Sunday, September 28, 2008

first apple pie of the season

It's that time of year again. Warm spiced cider, pumpkins, brightly colored leaves and apple pie.
If summer is my favorite season then fall is a very close second. It's a wistful time of year where you lament the things you didn't get done during the warmer days of summer.

But a warm slice of apple pie with melty vanilla ice cream makes it all better, no?

I use Martha Stewart's Old Fashioned Apple Pie recipe. Of course I modified it a bit, using a combo of Granny Smith and Gravenstein apples. I also added about 1/2 cup of caramel sauce to the filling (left over from a fresh apple cake that I had made a week earlier).

I encourage you to make the crust from scratch using the Pate Brisee recipe (linked on the same page as the pie recipe). It's really easy and tastes far superior to store bought crust.

Monday, September 22, 2008

elf baby

I have been googling around looking for a knitting pattern for a gnome hat since Fee is going to be a garden gnome for halloween. In my searching I stumbled across the pattern for this hat which is actually more of a pixie or elf hat but it was really cute and the pattern was very simple so I threw it together over the weekend. It came out even cuter than I had imagined and I intend to make several more for Fenix and to give away as gifts. I actually used the pattern found here and then made the chin strap and crocheted neck band with a mod found here.

I used bulky weight Patons yarn instead of worsted weight as the pattern indicates, so I went down to size 6 needles.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

baby's best friend

Well it's been a bit since I've talked about Fee's milestones. To catch you up, he's got 2 bottom teeth now (and oh what sharp little teeth they are!), he can crawl, pull up to standing and he's saying a few words (dada, hey, yay!, hi).

With his new found mobility we also have a heightened interest in the dogs, namely Luna, our greyhound. Our other dog Noodle doesn't hang around for very long if he sees Fee coming at him (can't say I blame him) so at this point it's really all about Luna.

This afternoon Fee had a great time crawling up to and "talking" to Luna. It was really sweet, I only wish that I had taken video of the encounter but I think that the pics convey how cool this moment really was.

Exhibit A:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

a16 meatball mod

My friend recently sent me an article about A16 meatballs. I had heard of them before but the buzz around them is that they are pretty labor intensive to prepare. Since I have little or no time for labor intensive meals, I just filed it away as something I'd make when I was old and bored.

Well the time came for us to start planning how we'd spend our anniversary. We elected to celebrate on the weekend since the actual anniversary fell on a weekday (today!). We also decided that it would be nice to just celebrate at home as a family. So we set out to make a really nice meal paired with a great bottle of wine and spend quality time with each other.

So it dawned on me that A16 meatballs would be the perfect thing to make for a special meal where we had lots of time to prepare.

Having said all that, I decided not to grind all of the meat myself, opting instead to purchase grass fed organic ground meat. The original recipe calls for prosciutto and chopped pork fat as well but I left that out too and subbed in bacon fat (something we already have plenty of). The original recipe also does not include the addition of garlic but I added it anyway because what is a meatball without garlic, kwim?

So I prepped the meatballs, taking time to fry up a test meatball to ensure adequate seasoning.

After I fried the test meatball (it was seasoned perfectly) I threw these bad boys into the oven to cook. When they were browned I removed them from the oven and drained off all of the fat that was in the bottom of the pan and removed the meatballs.

The recipe calls for a very simple sauce for braising - 1 can of crushed san marzano tomatoes. Well, I didn't want to go quite that simple so I put the roasting pan on the stove top, added back some of the fat rendered from the meatballs and heated it up. To this I added 1 clove of sliced garlic, cooked it til fragrant and then a splash of red wine to deglaze the pan and pick up all the lovely brown bits left by the meatballs. Then instead of one can of crushed tomatoes I added 2 because I wanted alot of sauce. Stirred the whole thing up, added the meatballs back in and set it all in the oven to braise for about and hour and a half.

When the whole thing was done I sprinkled it with torn fresh basil and served over linguine with a bit of grated cheese. The recipe calls for grana padano but I could not find that so parmagianno, it was.

Here are the finished gems:
Links to the original recipe and an easier version:
A16 Meatballs
A16 Meatballs, the easy way

A16 Meatball Mod - McG style:
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 half loaf of day old italian bread torn into cubes and chopped into coarse crumbs in the food processor*
1 tablespoon of bacon fat
1 clove of minced garlic
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2/3 cup fresh ricotta, drained if necessary
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes with juices
1 clove of garlic sliced
3 tblspoons of red wine
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Block of grana padano or parmagianno reggiano for grating
Extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, bacon fat, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the salt, oregano, fennel seeds, and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture
a little at at time until the mixture should feels wet and tacky - you may not need to use all of the ricotta mixture. Pinch off a small nugget of the meatball mixture,
flatten into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan with a bit of olive oil. Taste it and adjust the seasoning of the mixture with salt if needed.
Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls each weighing about 2 ounces, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.
4. Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are browned. Remove from the oven, place the meatballs in a bowl and drain the fat into a separate container. Lower the oven temperature to 300° F.
5. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and then pass the tomatoes and their juices through a food mill or chop in a food processor.
6. Place one of the roasting pans onto the stovetop and turn the heat up to medium. Add a couple of teaspoons of the meatball fat back to the roasting pan, cook the sliced garlic in the hot oil until it is fragrant and translucent.
7. Add the red wine to the pan and then the tomatoes. Stir to incorporate.
8. Pack the meatballs into the roasting pan with the sauce cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.
7. Pull the pan out of the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.
8. For each serving, ladle meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate cheese over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish, and serve immediately.

*I didn't have day old bread so I toasted the torn cubes in the oven for a few minutes before I threw them into the food processor

2 years ago on this day.........

J and I were married 2 years ago today. It felt like a big party and we all had so much fun. This shot is of us jumping the broom and it is one of my favorites from that day. These last 2 years have been so awesome and I'm looking forward to the next 50!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

the drive down.

man, the drive down was something.

it takes a certain person, certain people, to pull off the old just-drive-until-you-get-there thing. apparently, we are those people. what with the tolerance for sitting in the car for that long, the monotony of long road trips, the disparity between the comforts of life and life on a road trip... i won't lie, it's not for everyone.

we'd be going 810 miles point to point. for comparison, Chicago is 790 miles from New York.

google told us it was a 12 hour 40 minute drive. link here. of course, that's just time on the road, it doesn't include stops for gas and food and stuff. I use "50-60 MPH" as a barometer for point-to-point driving with minimal stops over long distances... so by my time-math I was figuring 14-16 hours.

how in the world do you get an 8 month old to be a) strapped into a car seat for 13-16 hours and b) be chill about it?

you don't.

right, you don't, so... so I guess we better drive through the night and hope he sleeps in? that or spend four days of our vacation driving to and from the destination. no thanks!

we tried to leave for around dinner. but of course first we had to:
> pack stuff for his majesty, pack stuff for us, pack stuff for the dogs
> mow the lawn, do a hundred loads of laundry, do the dishes, take out the trash, sweep and vacuum
> cram all the crap into the car in a way that it will fit and you can find it all later and still reach the baby stuff and the cooler bag and the adult stuff and make sure that the dogs are safe and and and . . . . . . . . .

so we didn't leave around dinner. we left around midnight. not exactly the start we were hoping for. there's nothing quite like knowing that you're going to be in the car for hours and starting off at the end of a long day.

on the other hand, on our first road trip reese and i went 1300 miles in 2 days, the foundation for our relationship in many ways was a road trip. our honeymoon was a road trip. so we both felt confident that we could do it, and elated to be on vacation and spending quality time with each other.

reese took the wheel, pointed us south, and we got rolling. our plan was that she'd drive as long as she could then hand the reins over to me and I'd drive the rest of the way. no big deal, right? woo!

i tried to nap, which was a challenge. there was lots of checking on fee, plus I couldn't recline the seat all the way because of all the crap in the back. it's hard to stay asleep when you get a stray blast of high-beams full in the face, you know? we'd been on the road for about 200 miles, we're south of portland, and reese woke me up to ask me if I'd packed the camera. a, yes I did. b, we're not going back for it if I didn't so why did you wake me up - gaah! at that point i gave up on the idea that I'd get more sleep but I did manage to snooze a bit after that.

after another hundred miles or so reese was contemplating falling asleep while driving and killing us all, which is the metric we use to know when it's time for the other person to take over. we just took the next exit and did the chinese fire drill thing in some parking lot. it always makes me nervous being in small towns in the middle of the night. too many towns are funded by ticketing the travelers, you know?

final tally for reese: almost 300 miles exactly with just 1 stop for gas.

I took over and did great for awhile, right up until that pre-dawn dusky dark lightness thing. do you know what I'm talking about? you know how, just before sunrise, it gets light? what i'm talking about is the half hour or so PRIOR to that pre-dawn light. . . . you know, it's still quite dark, but it's starting to light up.

so anyway, i'm driving and of course there's no street lights, nor many other cars on the road. when I can i use the high-beams but there's oncoming traffic so I can't do too much of that. just. fucking. concentrate. so i was just fucking concentrating which was really straining my eyes which was really amplifying my exhaustion which was really not helping the feeling tired thing.

i pulled into a gas station and picked up a few of those starbucks espresso beverages in a can. i immediately drank 2 of the beverages that supposedly contain two shots each. i say supposedly because they didn't do much for me. still tired, so tired.

of course, at this point reese is beyond tired. she's passed out. except if there was a bump in the road, or if it curved a bit faster than the last curve... then she'd wake up in a panic, thinking that i was killing us all. she'd wake up alarmed and ask are you all right? it got to the point that i'd see a curve coming, take the curve, and say I'm ok, thank you before she could ask.

with dawn, beautiful, beautiful dawn, I'm instantly awake. now it's only a matter of time. how long before Fee wakes up? how cranky will he be? how many hours do we have left to be in this stupid car?

a lot. we had a lot of hours to go.

Fee was good. due to his interrupted sleep the night before he actually slept in quite late, until 9 or 10. his standard crankification upon waking gave us an opportunity to get out and stretch our legs, change his diaper, give him breakfast, etc. the dogs also appreciated being able to eat... that was the longest car ride they've ever had (with us, anyway) and they did admirably - no real issues other than luna's breath-of-doom.

onward! couple hundred miles later we're getting close. everyone had to pee so we hit a rest stop, where we were descended upon by the bums with some made up story about an alternator. here's some money, leave me alone. then they came back, can we have more money. go away! you're creaping us out. so we bailed and took the next exit and did the diaper change at the gas station. the attendant pumps gas for you in oregon, same as in jersey, and that guy was cool, he gave us milk-bones for the mutts.

onward! damn it's hot. open the windows. we were hoping to get to oakland near 9am (HAHAHAHAHA). that was revised to noon then later revised to 2. the thing is, we're going out to the beer garden in SF tonight. it's not debatable, we're meeting like 10 people there or something. so! we gotta bust out butt to get there so we're not holding people up, you know?

so it was I-5 south for 717 miles, then 505 south for 33 miles, 80 west for 47 miles, and 580 east for 9 miles. about 716.5 miles into the trip i asked when our next turn was hey it's right here turn here! whew, made it.

33 miles on 80: no problem. first 40 miles on 580: no problem. I've gotta pee but we've only got 50 miles left to go. hold it! five miles later, with 45 miles to go... we stop. dead stop. I'm thinking that we've run into the famous bay area traffic nightmare. after 5 miles or so of 15 miles per hour we cleared a car accident and were on our way.

40 miles later and we pulled up in front of matt and haydee's. for reese it was the first time she met matt, for me it was the first time i met either of them. not to worry, tho, because they are both awesome.

sooo.... unload the car, setup the dogs, feed the baby, change a diaper, shower*, setup the car seat and stroller in matt & haydee's car, and drive to SF. on to zeitgeist!

but that, my friends, is another story for another time. . .

* I honestly can't remember if I showered. reese told me that I did, but I was so tired that I really have no clue. so, so tired. good thing we went out drinking!

Beard Papa's

for our recent vacation, we ATE our way through Oakland and San Fran. if only we'd had more time!!

one of our guilty pleasures was Beard Papa's. I'd do a whole write up on it... but there's a really good write up on it already over at curiously ravenous, so go check that out.

Monday, September 1, 2008

come read our latest endeavor

My friends and I have a new blog...

Sweet Teas

Our aim is to point out innovative style and we'll pay special attention to the funky and creative style of various brown girls that we spot on the streets of Seattle and Portland or wherever we happen to be.

i could live in sf...........

I really could. But alas it is far out of our budget to purchase a home there so we'll stay up here in the pacific northwest.

SF was really good to us. Jason and I had both been before we met each other but never together as a family. And of course this was Fenix's first time down there. I can say that we *all* had a really great time.

Where to begin.....
First day we got there, we quickly showered and jumped in the car with our friends to head over to Zeitgeist where we shared several pitchers of beer, burgers and delicious tamales with friends. Fenix bonded with the famous Tamale Lady of SF. She was really sweet and pretty infatuated with Fee. Oh and her tamales were sublime!

After Zeitgeist we headed over to another great spot in the Mission.... Bombay Icecream and Chaat. I had a scoop of mango and a scoop of coconut but there are many more exotic and delicious flavors (cardamom! sesame!!) to be had.

We stayed at our friend's house in Oakland and what a lovely house it was. Very spacious and well kept with good minimalist design. Alas I did not take many photos of the interior but we had a good time sitting in their cute and cozy backyard.

We made plans to leave Fee with a sitter so we could enjoy a night out with friends. We went to eat at Cha Cha Cha, purveyors of some very potent sangria. I don't remember much after we started our second pitcher but I know that we had a good time. Here's the view from across the street (after many glasses of the aforementioned sangria).

On Wednesday we went to Alcatraz. I was surprised at how cool it was - the weather was beautiful which made for a lovely ferry ride to and from. We saw so many interesting plants that we'd never seen before. It seems so sad that such a pretty piece of land was just a prison and military outpost.

That night was our first night on our own in our friend's house as they had headed off to more exciting things at Burning Man (maybe one day we'll get to go!). That night we went shopping at the local Trader Joe's and made a nice meal at home.

So much of our trip was food centric which makes sense since our lives are pretty much the same way. There were several things that I knew I wanted to try so we made it our business to hit those spots in the course of our travels. I'll make another post in a bit about the last couple of days of our trip.