokey.  I’m going to talk about my hair.  This is not a vanity project.  I am not going to tell you how gorgeous my hair is and how amazing I am at styling it.  There will be no beautiful photos of me and my hair, no how-to-step-by-step shots of me from wet to dry.  This is a public service announcement for those of us who have curly hair and struggle with it.  You may be a curly haired person who has already gone down this path and if so, you are wondering how did I not figure this all out sooner?  I have no idea.

Also, please let me say that if you are looking for better visuals, more verbose directions, specific product endorsements, just google “curly girl method” and you will be amazed by what is out there.  I am at the beginning of this journey and I just wanted to lay out what is working for me.  We all hear claims by companies that some product or method will Totally Change Your Life!!!  I have fallen prey to various claims over the years, especially with skin care and/or makeup, and my life has never been totally changed.  Nor has my skin.  This new way of relating to and caring for my hair has not changed my life, of course.  But it has changed my hair and my feelings about it.  Enough so that I want to share.  This post is not sponsored by anyone other than me.  I’ve linked to a few things that I have used and liked.  I just want to make it easier for you.

I’ve had curly hair all my life.  Straight haired people, say it with me, “Oh I love your hair!  I’ve always wanted curly hair!”  Really?  If so many staight-haired people wanted curly hair, then why are there places to get your hair blown out straight cropping up left and right?  These are things I don’t understand.  Curly hair is a challenge.  It never looks the same from day to day.  It tends to frizz.  It misbehaves in humidity.  It can be awkward and bed-head can be terrifying.

The history of my hair is that it was mostly short as a young child, mostly long as a teenager and into my 20′s, and mostly short as an adult.  I think, overall, I look better with short hair.  My curl is medium to quite curly.  Somewhere during my big hair phase (it was the 80′s and it was big), I realized that I am a relatively small person and I have a lot of hair and the proportion was just off.  I waited a few years until I had the confidence to cut it off and spent the rest of my adult life with it short.

This new way of being all started soon after our move to Oakland.  I live in Rockridge.  There are about 20 hair places in Rockridge.  I’m not kidding.  Because of this, I suddenly became aware that there are whole product lines devoted to curly hair.  How did I not know this before?  They must be in Seattle too but I was not aware of them.  I had never googled “curly girl method”.  I just used what I used and dealt with my hair on a day by day basis.  About 80% of the time I didn’t like how it looked and 20% of the time, I did.  I was in the midst of a slight grow-out with a giant chop looming in the future because of that 80/20 and now I’m feeling like I might even grow it long.  Ish.  I walked into one of those 20 salons in my neighborhood, one that had a giant advertisement in the window for curly hair products and asked some questions.  The next day, I liked my hair.  Four weeks later, I still like it.   I think, all in all, my hair looks different because a convergence of things.  Products, method, cut, and a dryer climate doesn’t hurt.  Let me break it down for you.

1.  The Cut.  There are a million people out there who cut hair.  See someone who is good at cutting curly hair.  Preferably someone who has curly hair themselves.  Some curly haired people will tell you that you must see someone who will cut your hair dry.  I’ve never had my hair cut dry and I’ve gotten a lot of good haircuts.  I think the person and their understanding of curly hair is more important than the method.  Most reputable places will allow you to do a consult, often for free, before deciding on a stylist.

2.  The Washing.  Up until very recently, I washed my hair everyday.  Always.  And now not anymore.  I guess in general no one should wash their hair everyday because it is unnecessarily drying and throws off the natural oils that the scalp produces.  My stylist told me I should wash my hair once or twice a week and that it would take a couple of weeks for my hair to readjust.  I have to admit, this was a hard one for me.  I have long struggled with my scalp and at first it was almost unbearably itchy.  Now I am washing my hair every third day and it seems to be going well.   I wet it and condition it everyday and it does not look greasy.  My hair is twice as soft as it used to be and is not frizzy.  And I’m not itchy anymore.  Added benefit, you don’t use as much shampoo and if you color your hair, the color does not fade as much.

3.  The Products.  If you have curly hair, you will want to buy products for specifically for curly hair.  Two months ago, I might have scoffed at this advice.  Shampoo is shampoo and conditioner is conditioner, right?  If I had not seen a complete change in the look and feel of my hair, I would agree with that statement.  Again, I think it is a combination of things that is making my hair look and feel better but the products are an important part.  This may take a bit of time to find what you like.  The place I walked into recommended Jessicurl and just needing a place to start, I went with it.  I’ve been using the shampoo and the conditioner and as soon as I started, my hair changed.  Downside: they have a flat and slightly funky smell and I get Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl stuck in my head every morning in the shower.  I’ve been using a great gel, Seasilk Oil Gel, from my pre-ephihany days and I continue to use and love it.  If you have a beauty supply place near you, I would say that is a good place to start as they tend to carry lots of different lines and sometimes have samples for you to try.  Yes, you will have to invest a bit.  The products I’m using are about $17 each.  I’ve always felt that it was important to use good shampoo so this was not a shock to me.  If you have been using Suave, you might get a bit of sticker shock.  But good products do make a (huge) difference.  It’s a small price to pay in the long run.

4.  The Drying.  If you are taking a terry cloth towel to your hair post shower and vigorously rubbing your hair and blowing it dry, you are not doing your curly hair any favors.  I’ve long known that the brush and the hair dryer are the enemies of curly hair (frizz and frizz!) but I thought all towels were created equal.  Nope.  You will want to either buy a special microfiber towel (DevaCurl makes a good one) or use a long sleeve t-shirt.  I have both and I like the t-shirt method better.  The towel is quicker so if you don’t want to walk around your house for 15 minutes with a t-shirt on your head, I would advise buying the towel.  Either way, you are starting with your hair sopping wet.  Turn off the shower and use your hands to squeeze a bit of water out of your hair but that’s it. 

For the towel: Turn your head upside down and, using the towel, start squeezing the water out of your hair but scrunching it up toward the scalp.  Stop and turn your head right side up and repeat.  Style immediately.  You still want your hair very wet but not dripping when you put the product in.

For the t-shirt: You employ a method called “plopping“.  I know this sounds ridiculous but it works.  My hair is still relatively short but I would imagine this is a necessity for longer hair.  Basically you are lowering your hair, while your head is upside down, onto the t-shirt.  This scrunches the curl against your head and totally eliminates frizz.  While your head is still upside down, you secure the shirt on your head using the sleeves.  I’m not very good at this but the most important thing is that all your hair is covered by the shirt.  I leave mine on for 10-15 minutes.  Take it off, give your head a good shake to loosen the curls from your head, and style immediately.  I always put most of the product in while my head is upside down, and then just a bit more while it is right side up.  You should use more product than you think you need.  Then don’t touch your hair until it is mostly or completely dry.  Then it is all right to use your hands to scrunch your curls.  This will make it look more natural and eliminate any “crunch” from your product.

All right, your turn.  Any tips, tricks, product loves?



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