Archive for July, 2013

A Slice of My Life – Weeks 28, 29, and 30

July 29, 2013

I several weeks worth of Slice of Life posts to catch up on, so I figured I’d do them all in one.  In rough chronological order:

I announced that I am starting up teaching again!  This is the screen shot on Instagram.  I can’t tell you how excited I am for all my upcoming classes.

Speaking of classes, this is some of the prep for the July/August Warm Weather Soups and Salads class.

A different kind of prep.  Beets!

I decided I needed a new shoe to teach in.  I used to always wear flats but flats are not great for your feet when you are standing for 6+ hours.  My feet don’t really like clogs, especially Dansko clogs, but for some reason, these really worked for me.  Plus, don’t you  love the color?  It’s actually surprisingly versatile.

We left a perfectly sunny and 72º day in Oakland to be enveloped in fog at Half Moon Bay.  Totally worth the temperature drop and lack of sunshine.  It is so beautiful there and we will certainly go back in the fall.

What is it about sand and sand toys?  The boys could have played there all day.

In a sweet shop, I saw slices of gorgeous frittata topped with stalks of broccolini and just had to try and make it myself.  It didn’t come out exactly like I wanted it to.  The middle wasn’t set and the broccolini sank more than I wanted them to.  Still, eggs for dinner are always nice.

Our old coffee table.  We got it right after we moved into our “black house” in Seattle.  Some friends came over and their young son ran a toy car over the top and it scratched the surface.  Our friends were horrified that he had “ruined” our table.   We had no idea how destroyed the table would get over time.  A friend of ours is an interior designer and she found us something a little more artistic.

We are in love with it but it makes our couch, which we need to replace anyway, look frumpy.

A lovely neighbor had a mobile knife sharpener come to our street.  My knives hadn’t been sharpened in almost two years so I was so excited to get them back.

The view from an empty lot on our street.  Takes my breath away every time.  At this time of year, the fog is almost like an animal, settling itself over certain places and avoiding others.  San Fransisco is often fogged in as are parts of Marin County, which is where it sits in this photo.  We continue to think that Oakland has the best weather in the Bay Area.  Even Berkeley, which is just north of us, gets more fog than we do.

At the beginning of the summer, we joined a community pool.  It is so nice to be able to just pop over there for a few hours of swimming on a nice day.  I also signed up the boys for swim lessons and they have made a staggering amount of progress already.  I feel like such a suburban mom taking my kids to swim lessons.

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs in sauce.  This made a huge amount and I thought we would have tons of leftovers.  The boys didn’t like it (big surprise) but even so, we only ended up with two leftover meatballs and a bit of sauce.  SO GOOD.

This past Friday was my birthday.  I took BART into the city and shopped a bit.  I walked down Market St. to the Ferry Building and had lunch there, followed by a food shopping trip.  I love that place so much.  So many treasures.

This wasn’t written for me, but I still appreciated it.

When Randy asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I said I wanted to go to Healdsburg for the day.  I had never been and had heard so many great things about it.  So we packed up the boys and headed up there.  It’s such a great place.  Lots of galleries and wineries all on the square, plus easy proximity to lots of Russian River and Alexander Valley wineries.  I want to go back next year again but stay the night and without the boys.

Birthday celebration continues!  We took the boys to an A’s game on Sunday – a day game.  We were able to take BART and it was so easy!  They came from behind for a big win and we all had a really good time sitting in the sun and cheering on a winning team.

I wanted to end my birthday weekend with a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while.  This is an attempt at the Saveur method of making pizza.  Basically, you allow your dough to rise for 48 hours and then heat up your stone with the oven turned to “broil” for at least 30 minutes.  I was expecting blistered charred crust, but it was pale and flabby.  Very disappointing.  At least the flavor was good.  Spring onion, the most amazing burrata from Italy, and arugula.

Finally, file this under “start your week with a smile”.  The boys used their Lego’s to make a “wine store”.

Time to Share

July 24, 2013

This is my go-to granola recipe.  I have been using it for about three years.  I had a go-to granola recipe before that that I used for many many years, but I like this one better.  I make huge batches of it and eat some, freeze some, and give some away.  Everyone loves it.  Why have I not shared this recipe until now?  Here are some reasons.

1) A part of me thinks that everyone has their own favorite granola recipe.
2) A part of me thinks I have seen 12 million granola recipes in the food blogosphere.
3) A part of me doesn’t want to take business away from this lovely lady.  (And if you are buying granola instead of making your own, you should buy it from her.)

My old favorite starred a lot of butter and honey and had lots of whole nuts in it.  I liked the flavor of it, butter and honey will do that to a person, but not the things in it as much.  If I am going to eat granola, and let’s face it – it’s not exactly health food – it has to be perfect.  This is pretty close and oh so easy to make.  You are really just measuring things out, mixing them all together in a big bowl, and waiting.  Your kitchen smells even better than when you make brownies.  Why am I sharing the recipe now?  Here are some reasons.

1) It’s just time I shared something that I make so often, regardless of reasons 1-3 above.
2) I brought giant bags of this granola with us to Bethany Beach a few weeks ago.  We kept one bag in the purple house and I brought the other over to the blue house, where much of the extended family was staying.  They all went crazy for it (people always do) and wondered when the recipe would be on my blog.  These are special lovely people.  So how could I not share?

A brief story.  I met Randy’s family, immediate and extended, twelve years ago this month.  We had just moved in together and he brought me back to a big family gathering in Baltimore.  Randy’s mom is the oldest of five and three of her siblings have children.  Some of them have children.  Even twelve years ago, there were a lot of White’s for me to meet.  I was nervous.  I knew Randy and I were headed for marriage and he had been married before (as had I).  His ex-wife had been a part of these gatherings and I did not know how I would fit in to that dynamic.

As it turns out, Randy’s ex-wife was not super popular with the family, some of the more tell-it-like-it-is members were very clear about this, and I was thought to be a breath of fresh air.  The fact that I come from a nice family, sing and play the guitar, and was clearly over the moon about this guy brought me a big thumbs up from everyone.  Phew!  Now all the times I have spent time with this group has been so wonderful.  I always have long and meaningful conversations with so many of them.  I’m lucky to have this large extended family.  So it is with great pleasure that I share this granola recipe!

A few notes.  This recipe comes from Melissa Clark’s book In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.  As may be clear, I have made it countless times.  I pretty much follow it as written but have a few opinions (always!).

*It is very easy to double this recipe as long as you have a large mixing bowl and two large rimmed baking sheets.  Why not just double it and have lots of granola?  I would freeze some since it does, eventually, go stale.

*You can use salted, roasted pistachios instead of raw, I always do.  I buy them in huge shelled bags because I make this so often.

*You will need to seek out coconut chips.  It is just big shavings of coconut, not the powdery flaky kind that you use to make coconut bars.  Bob’s Red Mill has it in bags usually in the baking section.

*I add both dried apricots and dried cherries to mine.  Better color.  I’ve added all kinds of dried fruit to this granola.  The only thing I would avoid are regular raisins.  They don’t look appetizing.  Golden are better.  Be sure to add the fruit right when it comes out of the oven.  The granola is still soft and easily mixable.  As it cools, it crunches up and the fruit is more difficult to stir in.

*Be sure to allow the granola to bake long enough that it really is golden, a touch darker is better than a touch lighter in my opinion.  If you let it become truly brown, it cools up nice and crunchy.  If you don’t bake it enough, it can be a little greasy and not crunchy.

One Year Ago:  Quinoa with Red Lentils and Mint, Baked Penne with Silky Fennel
Two Years Ago:  Savory Muffins, Salted Caramel Squares, Vegetable Enchiladas
Three Years Ago:  Roasted Cauliflower with Tomato and Dill, Best Tart Dough, Lavender Honey Ice Cream
Four Years Ago:  Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart, Blasted Broccoli, Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce, Asparagus Ragout

Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios
Adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite
Makes about 9 cups

Clark serves her granola with ricotta cheese and fresh berries.  I usually put out milk and plain yogurt with berries.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups raw pistachios, hulled
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips
¾ cup pure maple syrup (you can use 2/3 cup, but the granola will be drier_
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried tart cherries

Preheat the oven to 300ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Spread the mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

As soon as you pull it out of the oven, stir in the dried fruit, combining it carefully.  Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight bag or jar.


New Cookies and New Cooking Classes

July 16, 2013

Before I tell you about these cookies, I need to tell you something else.  I know you aren’t supposed to capitalize in posts or emails.  That it means you are yelling.  But I need to yell this.


Excessive exclamation points are gauche too but I don’t care!  (!!!!)  It has been almost a year since we moved to the Bay Area and I have missed teaching so much.  I am not able to do it in my home kitchen because it is too small.  I looked into multiple opportunities to teach elsewhere but nothing felt right.  Recently, a dinner out with a friend turned into a partnership and now my classes, at long last, have a home.  Want to join us?  We’ve got some terrific things coming up – a Warm Weather Soups and Salads class in August, an End of Summer Classics in September, and a Knife Skills class also in September.  Much more information can be found on the Classes page of this site.  I’d love to see some new faces in class!

Onward.  Recently Randy gave me a look.  A deeply disappointed look.  Sorrowful even.  It could only mean one thing.  The cookie jar had been empty for far too long.

It’s true.  I went on a little cookie baking hiatus.  The last cookie recipe I posted here was back in March (Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Crackly Crust – they are terrific).  They aren’t the last cookies I made but truthfully, there haven’t been many since those..  Sorry to the cookie lovers.  I hope these make up for it.

I was remembering Randy’s look as I headed into the grocery store yesterday.  I hadn’t had time to page through my new cookie books to find something to make, so I turned to the trusted Epicurious app and typed in “peanut butter cookies”.  Why peanut butter?  Good question.  I wanted to go a little different direction than usual.  There aren’t many peanut butter recipes on this site – cookies with milk chocolate chunks, peanut butter cup brownies, Holly B’s peanut butter brownies.  Wait.  Is that a lot?  I don’t think in over five years of writing that is a lot of peanut butter recipes but maybe I’m wrong.  In any case, as I said in one or all of those posts, peanut butter cookies are not my first choice.  There must be chocolate.  I found these to be especially charming because they have a bit of honey in them and the chocolate, while delicious, is restrained.  It is first and foremost a peanut butter cookie but the chocolate, semi-sweet this time, helps keep it from being too monotonous.  The texture can only be described as pillowy which feels just right for a peanut butter cookie.

Yes, I baked these for my family, but I doubled the recipe so I can give them out as a treat at the end of my class this week.  Oh, I didn’t mention that I give out Dana Treats at the end of each class?  Another reason you should join us!

Two Years Ago:  Ganache Filled Brown Sugar Bars, Soba Noodle Bowl, Lemony Chickpea and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew
Three Years Ago:  Asparagus and Leek Bread Pudding, Big French Salad, Kosheri, Chocolate Pavé
Four Years Ago:  Grilled Vegetable Salsa, Coconut Bars, Vegetarian Bahn Mi, Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars, Roasted Tomato and Olive Galette with Fontina
Five Years Ago:  Leek Frittata

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks
Makes about 24 cookies

I doubled this recipe (why not?) and made my cookies on the larger side.  I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the batter and patted the scoops down lightly with the palm of my hand.  The batter is extremely soft so do take the time to refrigerate it.  Lastly, I almost never grease or line my cookie sheets – the amount of butter in cookies makes them kind of non-stick, so I skipped that step of the recipe.

1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned chunky peanut butter (about 9 ounces)
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Mix flour, oats, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, honey, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in chopped chocolate. Cover and refrigerate until dough is firm and no longer sticky, about 30 minutes.Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. With hands, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough for each cookie into 1 3/4-inch-diameter ball. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake cookies until puffed, beginning to brown on top and still very soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

A Slice of My Life – Bethany Beach, DE

July 10, 2013

My husband Randy’s immediate family lives in Richmond and Houston, but the entire extended family, and there are a lot of them, live in the Baltimore area.  The family is close and they see a lot of each other.  Every year, over 4th of July week, the entire crew picks up and heads to the Delaware shore for beach time, eating, drinking, and singing.  We go every other year and it is a trip I really look forward to.

On the West coast, if you tell people you are going to Delaware, they look at you funny.  Why Delaware?  For the beach, of course.  Beach to a West coaster, unless you are talking about Southern California, is a place to enjoy beauty, maybe play in the sand, perhaps dip a toe in the water on a really hot day.  East coast beaches are for lounging all day and swimming, really swimming, in the ocean.  Every time we go, I have a hard time with the sand for the first day or so.  My boys do too.  “Where is the pool?”, they want to know.  But then we all settle in, get used to sand being everywhere, and adjust to long lazy days with nothing much to do.  Every morning, Uncle Dan heads down to the beach in front of his house and sets up chairs and umbrellas and then people come and go throughout the day.  Some stay all day, some just come for happy hour beers.  It is a great vacation.

We flew Virgin America for my first time.  I’m no longer a Virgin virgin.  It was great having the convenience of screens in the seats, on demand movies and food and drink.  It was also great flying out of terminal 2 in San Francisco where there are great restaurants and even a yoga studio.  We were able to take advantage of these things because we had a three hour delay on our way out.  Then we had to circle for an hour over Washington D.C. because a tornado hit near National airport.  It was quite a trip out but the trip back was worse.

We never try and make it to the shore in one day because of things like delays and tornadoes.  We spent the night near the airport and the boys shared a bed.  When they went to sleep, they were head to head but sometime during the night this happened.

Weird to drive over two Bay bridges on opposite sides of the country within 24 hours of each other.

This is so not a West coast sky.

One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with Randy’s sisters, their husbands, and all the kids.  Cousin Charles got a big kick out of his big boy cousins.  (The frozen custard was pretty great too.)

Each time we go to Bethany, we make sure to spend at least one day at the boardwalk in Rehoboth.  It has a great area for rides that is especially good for young children.  It was bittersweet to walk by all the kiddie rides and realize that my children are much too old and big for them now.  They still get a tremendous kick out of trying to win animals.  For some reason, we had never gotten fries at Thrasher’s but we remedied that this trip.  I was disappointed.  They were greasy and not salty enough.

One of the biggest family activities is the one or two hootenannies that happen each week.  Many of the family members are musical, so singing and playing guitar is a big part of their lives.  I sing and play the guitar, I used to perform in coffee houses, but I almost never sing or play anymore.  Each visit, I am coerced to play for everyone so I spend some time practicing so I don’t make a fool out of myself.  The boys were captivated when I played.  (Note to self: play more often.)  Spencer thought he might perform a song of his own but decided he wouldn’t sing.  He would play the guitar only and it would be “jazz”.  In the end, he opted to play with the cousins instead.

Graham, on the other hand, performed a song of his own writing, music and lyrics, on both hootenanny nights.  I was proud to bursting and he brought the house down.

At the 4th of July parade.  Yes, you can see up my dress but I promise that is a bathing suit underneath.

You know.

This was home for a week.  So many of the houses along the shore are huge like this, built for multiple generations to be able to stay in one house and that is exactly what we had.  15 of us slept comfortably!

On our way back to D.C., we always stop in Annapolis to visit Randy’s alma mater.  We walk around the beautiful campus, stop in a few buildings, then hit the store for Navy gear for the boys.

Our flight home was supposed to leave at 10am.  We got to the airport at 8:30am and proceeded to wait for 12 hours.  The crash in San Francisco closed down two of the runways so everything was backed up.  It was one of those, “are we ever going to get home?” days.  We have been lucky with flying and had never been severely delayed so I wasn’t sure how the boys would do.  It turns out they are expert travelers and were amazingly flexible with our weird airport day.

Lots of walks up and down the terminal, new books, comic books, coloring books, treats, a surprisingly small amount of screen time, and they were true troopers.  We finally got on the plane, took off, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  And then I realized we still had a 5½ hour flight and a drive back across the Bay to Oakland to get through.  We got home at 1am which was 4am our time.  Still, I will never take landing safely for granted, especially at SFO.

Finally, I like to let you know what I am reading.  This is the current book.  I had high hopes.  Let the Great World Spin is on my top ten list of all time.  This book is beautifully written.  I have to stop and slow down and just marvel at the sentences and images sometimes.  But I’m not captivated by the story.  I admire it.  I can’t say I like it.  I have a lot of other great-sounding books waiting in the wings though.