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A Brief Hello

March 22, 2012

First, an apology for no photos. As it turns out, the iPad version 1 is not compatible with Flickr. I could potentially upload photos to another site and somehow get them up on the blog, but that would take a lot of time and brain power – the former I have lots of and the latter I have very little of. So, I promise, there will be multiple posts with more information about this amazing trip and photos that will, hopefully, give a glimmer into what traveling to this corner of Africa is like. (I can’t promise though – I have learned how to use my camera inside taking close up portraits of food but out in the open and trying to photograph cheetahs has been a learning process.)

We are about halfway through the safari portion of our trip. There have been many surprises for us. The first being that we are not in Kruger National Park after all, but a private game reserve called Zulu Nyala, about 200 kilometers south of Kruger. It is hard for me to believe that we traveled so long and so far and essentially had no idea where we were going. Fortunately, the people who were supposed to pick us up arrived on schedule and here we are. I had imagined the three hour drive to the park being in an open-air jeep on dirt roads through the savannah, but in fact we were in a van on a modern highway through incredibly lush, green, rolling hills. Randy thought we would drive through rain forest, so we were both wrong.

At the park, there are two game drives per day, one starting at 6am and one starting at 4pm and on three of them we have seen wildebeests, warthogs, zebras, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, giraffes, rhinos, buffalo, and lots of impala. Also a few spiders that were terrifyingly large with webs the size of small cars. We are still on the lookout for crocodiles and a leopard that roams between this park and the one next to us. This is a Big 4 game park and there are no lions, but we plan an afternoon trip to the park next door to hopefully catch them.

As most people who have seen animals in the wild will tell you, there is no substitute for this experience. Even though this is “game park lite”, meaning that the animals are protected here and we see the same ones over and over, it is still them living in their natural habitat and getting very close to them with a guide who knows a lot about them and their habits. We were lucky enough to see three elephants, a teenager, her mother and her aunt, full on swimming in the watering hole. Not just getting wet on the shore but completely in the water. They were blowing water on each other, tackling each other, huge beings surprisingly graceful and lovely in the water. It was very moving. As they moved to get out, the calf put her trunk on her mother’s back, just as if a child was asking to hold the hand of its mother. I had just read a bit about elephants and how intelligent, social, and family oriented they are, so it was especially amazing to witness this display.

Anyway, more once I am back home and have a few hours (or days) to sort through our images. We are feeling very far away, very thankful to our loved ones who are keeping our children safe and happy, and just a bit homesick.



Dishes from Marches Past

March 20, 2012

It might be that, at the moment you are reading this post, I am staring down the mouth of a lion.  Or maybe I am sleeping.  Or, perhaps having a cocktail.  Regardless, I am not sitting in the rain in Seattle.  I am (hopefully) enjoying the splendors of South Africa.  I have made some yummy things in March over the years and I hate to think of those dishes languishing without any one looking at them, so I’m including my favorites here.

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If you want to impress, really impress, you should make this Peanut Brittle and Caramel Crunch Ice Cream Pie.  It weighs over five pounds.

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Ina Garten’s Garlic Ciabatta Bread and her Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad together in one post!

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Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Salad is one of the first great salads I ever made.

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Pizza Bianca and the beginning of my Jim Lahey (he of no-knead bread) obsession.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies – the kind that you used to get at Mrs.Field’s – except about a million times better.

Sometimes you just need a lot of fresh tasting pasta to make the day better.  Jamie Oliver is a really good helper on those days.

In my mind, there is very little that Yotham Ottolenghi does that is not amazing and delicious.  In this dish, he takes two kind of polarizing ingredients, tofu and brussels sprouts, and brings them together in the most delicious way imaginable.

Another dish from Plenty.  So nice when you want a salad that’s a bit different but still light and clean.  Broccoli and Sweet Sesame Salad.

 



A Slice of My Life – Week 8

February 25, 2012

The boys are fond of one of those conveyor belt sushi places.  These are always my rolls of choice.

Spencer’s ingenious rain catcher invention.  “Now we don’t have to go outside to see if it is raining, we can just check to see if there is rain in the tube!”  Taped to the window by himself.

Remember back in September when boots and tights seemed so exciting?  Now I’m ready to throw them all away.  Actually soon after this photo was taken I had to throw the tights away because they developed a huge hole.  Bummer.

Post Fat Tuesday bling.

This week was mid-winter break at school.  Not to be confused with winter break or spring break.  Or any of the many other days that there is no school.  Ahem.  Anyway, both boys stayed home with me on Wednesday and it was a beautiful sunny day.  Sunny days mean parks.

My Valentine’s Day gift came a little late, due to AT&T and something about our cell phone plan.  My old phone was 3½ years old, cracked, unable to receive pictures via text – I’m telling you, I was living in the dark ages.  I love my new one.  Thank you honey!

My very first Instagram photo!  Yes, new phone means much better camera and access to Instagram, a phenomenon that I could not and did not understand up until a couple of days ago.  Now I am hooked.  And I have no idea what I am doing with it but who cares.  So yes, those are large candy covered malted milk balls.  They come out every year in our favorite candy shop about as soon as Valentine’s Day is over and I buy them until the day after Easter when they go away for another year.  I can usually say no to sweets, but not these.

Eating lunch out is tricky for vegetarians, or at least I think so, but not at Revel.  It is my favorite place these days.  I met a friend and we shared the hearts of palm salad (shockingly good), the kale pancake (ditto), and the tofu rice bowl (ditto).

Just as I was about to take this left turn, I realized that those things swinging from that giant crane are two port-a-potties.

Graham was so smitten with this pain au chocolat, that he wouldn’t even let go of the plate so I could take a picture of it.  Then he and Spencer proceeded to eat out the chocolat part and leave all the pain part.  Poor me.

Graham is more and more interested in art and he has been taking art classes.  This is a recent self portrait.  I was just kind of stunned by the modern art quality, how he colored in his face to reflect his dark skin, the fact that he included the monster on his shirt that day, and the little hands sticking straight out from his shoulders.



A 2011 Recipe Recap

January 1, 2012

It’s that time again.  Time for food bloggers to do their year-end wrap up posts.  Do you hate these?  Like these?  I’m on the fence.  With some blogs I read, I like being reminded of old posts and triumphs and with some, I just want to see new stuff.  (And if you haven’t read Cheryl’s version yet, you must.)  I’m feeling like it’s the right thing to do, so onward we go.    My favorite things of last year by month.  (Drum roll please…)

January – I make a lot of cookies, I make a lot of chocolate things, but these Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies were one of my favorites from 2011.  I also like this post because I talk about Randy’s job change which has been a wonderful thing for our family.  Oh.  And I mention that I would be sending him in to the office with a weekly treat.  Um.  I promise I’ll be better about that in 2012!

February – Every year I make several incarnations of this type of noodle soup and this Somen Noodle Soup with Spring Vegetables and Baked Tofu was a nice version.

March – I really got into making pizza in 2011 and experimenting with all different toppings.  I loved this Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato Onion Jam and Broccoli Rabe both because it tasted amazing and it also helped me use something in a new way.

April – Have you been to my house in the past year?  Or have you been to a party that I have catered?  Because if you have, there is about a 50% chance that you have had this Brown Sugar Pound Cake.  I’m made it more than anything else this year.  I have two sitting in my freezer, just in case of cake emergency.  Easy, amazing, make it.

May – I might not have chosen this bread as my May option, except that I just made it again a week ago and damn! that No-Knead Olive Bread is good.  If you need to justify buying Kalamata olives at Costco, a couple of loaves will use up that whole jar.

In June, I took a gnocchi making class from a celebrated Seattle chef and learned more in two hours than I thought possible.  And ate more than I thought possible.  I finally feel comfortable making these little guys and shared a recipe for Gnocchi with Morel Mushrooms and Spring Peas.

July had me making some of the best food of my year, so top post was a little difficult to choose.  I had to go with this Lemony Chickpea and Oven-Dried Tomato Stew.  Now I know why I do these recaps – I had completely forgotten about this dish and now I need to make it asap.

August – This Tomato and Corn Pie was something I saw in the dead of last winter and couldn’t wait to try once corn season hit.  It was more than worth the wait.  I made it many times because I taught it in a class and I loved eating it each time.  It also is very easy to make, even if you are pie challenged.  Wait, when does summer come around again?

SeptemberChocolate Dipped Ice Cream Sandwiches.  There is nothing left to say.

October – I’m a sucker for chocolate cake and this Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake is perfect for birthdays, celebrations, and, you know, Wednesdays.  If you are looking for a classic, this one is perfect.

November – I made many savory tarts in 2011.  This version, Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney got extra points for being versatile (appetizer or meal size portions), tasty, pretty, and holiday-like.  It is something I know I will make every holiday season for years to come.

December – I feel like I need to end on a healthy note with Red Lentil Soup with Lime.  It is rare that I repeat a recipe at all, let alone twice in a week.  And really the only time I do that is so that I can get a photo the second time if I miss it the first.  But in this case, I just really wanted to eat more of this soup.  If your plan is to eat healthier in 2012, this is a good place to start.

Happy New Year to all of you!



New Classes/Old Recipes

November 7, 2011

So, my posting has been a little light for the past few weeks.  It is not as though I haven’t been cooking.  I just haven’t been photographing, writing, or posting.  And there was an accident.  No excuses though!

Since I am so very far behind in telling you what I was making 3 falls ago, 2 falls ago, and last fall, I thought I would take my favorites and link you directly to them.

But first!  Classes!  I am happy to announce my cooking classes through the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 15th, I will be teaching a Holiday Side Dishes class at Book Larder.  In our family, Randy and I host Thanksgiving and we do have a turkey.  I don’t make a separate main course for myself and the other vegetarians, I just make sure we have plenty of hearty side dishes to enjoy.  I will be teaching three dishes from three of my favorite books.  Whether you have a turkey at your house or not, Wild Rice and Celery Root Gratin, Roasted Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette, and the Ultimate Green Bean Casserole would be most welcome at your table.  If you would like to attend this class, you actually need to buy tickets from Brown Paper Tickets by clicking here.  This class will run from 6:30-8:30 and costs $50.

Saturday, December 3rd, I will be teaching my Holiday Brunch class at our house.  If you have people coming to town for the holidays, chances are there is going to be a need for brunch.  Why not make it instead of going out?  In this class we will learn how to make delicious (and easy) Currant Scones, Petits Pains au Chocolat, a Mediterranean-Inspired Frittata, Perfect Roasted Potatoes, and a Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad.  Oh!  And there will be a Make-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary station.  This class will go from 10am-1pm and costs $65.

Thursday, December 8th, I will be teaching my 4 Doughs and 1 Batter class.  So many people are afraid of working with different kinds of dough and I want to help.  In this class, we will learn how to work with filo dough, puff pastry, bread dough, tart dough, and cake batter.  If you have taken this class before, the doughs we work with will be the same but some of the recipes will be different!  We will make Filo Pastry with Goat Cheese and Spinach, Puff Pastry Tarts with Butternut Squash and Grapes, the amazing No-Knead Bread, Chantarelle Tart with Roasted Garlic Custard, and, one of my most-requested recipes, Brown Sugar Pound Cake.  I think I always feed people well, but this class is truly a feast!  This class will run from 6-9:30 and costs $70.

I’d love to see you!

From Three Years Ago:

This is Harira Soup.  It stars lots of wonderful veggies, chickpeas, and thin noodles.  It is thick and hearty.  It will warm you.

These are pita bread halves that are sprinkled with za’atar – a mind blowing spice mix starring fresh thyme, sesame seeds, salt and sumac.  These guys get broken into pieces and become one of my favorite salads – Fattoush.

I feel like there has been a lot of talk about chocolate chip cookies here recently.  Please, let’s take a break and all bake these amazing ones instead.  Butterscotch chips, oatmeal, cashews.  Cowgirl Cookies from the beloved Holly B’s Bakery.

Such a bad photo (all these are pre camera upgrade), such a good dish.  Great for company because it can be made in advance and is super hearty.  Eggplant Rollatini with Capellini.

From Two Years Ago:

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You will surprise and delight anyone you love (or even like) with these homemade Petits Pains au Chocolat.  Very easy too!

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I am very partial to brownies.  They are probably my favorite dessert.  I like this one, from the Baked cookbook, and awful lot.

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I make a lot of savory galettes.  I think they are beautiful, tasty, and a nice anchor for a vegetarian meal.  This one stars pears and goat cheese and is garnished with pretty pomegranate seeds.

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I’m currently enamored with the No-Knead Bread, but this classic Challah will always always be in my repertoire.  It takes a lot of time but most of it is just rising and it always turns out.

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I have a few recipes that I have been making for twenty years and this Tomato Leek Soup is one.  It’s Randy’s favorite soup.

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Holly B’s Orange Swirls.  I don’t need to say more.

From Last Year:

Sometimes you just want a really good pound cake.  This one stars graham crackers.  I also tell the story about how my son Graham got his name.

I can’t say enough good things about this Roasted Pear Salad.  I taught it in my October classes.  I also tried substituting blue cheese for the goat cheese and oh my, it was good.  50 people ate this class (5 classes x 10 people each) and every one cleaned their plate.

Up until last year, I had never heard of Buckeyes.  Then I made them for a yoga retreat.  Then I made a double batch of them for a client.  I haven’t made them since and now I want one.

As far as fall cookies go, these Pumpkin Spice Cookies are a classic.  Nice and soft.

Rice noodles and I are bff’s.  I love them.  I loved this dish and it’s from one of my very favorite cookbooks.

I often think of this Fregola with Minted Cauliflower when I hear people talking about vegetarian food being boring.  I made this for my dear friend Karen who I have known since my freshman year in college.  As soon as I finish up this post, I’m heading down to the airport to pick her up for her annual November visit.

Happy cooking!



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