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Fall Classes Announced!

August 9, 2011

I have a long story and an amazing guacamole recipe heading your way later today, but wanted to let you all know that I have added new classes for September and October.  You can read about them below and they will also be on under the Classes tab.  If you would like to reserve a spot, send me an email.  Hope to see some of you!

Fall Classes 2011

September – Weeknight Dinners
Wednesday*, September 21st 6:30-9:30pm  $60
Thursday, September 29th 6:30-9:30pm  $60  Class sold out – Email me to be put on the waiting list

As much as I love to entertain and make dinner party worthy fare, we all need to eat  regular food every night.  For me, a recipe that is quick and easy, but also tasty and satisfying, is worth its weight in gold.  In this class, we will make four different main course options along with a classic salad that goes with just about everything.  From a dressed-up version of grilled cheese and tomato soup to a spicy baked Chilaquile dish (no frying involved!), these are healthy tasty meals you and your family will enjoy with no fuss.  Recipes will include:

Leek and Tomato Soup with Ricotta Toasts
Broccoli, Rice, and Feta Cheese Sauté
Pasta with Chickpeas, Chile, and Rosemary
Black Bean Chilaquiles
Weeknight Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

October – Fall Seasonal Feast
Thursday, October 13th 6:30-9:30pm  $65
Thursday, October 27th 6:30-9:30pm  $65

While the summer farmers’ markets are pretty exceptional with their tables of berries, stone fruits, and summer squashes, it is the fall markets that make my heart go pitter-pat.  October is a true time of bounty in our corner of the world.  Our growing season gets started late and goes late which means that you can still find eggplants and peppers of all types while the mushrooms and winter squashes are starting to make their appearances.  In this class, we will make a bit of the best of everything from a rich gorgeous Eggplant Caponata to say goodbye to summer, to an Apple and Candied Ginger Crisp to welcome in the beautiful fall fruit.  Recipes will include:

Eggplant Caponata
Roasted Pear Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto
Cider Braised Red Cabbage with Apples
Maple Roasted Delicata Squash
Apple Crisp with Candied Ginger

Coming in November – Favorites from My Family’s Thanksgiving Table
Coming in December
– Special Holiday Brunch and the 4 Doughs and 1 Batter baking class

Keurig Giveaway

July 20, 2011

I’ve mentioned this before, but as a food blogger, I sometimes find offers in my email inbox.  For me, these offers fall into one of four categories.  There is the “you’ve never heard of me, but I would love to write a guest post on your blog about something that has nothing to do with the food you cook or write about”.  Also the “you’ve never heard of us, but send us your content and we will not pay you but we will link directly to your site”.  Or the “how would you like a giant box of bacon/sausage because clearly, we have never read your site?”  And finally, thankfully, the “you have heard of us and how about we send you something you actually want?”

Keurig falls into that last category.  Imagine my delight to find an email from these guys offering me a coffee maker.  You see, I love coffee.  I live in coffee capitol of the country.  Within a square mile of my house there are probably 20+ places to get a terrific cup of coffee including one of the very best in the city (they compete in and have won the Barista Olympics) which is just 1½ blocks up the street.  I never make coffee at home because of that.  But sometimes, I don’t want to walk out the front door just for a cup of joe and sometimes I don’t want to pay over $3 just to wake up in the morning.  I have an old Cuisinart coffee maker and in dire straights I will haul it out of the basement and make mediocre coffee – and therein lies the problem.  If I can get decent coffee at a gas station, and in Seattle you can, why would I make a bad cup at home?

So I said yes to Keurig, please send me your wonderful machine.  I was very transparent about my plans.  If I liked it, I would write about it on my blog.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t.  Originally, they wanted me to write about it multiple times, tweet about it and to all that I said no thank you.  I need to love something to plug it here.  But Keurig wanted me to have the machine anyway, I guess they were confident that I would love it.

And I do.  Randy does not drink coffee so having a sleek looking machine that makes one cup at a time is perfect in our house.  I wondered how it would do with a brunch crowd and it behaved beautifully.  Each person got to make their own cup of coffee and if they needed a refill, they just made another.  So much better (and fresher!) than pouring from a pot sitting on the warming tray.  It only takes a little over a minute for a perfectly fresh cup of coffee.  Keurig also sent me a nice variety of coffees to try and there are tons of choices, including teas and hot chocolate.  The coffee I have made tastes great and Randy has liked the tea as well.

Because I like to share the bounty, I asked if they would allow me to give away a machine on my blog.  Not only did they say yes, they are offering an even sleeker machine than the one they sent me!  How to win a Platinum Brewer?  I am so curious about all of you – I sit here and blab about my food, my family and all manner of things and, for the most part, I know next to nothing about you.  So please, tell me one thing about yourself.  What you do, where you live, how many kids you have, the name of your cat – just one thing.  Make it interesting if you like.  The winner will be chosen at random and the contest will close at noon PDT on Tuesday, July 26th which is, coincidentally, my birthday.

CONTEST CLOSED! Thanks for all the entries.  Winner to be announced tomorrow.

Finally, I forgot to post these photos in the Salted Caramel Squares post.  Those squares are sophisticated enough for the end of a fancy dinner party and simple enough to be adored by a four and six-and-a-half year old.  While I was trying to get a photo of the squares, the boys were following me around the house waiting for their chance to eat them.  Yesterday, I made Ashley’s beloved chocolate chip cookies because the cookie jar was empty and when Spencer saw them on the cooling rack he said, “Why didn’t you make more caramel squares?”

Also, Graham lost his top front tooth.  I know the photo is blurry but I love that face.

I Have Seen the Future

June 8, 2011

Once upon a time, long long ago, just after Randy and I started dating, I fell in love with a stove.  We went to a party at one of his friends’ house and after walking in, my eyes jumped immediately to one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.  A Viking.  Not a tall Nordic man but a stainless steel stove.  It was a six-burner stunner with a gorgeous hand-painted tile backsplash.  I don’t know that I had ever seen a stainless steel appliance at that point in my life and I had certainly never seen anything so beautiful and so useful.

At the time, I was living in a tiny house with a tiny kitchen and a tiny stove with a tiny oven and I thought to myself, “Someday, I want a Viking.”  I told Randy as much, even though we were newly dating and it was probably the kind of thing you “shouldn’t” say to a guy you had been with for three weeks.  But I knew I was going to marry him. And, because it was early in our relationship, he probably did not yet know that when I want something badly enough, I will talk about it ad nauseum until somehow, some way, some day I get it.

Fast forward to 2006 and our purchase of a new-construction house.  Much of the home was done and many of the choices were made but we did get to do some of the fun stuff, like pick granite, backsplashes, paint colors, lighting, cabinet colors, etc.  Much to my HUGE delight, the appliances were ordered and they included a massive 48-inch Viking range and also a Viking refrigerator.  My range has six burners plus a grill spot and has one small and one very large oven.  I was ecstatic and could not wait to put that baby to the test.

Almost immediately, there were problems.  The small oven bakes 25 degrees cold and the large oven bakes 50 degrees hot, something we could not seems to fix despite numerous attempts to re-calibrate.  There is no timer and no self-cleaning feature.  Over time, the burners have gotten really finicky – sometimes they work and sometimes they just click endlessly.  Sometimes they light but another burner on another part of the stove clicks endlessly.  For something that is supposed to be a performance superstar, it was nothing close.  It is a beauty still, but beauty only takes you so far.

So, when Thermador asked if I would like to take a look at the exciting new Pro Grand Steam Range that they will unveil this August, I could not say yes fast enough.  Sure, a couple of days in Scottsdale with food bloggers from around the country sounded like a lot of fun – and it was – but I was really interested to see what the competition is doing.

It turns out that there is no competition.  What I saw in the spectacular Thermador showroom is not an appliance.  It is a dreamy, beautiful, innovative, no-holds-barred, no detail left out, rock star, race car of a range.  Yes, I am talking about a stove and no, I am not exaggerating.  As this beauty was unveiled to the 18 bloggers in attendance, there were sighs, there were moans, there were sharp intakes of breath, there was applause, there were lots of flashes going off, and there was lots of wondering – how can I get this beauty in my home?

So, what makes it so special?  Let’s start with the superficial.  It’s gorgeous.  Sleek, tricked out, and with the cool retro touch of an analog oven temperature setting, this baby would be at home in the most modern of kitchens.  But, unlike my Viking, this is not just a pretty face.  Every last detail has been thought out.  Big things like the patented star shaped burner (which distributes heat much more efficiently with more intensity and fewer cold spots than a circle) and their innovative steam oven (which uses a combination of steam and convection to bake food gently but efficiently) are there.  Or how about three oven racks that glide out smooth as silk unlike the fits and starts of my Viking.  Those racks have a special slot for your oven-mitt-covered hand so you can pull them out easily.  And both oven doors close with a soft touch so you can kick the door closed without a slam.

This range has six burners plus a grill and griddle (I had to choose either/or with my Viking) which are easily switched out.  That griddle has a titanium coating so it doesn’t rust or scratch and there is a small, easily removed repository where you can scrape pancake bits into after using that griddle, you know, the one that can go in the dishwasher.

The cooktop gives you burners with incredible power and also with a gentleness that can allow you to place a paper plate with chocolate chips on it for the length of an afternoon.  As we were learning about the stove, someone mentioned this fact which, I have to be honest, I did not believe.  But after the unveiling, we were invited into one of the incredible kitchens in the Thermador showroom to cook lunch and I witnessed it first hand.  That paper plate stayed on the stove the entire time we were there and never caught fire.  Amazing.  All in all, the Pro Grand Steam Range offers seven different ways to cook in one unit – steaming, convection baking, burner cooking, simmering, grilling, griddle cooking, and warming.

(Kathy and I manning the tofu station.)

My time at Thermador was incredibly interesting and a lot of fun.  We got to stay at a gorgeous resort and ate so much terrific food.  I met some lovely people with lovely blogs and my only regret is that I did not take enough pictures.  Some of my friends have written up terrific posts about our time together and I invite you to check them out for great photography and some more info about this amazing range.

Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen
Kathy from Happy Healthy Life
Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer
Anne from fANNEtastic food
Tessa from Handle the Heat
Maria and Josh from Two Peas & Their Pod

(Full disclosureThermador flew me to Scottsdale and paid my lodging, meals, and airport transfer.  There was no pressure to write a glowing review, or even to write anything at all, it was my pleasure to do so.)

Why Do Giveaways?

May 24, 2011

Winner!  It was so fun reading about all of your food guilty pleasures.  Lots of peanut butter and mac and cheese – not together.  Comment #27 came up as random winner – Robin likes Cadbury hard shelled mini eggs and coffee ice cream.  Send me an email Robin so I can get your address.

Recently I was chatting with an old friend about my blog.  She has been an enthusiastic supporter and reader from the beginning.  She asked why I or anyone with a blog would do a giveaway.  I’m sure that every blogger out there has a different reason.  My reasons have evolved over my three (!) years.  At the root of it all, I am a generous person.  I like to give.  I have an abundant life and I like to be able to share.  I feel grateful to all of you for coming here and reading what I write.  I am moved by your comments and emails.  I get an incredible kick out of having students in my classes who I have never met but who know me through my blog.

Writing this blog, or any blog, is a solitary process.  I always tell people that I feel like I have about 25 readers.  Of course that is not the case, but day after day, it is just me cooking in my kitchen and writing in our study.  When I do a giveaway, I hear from more people.  I see names I’ve never seen, hear opinions I’ve never heard.  It is why I always ask for some sort of detail from you (like the most recent pedestrian taste) – so I can get a tiny sense of just who is out there reading.

So that is why you will see me periodically giving things away.  As the final of 3 giveaways to celebrate my 3 years and 500 posts, I am giving away some of the best that Seattle has to offer.  I took a walk through Pike Place Market the other day, with a whiny four year old in tow, and snatched up some of my favorite things.  This is a thank you, once again, for being out there and for reading.

Here is what you can win.

Chukar Cherries – delicious and plump dried Washington cherries.
DeLaurenti sun-dried tomatoes – the best I’ve ever had

Parker Pickles – pickled green beans
Mama Lil’s Peppers – spicy and good on just about anything
Blackberry Honey

To enter, tell me where you live and what you would send if you were putting together the best from your town.  Your culinary dream pack as it were.  I’ll pick a winner on Friday.

UPDATE: It’s only a few hours into the day and already I have gotten so much joy reading all the care packages you all would send from your hometowns.  YUM!  I have to say that I would, of course, include a bottle of Washington wine in the mix – we make some of the best Syrah in the world – but I know some states don’t allow wine to be shipped.  Whoever the winner is, I will look into the law and if your state (or country) allows it, I will include a great Washington Syrah.

Winner, Another Giveaway, and Answers

May 18, 2011

Winner!  Thank you to those who entered to win the Guy Fieri cookbook!  I always love reading about your favorite cookbooks and will answer your questions a bit later in this post.  First, today’s winner is comment #19 – Meredyth, who wanted to know if I do any microwave cooking.  Truthfully, Meredyth, I only use my microwave to re-heat things.  I am sure there are cookbooks out there that feature microwave cooking!  Email me so I can get your address.

Now onto giveaway #2.

This book also came directly from the publisher.  When they emailed me asking if I wanted a copy, I couldn’t type “yes” quickly enough.  I love Patricia Wells.  I have her Provence, Paris, and Vegetable Harvest book and use and adore all three.  She falls into that elite category of totally trustworthy cookbook authors.  Her recipes are simple and bursting with flavor.  She truly lives by that motto of use the very best ingredients, don’t tinker with them too much, and you will have perfection.  So why am I giving this book away?  Surprisingly, for a salad book, there is very little non-meat here.  Normally that would be fine because the vegetarian recipes look lovely.  But they also look fairly similar to recipes from her other books.  In other words, I don’t need it and I probably won’t use it.  Would you?

In my last post, I talked about pedestrian tastes.  What is your guilty pleasure?  Tell me in the comments and I will pick a winner on Monday.

Now for answers.  Delia wondered if I watch any cooking or food related shows.  I watch Top Chef but not Top Chef Masters (I just can’t get into it) and I did watch the dessert one and cringed throughout the entire thing.  I used to watch a fair number of people on the Food Network but the only person I can stand anymore is Ina.

Charlotte wants to know what meals I make for my boys.  Promise no judgment here, people – all right?  There are a lot of cheese and bean quesadillas in our house.  Noodles with butter and Parmesan cheese and soy meatballs.  Tofu and rice.  Bean and cheese burritos.  Mac and cheese (no judging!).  Soba noodles with tofu.  English muffin pizza.  They love edamame so we have those often.  My little vegetarians are not bit vegetable eaters, but they love fruit.  I remember my pediatrician saying that ideally they eat both veggies and fruit but one or the other is fine too.  So they have to have fruit at every meal.  They will also eat carrots with hummus and sometimes snap peas.  Or celery with peanut butter and raisins.  Graham will really eat just about anything while Spencer is much pickier.

Melinda wondered if I ever cook Indian food.  I can guarantee you that as soon as Randy reads this, he will call/email/text me asking, “Why don’t you make Indian food anymore?”  I used to make it a lot.  I have three amazing Indian cookbooks, all from restaurants in London, and both Randy and I LOVE Indian food.  I have no explanation as to why I have made more Indian food.  Time to fix that.

Ange wondered how long I have been a vegetarian and when/how I decided.  It has been a long time since I told this story – I think I had about 3 readers last time I wrote about it – so here goes.  The short version.  When I was 16, I was on this three month bike trip in France.  We rode in five different regions and had homestays in each region.  In Corsica, about mid-way through the trip, my friend Jen (she of the yoga retreats who I talk about all the time) and I ended up in the same house with a very crazy Corsican family.  Lots of yelling and fighting.  It was a little terrifying actually.  The last night we were there, they made us a special feast including pâté.  I took one look at it and knew there was no way I could eat it.  How to get away with this and not be rude?  I told them I was vegetarian.  And then, I realized that I really was.  I had no desire to eat meat, even as a child I only ate it because my mom told me to.  I liked hamburgers but I could easily give those up and I liked fish so I would just keep eating that.  So, I stopped eating red meat and white meat at 16.  For Jen’s 21st birthday, I took her out for dinner and I ordered salmon.  I finished it and thought, “I think I’m done with fish too.”  And I was.  So, no meat since 16 and no fish since 20.

Lori wanted to know what yeast I use for bread baking.  I just use commercial yeast – the type that is in the packets.  I use rapid rise if a recipe calls for it but otherwise I use active dry.

Midori (hi Midori!) wanted to know what spice I use for a little extra sumpin’ sumpin’ in my cooking.  The spice I use most often for sure is cumin.  It features prominently in most of my favorite cuisines – Indian (see above), Mexican, Thai, North African, Middle Eastern.  But for a little boost, I will often add a pinch of red pepper flakes – not enough to be spicy, just enough to be interesting.

Thanks for playing!

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