So far, 2013 has been the year of the bug. Save for a few days last week, one of us has been sick since day one. We both have our own way of dealing when we’re under the weather. My other half refuses any sort of drug therapy, opting to suck on cloves of garlic (forcing me swiftly to the other side of the house). I’m a little less puritan about these things and will happily down a dose of Sudafed or anything that will rockabye baby. We both, however, honor and respect the power of nutrition in both prevention and healing. So today, on day five of this lousy cold, I’m waging war. My weapon – the biggest hunk of ginger I could find.
I’ve been researching homemade ginger ale recipes and decided to mashup a few of those that look best. Most call for a traditional simple syrup made by simmering ginger into sugar and water. I wanted to keep things as clean as possible so I opted for honey instead of refined sugars. I also added cardamom seeds to amp up the flavor. And of course, lots of fresh squeezed lemon.
[Slice 1 1/2 cup of raw ginger.]
[Combine the ginger + 1/4 cup cardamom seeds + 1 cup honey with 1 1/2 cups water.
Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for 20 min.]
[Strain the syrup and allow to cool.]
[Collect 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice - roughly 1 1/2 lemons.]
[Add 2 tbsp of syrup and 1 tbsp of lemon juice to a glass of ice. Top with 1 cup of sparkling water.]
This really is the perfect concoction. Sparkling and spicy with a bit of tang and not too sweet.
Maybe I’m just desperate to feel less lousy but I’m pretty sure I can feel it working.
Bye bye, bug!
xo – Heather
“Do you re-men-bah…the twenty first niiiiight of Sep-tem-bah…” Does anyone else hear Earth, Wind & Fire right now?
Not only does month nine signal birthday time over here it also means the transition to Fall, my fave of seasons. Back in the day it also served up a new school year which meant reuniting with friends. My classroom days are long gone (as are the seasons) but we’ve been in LA since the start of summer and I’m excited to say that this month is all about reuniting with my No. Cal. besties.
We kicked off the parade of houseguests last weekend with a visit from two seriously sweet lady friends, Vember and Justine. Together we learned that the aperitif that begins at 7:00pm doesn’t need to end before dinner. In fact, a pile of pistachios and manzanilla olives make a for the perfect seven-hour meal. We hit every inch of Venice, leaving no canal, shop or inch of beach untrodden. There was an amazing lunch at Gjelina and drive up the coast. The main event was a backyard feast whose menu and prep were a true team effort. And in large part, we kept it gluten and dairy free (save for a few gooey heaps of buratta and some vanilla gelato).
The meal was sort of spectacular:
Grilled white peaches with prosciutto and burrata, drizzled with balsamic reduction
(inspired by the dish served at Gjelina)
Grilled vegetable salad with shaved parmesan
Roasted cauliflower and green beans
Grilled ribeye steaks
Strawberry crumble with vanilla gelato
But not as wonderful as the company.
Thanks for a great weekend, ladies!
One of the great joys of life in San Francisco is that an errand
to pick up a sheet of plexiglass can turn into a spontaneous wine country
getaway in the span of – oh – ninety seconds.
Our trip to Home Depot on Saturday went something like this.
It all came down to priorities, really.
Wine + redwoods + pool time + pork shoulder.
And an awesome dog named Elvis?
In a few, sure-to-fly-by weeks Nigel and I will be boarding Emirates Airlines for our holiday travels.
It all starts here:
And ends here:
It’s a trip of a lifetime, you might say. That which honeymoons and mid-life-crisises are made of. While we’ve been calling this the honeymoon before the wedding and scarily, I suppose, we are approaching ‘the middle’, it really is neither. Just our wanderlust doing what it does.
And in doing what I do, I have cooked up a number of spreadsheets to help ‘produce’ the trip (as seen here). One of them is documenting our activities including those we’ve booked in advance and the things we might want to schedule when we land. If all goes as planned we’ll be sailing the pirated seas, dune bashing and sand boarding in the Arabian desert and hiking in the Seychelles with a local guide named David who will prepare lunch with a machete, the nearest mango tree and a banana leaf.
Travel planning with Nigel is a breeze. For the most part we like and dislike the same things, for example, likes = fois gras and backgammon; dislikes = football and drinking ice-cold water. But this week presented us with our first trip-related debacle. The question is this:
Do we spend three of our fourteen hours in Abu Dhabi here?
What, you didn’t know about Ferrari World? You weren’t aware of the largest indoor theme park on PLANET EARTH? That it boasts the fastest roller coaster known to man? And who cares about Ferrari, you ask?
Bite. Your. Tongue.
Insert. Sarcasm. Here.
I love a good roller coaster as much as the next guy and Ferris Beuller and his hookey playing antics did tempt us all. But I really couldn’t be less interested in this this Ferrari business (no offense the good people of Ferrari). It’s just that we’re from the West. We LIVE in a themepark. If it’s adrenaline we’re after we can be strapped into a roller coaster at any one of three Six Flags within ninety minutes of home. We will be in the Middle East. There are mosques to visit, souks to descend upon, magic carpets and camels to ride. Really babe? Ferarri World?
After some negotiation we concluded that meeting half way and compromising is what partnership is all about. Sacrificing my inner brat for his pre-pubescent thrill-seeker is part of the drill. I get it. Ferrari World it is. Yaaay.
And in addition to the roller coasters, there’s all of this:
At the end of the day our inner children and outer grown ups are all excited.
Our first holiday together.
The best ride, ever.
What is it called when a thing that defines a thing actually is that thing? Put another way, if I were to say that The Sound of Music is one of my favorite things, what would you call that? I mean, besides incredibly predictable.
I’m also loving:
- Slipping back into bed after an early morning run.
- My makeshift fireplace: lighting the fire pit outside and opening the curtains.
- Date night with a man who doesn’t mind watching Love Actually and enjoys a box of Ghiradelli double chocolate brownies more than I do.
- Strategizing a vacation packing plan. Five weeks out.
- A Harry Potter marathon.
- The fact that we can’t find anywhere to volunteer on Thanksgiving because every organization in need has filled their open positions.
- A glass of syrah and a bowl of Sevillano olives.
- The nostalgia of holiday tradition.
- And the waft of warm butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Specifically, before noon. Specifically, during months November and December. And specifically, enjoyed while still in pajamas.
A tradition for your consideration:
CINNAMON, BLUEBERRY, BAKED FRENCH TOAST
1 loaf crusty sourdough or french bread
8 whole eggs
2 + 1/4 cups whole milk
¾ cups sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoons salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
fresh blueberries (apples would also be fantastic here)
Grease 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks (or cut into cubes) and evenly distribute in the pan.
Mix together eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread. Cover tightly and store in the fridge several hours or overnight.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add nutmeg if desired. Add butter pieces and combine with the dry mixture until it resembles fine pebbles. I use clean hands for this. Store in a Ziploc in the fridge.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove from fridge and layer the blueberries and then the crumb mixture over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture. Bake 1 hour or more for a firm, more cake-like texture.
Top each warm portion with butter and drizzle with maple syrup.
Have a great week!
There has been an enormous amount of domesticity happening over here. There art projects in production, pumpkin carving tools being purchased and holiday party planning has commenced. This time of year, it just can’t be helped. It’s all part of the ritual of the season and for me that ritual comes with lots of comfort food.
Nigel left for work today just as the crock pot and I were getting down with some chicken chili. It took all of about 10 minutes to prepare which left me with a free afternoon. I was contemplating a run when I caught a glimpse of Chef BF’s cookbook collection. I pass these books, propped in various spots around the house, every day but I’ve never spent any quality time perusing them. Perhaps I was looking for a way out of a run but today I decided to hunker down with the best of them.
I now know exactly which shelf to hit when I’m ready to make a black truffle tagliatelle but I’m particularly looking forward to a pot of Potato Leek Soup (a la Bouchon) and the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with fennel and rosemary (from Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient). As for the Modernist Cuisine series, the photography is spectacular but this approach to the kitchen isn’t really speed. These books were written by a team of scientists set out to reinvent the art of cooking through science and technology. It’s molecular gastronomy on crack. I think I’ll leave the gel beads and hydrocolloids to the resident chef.
What is my speed? A less mulecular crock of comfort. There is nothing overly clever about this recipe. It’s just a good, ole, cumin-spiced, black bean, corn and jalapeno popping chili.
You can make this one on the stove-top if you’d like but I strongly suggest that you take advantage of your crock pot. This chili crocks and cranks the smell of home/fall/family into every corner of the house for hours.
1 red onion, chopped
2 finely chopped jalapenos (seeds removed from one of them)
1 16-oz can black beans
1 16-oz can kidney beans
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 cups corn kernels
1 red pepper finely chopped
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies (check the spice level- I used mild)
1 packet taco seasoning (I make my own taco seasoning, see recipe below)
1 tbsp chili powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
¾ C chopped green onions
¼ cup minced basil leave
Combine beans, onion, peppers, corn, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder and taco seasoning. Place chicken on top and cover with a thin layer of the sauce and beans.
Cook on high for 6 hours. About a half an hour before serving, remove chicken and shred in a separate bowl. Return shredded chicken into the slow cooker and stir in to combine with beans etc. Cover and place slow cooker on “warm” setting for 30 minutes.
Add chopped green onions as garnish.
HOMEMADE TACO SEASONING
(this recipe makes the equivalent of one, store-bought, seasoning packet)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.