Lemon Tart


Almost every week Joey brings home lemons from his mother's lemon tree. I hate to see them go bad, but I have been running out of ways to use them.  The other day we were at the Metreon and saw that the Chronicle Book Store was having a closing sale.  Right there was my solution Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham.  Right on the cover was this lemon tart that I just had to make. I usually don't like to bake, but I had a tart pan so I decided to take this one on.  I was an easy recipe to make and turned out amazing despite the fact that my tart pan was 9-inch and the recipe called for an 11-inch.  I didn't notice mine was smaller until I took the shell out of the oven. Ooops! It made the tart a bit more like a huge cooking with lemon filling, but is was still good! I am actually torn between getting the right size pan or continuing with my happy mistake.

The prep for this was pretty easy.  I first made the crust and while it was baking made the filling and had it done by the time the crust came out.  Total prep was probably 35 minutes. For the recipe I used about 6 small lemons, which was perfect for the zest and gave me a little extra lemon juice.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about six small lemons)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
Special Items

11-inch tart pan (or 9-inch for a thicker crust) with removable bottom

Instructions

Crust
  1. Position rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 350°
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp of the zest and let stand for five minutes.
  3. Whisk together flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Pour in the butter mixture in a fine stream, stirring with a fork.
  5. Continue stirring until the dough begins to come together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the tart pan and press it with your fingertips evenly up the side and into the bottom.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is light golden brown.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack while making filling.
Filling
  1. Process the remaining 1 cup granulated and the remaining 1 Tbsp lemon zest in a food processor until the zest is finely ground.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, the sugar and zest mixture, lemon juice and another pinch of salt in medium bowl until smooth.
  3. Beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium-high in a medium bowl just until it forms soft peaks.
  4. Whisk the cream into the egg mixture just until blended. 
Baking
  1. Place the crust on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
  2. Pour the filling into the still warm crust.
  3. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until filling is just set in the center.
  4. Let the tart cool on a wire rack.
  5. Before serving sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Mickaboo


I wanted to talk about something near and dear to my heart.  All my friends know how much Joey and I love our boys.  Each one of them brings us special joy and I can honestly say it's hard to say who is my favorite.  All of them are at one time or another. They all have such different personalities.

Max, our conure (in the back of the photo), is a big baby.  He needs attention like no other, but only on his terms! He can drive me crazy with noise but then looks at me and says, "Hi Baby" and all is forgiven.   We got Max totally by accident on a trip to PetCo.  While I don't really recommend buying birds there, this guy knew exactly how to get Joey and me to take him home.  We knew in a minute that he was meant to be with us.

Ray, in the middle of the photo, was a planned addition to our family. He is a little socialite and adventurer.  He loves nothing more than finding a place to hide, usually a cupboard, and waiting for me to find him. Once in awhile it puts me in a panic, but most of the time it's fun. Ray gets along with almost everyone, well except Mojoe. That is another story!

Mojoe is our newest addition and he is certain he is an eagle. This little guy shows absolutely no fear, which is cute and troubling at the same time. If there is something to get into Mojoe will probably find it. He is a little love, though, and loves to sleep in my hand at night while we watch TV, like in the picture below.

Then there's Billy, our blue lovebird.  We got Billy through Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue. He was found starving and shivering in someone's backyard and taken to Mickaboo where his foster parent nursed him back to life.  Billy has had the hardest life of any of the birds and it shows. He is very shy and I still can't really touch him.  However, each day he gets a little bolder and he and Ray are best friends. I often look at Billy and wonder what would have happened without Mickaboo.  I actually look at all of my birds and think of how lucky we all are and then I think about all the poor birds that don't have it so lucky.

That's what I am really writing about. Every day Mickaboo helps so many birds in need and gets them to their forever homes, like they did with Billy.  I try to help out Mickaboo in small ways, like by updating their Facebook page and donating when I can.  But it's just a drop in the bucket.  SO......if you feel so inclined, donate to Mickaboo by clicking the link below.  Any amount would make a difference and be greatly appreciated.



Padrón Peppers



Last year Joey and I were out with a couple of friends having a glass of wine on the sidewalk when the restaurant's product truck pulled up and parked there on the street.  One of our friends noticed they had Padrón Peppers and suggested to buy some and try them.  Apparently, they were a great price.  He said all we had to do is fry them up in a little olive oil, add some sea salt and eat them.  Okay, right. Nothing is ever that easy!  We bought some anyway because we were curious and can't resist a bargain even if we don't know what we are buying.

We took them home and, guess what? He was right!  They are delicious and literally all we had to do is heat up some olive oil, throw them in the hot oil and take them out when they start having small while blisters on them.  Then we sprinkled them with a little sea salt and served them with pita bread.  YUM!  We were hooked! However, there was a problem.  We could not find these suckers anywhere! Finally, we found them at the Farmer's Market in the Ferry Building at the Happy Quail Farms Booth.  Now we make special trips just to get these!  They are only in season through the end of the month, so if you see them snatch them up.  You will be hooked, too.

I Want to Be a Farmer


Well, I would at least like to have the pride and passion they do.  It's not just farmers, it's the bakers, cheese makers all the people that sell their goods at the various Farmer's Markets in the area.  A couple weekends ago Joey and I waddled down the the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building.  It's a good walk for us and we always find some amazing things there to make for dinner. I was so impressed by everyone as they let us sample their amazing food.

First we got some Padrone Peppers from Happy Quail Farms.  If you have not had these they are amazing and not that easy to find.  According to the merchant they are only available through October, so we stocked up since they are good for a week or two.  Next, we got some Salmon Spread from Cap'n Mike's Holy Smoke. I don't know if we were talking to the Cap'n himself, but whoever he was he told us he had just made it that morning and it was delicious.  Right next to the Cap'n was a man from Bodega Goat Farm and he was so proud of the cheeses that he had just made the day before I had to get some.  We got a chive goat cheese that was very light and refreshing.  We wanted just one more cheese for that night and headed over to the folks at Cowgirl Creamery and picked up a ST Pat at their suggestion, which is one of their seasonal cheeses.  It's wrapped with stinging nettles, but obviously doesn't sting.  I think this was Joey's favorite.  As we were getting ready to leave we noticed a guy with these beautiful grapes and he was giving children small bunches.  He seemed so happy with what he was doing we got some of those, too.  In fact, everyone seemed to happy and proud of their work. I really wanted to feel like that.

When we got home I decided to make some sour dough bread.  I still do it in the bread machine, but we both really love it.  When it was done and we set out our spread I was so proud.  I guess I took some of that pride from the market home with me.

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo


Last weekend I took on my biggest culinary challenge ever.  I decided that I was going to make Adobo for Joey's mom. I have been trying to cook for her lately; and, besides cupcakes, I have not been very successful. I thought maybe I would try something that I knew she would like - Chicken Adobo. However, there was a slight problem - I had never even had Adobo, much less made it! Add to that the fact that I was making it for a native of the Philippines and a fussy one at that!

So off to the internet I went searching for just the right recipe. The problem was I had no idea what the right recipe was. Some recipes I knew were wrong right off the bat. I was pretty sure cooking sherry and coconut milk were not in the mix. Finally, I found one that seemed right enough on Recipezaar. Even better it was a slow cooker version. It turns out Adobo isn't really that hard.  It's just a few ingredients.  The hard part is getting the proportions right. I made a few modifications (not many) and came up with this recipe. So, how did it turn out? Well, Joey loved it, but then again he loves almost everything I make. I really loved it, too. The chicken was amazingly tender and the seasoning was delicious. So, did the mother-in-law like it? Well, she wants me to make it again, so I will take that as a resounding yes!


Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs chicken (preferably with the bones in)
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns (whole)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt (optional, the dish is pretty salty as is.)
Instructions
  1. Brown the chicken in a saute pan and transfer to the slow cooker.
  2. Saute the onions in the same pan and place over chicken.
  3. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl then pour over the chicken and onions.
  4. Allow chicken to marinate for 15 minutes.
  5. Cook on high for 3 hours (or you can cook on low for 6)
  6. Serve with white rice.
Notes

The recipe recommended to tie the spices in a cheese cloth if you don't want to bite into peppercorns. I didn't mind the peppercorns, but kids might.

Joey Recommends - Sam's Chowder House



Sean wanted to take a little drive in his new wheels so we took a little excursion down to Half Moon Bay to this restaurant that his new co-worker, Marya, recommended. I had no idea where we were going so I was completely in the dark. It wasn't until we pulled into the parking lot did I know our destination was Sam's Chowder House. I just like the look and feel of the place because it just seems so rustic. The parking lot was full, which was a good sign because who would flock to bad food?

There was a choice of sitting outside or inside. Even though there were heat lamps outside we decided to dine within the comforts of the walls and roof. We made it in time to grab the last available table by the window, which offered a great view of the beach and surrounding area.

There were so many selections on the menu that it was very difficult to choose. We decided to order our "go to" items because we normally select them and it would be interesting to compare. So with that said, to start we decided to get oysters on the half shell which were all so fresh and delicious. We selected the: Fanny Bay, Steamboat, Kumamoto and Marin Miyagi. Of the four my favorite was the Kumamoto. It was the most diminutive of the four but it was the best. Next we each had the chowder. I opted for the Manhattan Clam Chowder while Sean selected the classic New England clam chowder. I liked my chowder with its steaming hot broth and chunky pieces of potatoes. By the way, the sourdough bread they provided was so good it was almost as if it were from Boudin's Bakery. Maybe it was?

For our main course we had their well renowned lobster roll. In 2007, NBC's Today Show anointed their lobster roll as one of the "Top Five Sandwiches in America." This sandwich did not disappoint. The lobster itself was presented in big tender pieces that were not drowned in mayonnaise or dresssing. Instead it was treated lightly with melted butter and herbs. It was served on a nice little buttery roll. The chips that came with the sandwich were ok and I've had better coleslaw.

For dessert we shared a soft serve sundae topped with nuts, chocolate, and cherries. I would have liked to try my own dessert but we were so stuffed that there was no possible way we could have more food! I was eyeing their ice cream sandwich and saw that the lady in the next table ordered one and it looked scrumptious. Something to look forward to because we will be back!

Sam's Chowder House
4210 N Cabrillo Hwy
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019


(650) 712-0245 | Website | Reservations

Japanese Fried Rice


I recently got back in contact with one of my dearest friends from my Japan days, Dawn-Lee, who lives in Canada. This has brought up a lot of fond memories and naturally my thoughts went to food. I loved Chinese food in Japan. The Japanese had a way of making it less greasy than it is here, especially the rice. For me, nothing can beat Japanese Fried Rice. In San Francisco the best place to get fried rice, in my opinion, is Katanaya near Union Square.  (They also have the best Ramen, by the way.)  I have tried for years to make Japanese Fried Rice and failed miserably until this recipe. As with most of my favorite Japanese recipes, this comes from Let's Cook Japanese Food by Amy Kaneko. As I said before, this is the best cookbook for Japanese home cooking.

So back to the recipe. The first time I tried it it came out perfectly.  The key was to use a really hot pan, put the eggs in before the rice, and use cold rice straight from the refrigerator.  Never make fried rice with freshly-made rice.  It will be soggy.  This is the one time that leftover rice actually tastes good! This is a dish you cook super quickly, so make sure you have yourself organized before you start.

Ingredients

  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 5 green onions, including tenter green tops, minced
  • 3 cups cold leftover rice
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed to a powder
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
Instructions
  1. In a frying pan, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat starts to render but the bacon does not start to crisp, about 4 minutes.  
  2. Transfer bacon to paper towels and safe the bacon fat for some later date.  (You won't be using it for this recipe.)
  3. Heat a wok or a large frying pan over high heat.
  4. When the pan is smoking hot, add the sesame and canola oils and swirl the pan to coat the bottom and sides with the oils.
  5. Immediately add the eggs and, using a ladle, stir the eggs around in the pan, swirling and moving them until they begin to solidify, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the yellow onion and cook for 1 minute longer, continuing to use the ladle to swirl the mixture around in the pan.  
  7. Mix in the green onions.
  8. Add all of the rice, placing it on top of the egg mixture.
  9. Using the back of the ladle, press the rice into the egg misture an break up any lumps in the rice.
  10. Cook, continuing to press the lumps out of the rice, until all the lumps are gone and the eggs and onions are well integrated, about 2 minutes. 
  11. Add the bouillon powder and oyster sauce and continue to press the rice and mix well.
  12. Add the peas and corn and mix well.  (They will thaw quickly as you cook them.)
  13. Add the bacon.
  14. Using a large spatula or spoon move the rice around. (Or you can try flipping it, if you are brave.)
  15. Season with salt and pepper.
  16. Serve immediately.

Crunchy Baked Garbanzo Beans

May has certainly brought about a lot of changes for me. All of them are great things, but I have to admit it's a bit overwhelming.  I don't even like to change my knick-knacks around, much less my entire life. However, life is all about change and so I am embracing it.

One thing that has not changed is my making Joey's snacks for the week.  I still like printing out those affirmations and finding something salty and something sweet to keep him happy during the work day. However, I was getting tired of my options on the salty front. I really wanted to make something by hand, but nothing was jumping out at me then I remembered a Rachel Ray episode where she made baked garbanzo beans. At the time I thought they sounded delicious, but just forgot about them until recently. Well, they are delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I have made them three weeks in a row!  These crunchy little things are addictive and the seasoning is perfect. The cayenne pepper gives just the right kick. The only drawback to this recipe is that I have discovered that it's much better if you skin the beans which is a fiddly task. I have not found a clever way to do that. The first time you make these I would skip the skinning part and just see if you like them. I can almsot guarantee that you will!

Ingredients
  • Two 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)— drained, rinsed, skined and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Place the chickpeas in a medium bowl.
  3. Toss with the olive oil, salt, black pepper, cumin and cayenne until evenly coated.
  4. Spread the chickpeas on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and quickly stir in the thyme.
  6. Bake until crunchy, about 10 minutes more.
  7. Let cool and serve at room temperature.

Happy Anniversary Joey!


Six years ago my life was very different.  I had just turned 40, I was single and I had no hope of finding a relationship.  "I Hate Boys Nights" were a weekly staple for Karolyn and me and consisted of pizza, mozzarella sticks and lots of wine.  We usually spent these nights wondering how two such fabulous people could still be single and why boys were such...well, weenies.  Tiring of our situation, though not each other, we decided to take action.  One drunken night Karolyn decided to join eHarmony and proceeded to fill out their lengthy questionnaire while I watched not two, but three episodes of "Will & Grace".  After that ordeal I was rather thankful they didn't accept people of my persuasion. However, not wanting to be left behind I decided to join Match.com at Karolyn's urging. Honestly, it couldn't be worse than my current options of Gay.com where I was working or ManHunt which was much more of a place for PNP than LTR. I was pleased that Match.com did lend itself more towards relationships and, honestly I had nothing to lose.

The very first profile that caught my eye was of this little thug "Lord of da Bling." My goodness he was the cutest thing I had ever seen, but I could not fathom that he would be interested in someone who's current schedule consisted of Knitting Class each Thursday.  Being too afraid to contact him, I bookmarked him for a time when I would get up the nerve to "wink." A couple of weeks went by and I finally decided to dive in and do the dreaded wink.  To my surprise I not only got a wink back but an email.  Hey, this guy is pretty smart and he seems to like me! A phone call followed shortly there after and I have to say, I was hooked. We talked for hours and I felt like I had known him forever.  We decided to meet in a couple of days at a bar near my house.  As luck would have it my ex and his exceedingly annoying new boyfriend also planned to be at the same bar that night, but you know what?  I didn't even notice they were there.  I only had eyes for one man that night and it was Joey.  That was six years ago today and I still only have eyes for that one man.

Joey, you make me so very happy.  I'm so glad you came into my life.


Turkey Enchilada Casserole


I can't imagine my life without the influence of Mexican heritage. When I was growing up Cinco de Mayo was one of my favorite times in elementary school.  The music, the dancing and most of all the food.  If I had to pick my favorite food it would be Mexican food hands down.  Give me some home-made tortillas, frijoles and cheese and I am a happy man. When I was five my mom actually taught me how to make flour tortillas and this was a skill that came in handy when I moved to Japan and buying tortilla at the marketing was certainly not an option.

Now Mexican food is not really known for being figure-friendly and when I found this recipe in my Weight Watcher's Take-Out Tonight cookbook I was skeptical.  How could one take the fat out of my favorite food and still have it be delicious?!  Well, this really does the trick.  While it is not authentic Mexican food, it has all the flavor and reminds me of a culture my life wouldn't be the same without.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground skinless turkey breast
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 (10-ounce) cans enchilada sauce
  • 1 (4 1/2 ounce can) mild green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas, halved
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 375° F. Spray a 7x11-inch baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in 1 teaspoon of the oli., then add the turkey, half of the onions, half of the garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
  3. Cook breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon until browned, about 8 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat.  Swirl in the the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, then add the remaining onions, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the oregano, and cumin.
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well softened, about 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the enchilada sauce, chiles, and vinegar and bring to a boil.  
  7. Reduce heat and simmer, covered until the flavors are blended.  About 10 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.
  9. Arrange on-third of the tortilla halves in an overlapping layer on the bottom of the dish.
  10. Spoon one-third of the turkey misture over the top; top with one-third of the sauce and sprinkle one-third of the cheddar.  
  11. Repeat the layering twice.
  12. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  13. Remove the foil and bake for 5 minutes longer or until the cheese in bubbly.
  14. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Joey Recommends - Poc-Chuc




Poc-Chuc is a little hole-in-the-wall gem! I've never had Mayan fusion food so I was extremely excited to see what it was all about. Walking in I was taken aback by how the decor was really bare-bones but in reality it demonstrated how this experience would be the real deal without all the flash.

For starters we shared the "appetizer sampler" which was amazing. Of the five items on the plate my favorites were the empanada and the salbute. The tortillas are obviously freshly made because it truly makes a difference. And thank goodness they provided a small stack of tortillas and refried beans on the side. I couldn't get enough!

For my main entree I ordered the seared duck breast topped with orange-honey sauce & served with sauted Napa cabbage and mashed potatoes. I'm a big duck fan and this particular duck was seared to perfection, leaving an extremely moist breast meat. And the cabbage was also prepared excellently.

I heard that the slow braised chicken thigh is a crowd pleaser so we'll definitely be back for more! Also they do not have a liquor license so you can bring your own wine and there is no corkage fee! Great deal, huh? You can bring a bottle of two buck chuck or a fine pinot noir of your choice. Poc Chuc is definitely a repeat in my book!


Poc-Chuc
2886 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-3634

(415) 558-1583 | website

Mango Mousse


I live right up the street from Castro and make it down there almost every day whether to pick up some groceries or hop on the train to go downtown. Recently there has been a young man on the corner selling fruit. A few weeks ago I bought a huge box of the most delicious strawberries I have ever tasted and last Friday it was a big box of mangos. I figured that I could surely find some sort of recipe to use them in. Well, easier said than done. I found a few, but they just didn't look appealing to me. I searched and searched and was beginning to have buyer's remorse. What was I going to do with all these mangos? Finally I found one on BigOven.com.

This particular recipe uses Splenda instead of sugar so it's diabetic-friendly, which was perfect since I wanted to share this dessert with Joey's mom. I also have a huge bag of Splenda that I have been curious to use.  I followed the recipe to the letter.  The result was amazing.  It's a really creamy dessert with just the right mix of sweet and tangy.  It's also very light and fluffy so it's perfect for this time of year.  The time involved is a bit long since mangos are not fun to peal at all, but it's well worth the effort.

Ingredients
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups mango puree (2-3 mangos)
  • 1/3 cup Splenda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream - well-chilled
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water, let it soften for 1 minute, and heat the mixture over low heat, stirring, until the gelatin is dissolved.
  2. In a blender blend together the mango puree, the sugar, and the vanilla, add the gelatin mixture, and blend the mixture well. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the yogurt.
  3. In a chilled bowl beat the cream until it holds stiff peaks, fold it into the mango mixture gently but thoroughly, and divide the mousse among 6 dessert glasses or ramekins. 
  4. Chill the mousse for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  5. Garnish the mousses with mango slices, mint leaves, or a small chocolate wafer.


Asparagus with Toasted Pine Nuts & Lemon Vinaigrette


Remember the days when "You've Got Mail" was exciting?  Now when I hear my email ding I think, "What now?" and usually it's an offer for Xanax or well, you know.

Back in the day I sincerely didn't know there was anything beyond AOL. When I found out there was I felt like my entire world opened up. One of the first sites I found was this little no-frills recipe site. Back then most of the sites were no-frill. It's been so long that I can't even remember the site, but they had thousands of recipes.  It was like I had found a treasure trove.  This is the first recipe I ever got online and it is one of my favorites. I still have my tattered little printed copy from my StyleWriter II.

This recipe so simple and easy to make, but so delicious.  Now that asparagus is in season you should really try this.  I know pine nuts are a bit pricey, but you only need three tablespoons.  (You can tell that I obviously went a little nuts on the pine nut front last time I made this.)  Let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pepper, freshly ground
Instructions
  1. Start boiling water.
  2. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, basil and oregano in small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat a small skillet over medium and toast pine nuts stirring constantly. Set aside.
  4. Snap off touch ends of asparagus
  5. Remove scales from stalks with knife or vegetable peeler, if desired.
  6. Place spears in a steaming rack over boiling water; cover and steam 4-5 minutes or until spears are crisp-tender.
  7. Place asparagus in bowl or on serving platter and toss with olive oil mixture.
  8. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Joey Recommends - Icing on the Cake



While in Los Gatos for Karolyn & Kevin’s wedding, Sean & I stumbled upon this pastry shop called Icing on The Cake centrally located in the city’s downtown. It’s a cute little shop and we were instantly won over by the charming sign outside. We both have a sweet tooth so we definitely had to try it out.


Upon entering the shop I was taken by the whimsical colors and eye catching signs for all their products. It really seemed like a sweet haven. The showcase had a myriad of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, bars, and muffins to try. I wanted to sample each and every one of them but that would not have been possible. The wedding was the following day and we didn’t want to bulge out of our tuxedoes, so we didn’t want to overdo it. Plus we didn’t want to ruin our appetites for the rehearsal dinner that night.

The lady behind the counter seemed genuinely friendly and more than happy to answer all our questions and make recommendations. We ended up picking up three things to share: the lemon poppyseed shortbread cookie, a chocolate dee-luxe cookie, and a caramel miranda bar. We ended up saving it and having them after we got back to the hotel from the rehearsal dinner. All three were scrumptious with buttery goodness!

Before leaving Los Gatos we had to make one more pilgrimage to Icing on The Cake and pick some treats to bring back home to enjoy. In the early morning we made our way to the shop and was once again tasked with deciding what to select! For breakfast the next day we decided to pick up a couple of cinnamon rolls. And for future consumption over the next several days we also purchased two each of the swirly cake, chocolate buttermilk cupcake, classic vanilla cupcake, and red velvet cupcake. The server highly recommended the banarama cake so I decided to pick up a slice for my Mom since she likes bananas. Anyway, the swirly cake is their version of hostess’ chocolate cupcake with cream filling and white swirly icing on the top, hence the name. However, this version is so much better. Like all the other cupcakes, this one is extremely moist and each bite brings you that much closer to nirvana. And sinking your teeth into and eating that cinnamon roll was pure bliss.

If Los Gatos wasn’t so far we’d be frequenting this place a lot. Actually, maybe it’s a good idea that it’s not close to us. But if we ever have reason to be in Los Gatos, like to visit Kevin’s wonderful Mom Pam, we will have to make sure that we drop by Icing on The Cake and get more treats!

Check out their website at: icingonthecakebakery.com

Icing on the Cake
50 W. Main Street
Los Gatos, CA 95050

408-354-2464 | Website

Sausage Rolls


Last Friday I got it in my head that I wanted to have finger foods for dinner.  We already had some amazing cheeses we had bought earlier in the week as well as some herring. Having some fresh veggies was easy, but I wanted to try something new.  So many times we have had little get-togethers and made some real duds.  (Salmon spread quickly comes to mind.)  It's always a bit scary to test your new creations on guests so I decided to test something on Joey instead.

I had picked up Half-Baked Gourmet Party Food: Partly Homemade Totally Delicious at a bookstore ages ago and decided I would make something from that.  Since I had Italian sausage and I love making things with crescent roll dough this was the perfect recipe. I made it two ways - one with Italian sausage and provolone and the other with prosciutto and mozzarella. The verdict?  Both were tasty, but I liked the sausage a bit more and Joey liked the prosciutto.  Yay! We were both happy and I felt so Sandra Lee.  I would totally make these again.  They would be perfect for game night (sports or board) and are really easy.  This makes about 40 pieces and, no, we didn't eat all of them. (They do reheat well, though.)

Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound Italian sauage
  • 1 package (8 ounces) crescent roll dough
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
Instructions

Part 1
  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Remove sausage from casings and crumble into skillet.
  3. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink, breaking it up while it cooks.
  4. Drain well and let cool completely.
Part 2
  1. Unroll pastry but do not separate into triangles.
  2. Pinch the perforations together making four rectangles.
  3. Sprinkle one fourth of the sausage on each dough rectangle then top each with two slices of cheese.
  4. Roll up from long edge and place each roll, seam side down on a sheet of wax paper.
  5. Roll up in the paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Part 3
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Bake the rolls on an ungreased baking sheet for about 18 minutes or until golden brown. 
  3. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  4. Cut each into 10 pieces.
Variation

Substitute 1 package (4 ounces) thinly sliced prosciutto and 8 thin slices of mozzarella for the sausage and provolone.  Prepare as above.

Ronald McDonald Makeover


I love living in San Francisco and our "San Francisco Values."  I am very proud of our city on the bay and our passion for various causes.  Once in awhile, however, there is a protest that is just plain silly.

I don't know if you heard about it, but a group called Corporate Accountability International recently launched a campaign to force McDonald's to retire the clown.  Apparently, it's Ronald's fault that Americans are obese.  That's right, ole Ronald has forced our children to eat his food.  Now, I grew up with Ronald McDonald, I even had a really nerdy McDonald's flag on my bike. When we got vaccines we went to McDonald's and got them and ole Ronald was right there to wipe away our little tears.  Rather than get rid of him why not give him a makeover?  Well, those clever Japanese have already done that and years ago.  Below are two McDonald's commercials from Japan.  Look, problem solved! No protest necessary! Don't you wish everything were that easy?





Okonomiyaki


Having lived in Osaka for a number of years I am very fond of food from that region.  In my opinion Osaka has the best food in all of Japan.  One of Osaka's signature dishes is okonomiyaki.  This dish is often referred to as a "savory Japanese pancake" and I suppose you could call it that, but to me that always sounded gross.  Another term is "Japanese Pizza" but they have pizza so I wouldn't call it that, either.  I think it's more like a really thick crepe. Whatever you call it, it's my absolute favorite dish from Osaka.  I have many fond memories going to a little dive near my house run by two elderly sisters.  They bickered like crazy, but always had a huge smile for me and my Japanese family and we went there often.  In fact, almost weekly.

When I moved to San Francisco I could not find good okonomiyaki anywhere. It's really not a dish that appeals to a lot of Americans.  Since I couldn't find it, I decided to learn to make it.  Now, I cheat on this.  I use a kit.  I have tried a lot of kits, but my favorite is by Otafuku. I get mine in Japantown, but you can buy this kit in three-packs through ImportFood on Amazon.  Besides the kit, you are going to need to buy Okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie Mayonaise, Bonito Flakes, and aonori.  All of these can be found online.

I used to be able to buy this kit with English directions but they don't seem to have them anymore.  I decided to post them here in case anyone had a hankering for okonomiyaki and couldn't read Japanese.  (I really can't very well, either.  I just follow the pictures!)  I have provided a picture below of what comes in the kit for reference.

This is really a fun meal to make and eat.  It's also healthy(ish).  Lucky for me Joey loves it, too, so we have it often.

Ingredients

Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet or griddle over high heat and brush lightly with vegetable oil.
  2. Add water to large bowl and mix in Yam Powder (pink package) until dissolved.
  3. Add Batter Mix (large clear package with orange writing) and blend until wet. 
  4. Add green onion, cabbage, Tempura (yellow package) and eggs and mix gently until incorporated.  Don't over mix.
  5. Pour the batter on griddle to form two 6-inch pancakes and cook for 3 minutes
  6. While cooking add the pork to the top of each pancake.
  7. Flip each pancake and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Flip once more and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  9. Remove from griddle and top with okonmiyaki sauce, mayonaise, aonori (green package) and bonito flakes.
  10. Add pickled ginger (optional)

Joey Recommends - AQUA








For Sean's birthday we, with our friend Suella, went to Aqua, voted one of the five most beautiful restaurants in San Francisco by Michael Bauer on SFGate.com. Aqua is definitely eye pleasing with the simple lines, the subtle colors, artwork, and oversized mirrors hanging on the wall. We started off with an amuse bouche trio compliments of the chef. The teaser consisted of duck gyoza, a salsa soup, and a croquette.

We had the option of proceeding with three courses or seven. Although the seven courses were tempting, the offerings found on the regular menu won us over. It was difficult to select from the appetizer list because we wanted to try each and every single one of them. Ultimately Sean opted for the foie gras terrine, Suella the Maine diver scallop with sweetbread ravioli, english peas, and chantrelle mushrooms, and I chose the hamachi with charred pineapple. Of course we tried each other’s selections. The foie gras was accompanied by these toast points with a hint of orange marmalade. It was the perfect pairing with the smooth and buttery foie gras! Presentation wise Suella’s was the prettiest and in the satisfaction department, it did not disappoint. My hamachi was so fresh and with the sweet tartness of the pineapple, it was perfection!

For our entree, Sean went with the Maine lobster with english peas, heirloom carrots. Suella had the John Dory with pork belly and leek fondue. I had difficulty picking between the salmon with cardoon and white bean terrine and prosciutto and the halibut with Artichoke, Fennel, Saffron Fumet. Ultimately I decided on the former. Again, we sampled each other’s entrees and of the three, my favorite was Sean’s fare. The lobster was perfectly cooked and the vegetables complimented it sublimely.

The last course was dessert and again it was tough to pick! As it turns out, there were six selections and we ended up ordering the odd numbered items, because we are such an odd bunch! Anyway, Sean found himself gravitating to the carmel soufflé. Suella’s interest was piqued by the citrus parfait with lemon curd and orange ganache. And I selected the dark chocolate pear tart with almond custard and honey ice cream. I liked mine but wasn’t terribly thrilled by it. I would have liked more crust on my tart and the pear was the obvious focal point in that dessert. On this round the winner goes to Suella because, as per our server, this one was actually the most “chocolate-y” on the list. And that chocolate went so well with all the citrus notes in the dessert.

In the end were happy to have selected the three courses, not only because of the amazing food, but because we were absolutely stuffed! Aqua proves that fine dining can be satisfying! Definitely a keeper!



AQUA

252 California St
(between Front St & Battery St)
San Francisco, CA 94111

Website | Reservations | (415) 956-9662 

Stuffed Cabbage


The other day I had a free afternoon so I pulled out one of my slow recipes.  These are the recipes I make with my favorite music playing, the birds on my shoulder, and I have plenty of time to enjoy the process of cooking.  Now usually these recipes tend to be on the fattening side, but this is an exception.  I found the original recipe on Weight Watchers, but I have modified it quite a bit.  For one thing, their recipe only made four servings.  Well, if I am going to spend an hour preparing something I am certainly going to make sure it serves more than four!  My version makes about nine or ten servings.

The first time I made this recipe it just made me mad because it really does take a long time to prepare and I couldn't figure out how to roll the cabbage.  Then finally I figured out the secret.  TIME.  Just give yourself time to do it.  Get your favorite music going; maybe a glass of wine; and enjoy the process.  This can be a very relaxing dish to make if you let it.  This dish is totally worth it and and you will also have a new-found respect for ladies that make lumpia or pot stickers!


Ingredients
  • 1 head Chinese cabbage, (see picture)
  • 1pound uncooked lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs 
  • 2 medium carrots, grated 
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped 
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp table salt 
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 - 29 oz canned diced tomatoes, with basil, garlic and oregano
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)


Instructions
    1. Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
    2. Cut the bottom inch or two off the cabbage and separate the leaves carefully.
    3. Blanche the leave in the boiling water and put in a strainer and set aside.
    4. Combine beef, rice, water, bread crumbs, carrot, onion, garlic, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl; mix well.
    5. Spoon about 1/4 cup of beef mixture near the top of each leaf. 
    6. Fold over the two sides then roll the top over the beef then continue rolling to make loose rolls (rice will expand during cooking so it is important not to roll them too tightly).
    7. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add rolls and sauté until golden brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes.  Do this in batches.
    8. Gently add the rolls to a large stockpot or dutch oven.
    9. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
    10. Reduce heat and cook at least one hour checking pot every 15 minutes or so and stirring to prevent sticking.
    11. Serve in a bowl sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

    Crab Soup


    We all do it. I mean, honestly, it's hard not to. No matter how much we plan, we all end up wasting food. That tomato, those fresh herbs, some lettuce. Whether I had forgotten or just didn't use it, I seem to have food that goes to waste.

    Yesterday I decided to change that. I went to my kitchen and looked at what I had before I planned our meal. I remembered I had a pound of cooked crab that I had to use this weekend. But how? I looked in my cookbooks, but really found nothing that appealed to me. Back in the kitchen I looked again at what I had and besides the crab I had buttermilk, potatoes, carrots and parsley. I felt like I was on Chopped. I knew exactly what I would make - Crab Soup.

    This super easy recipe is almost a chowder. However, by using low-fat buttermilk it's actually figure friendly, unlike many chowders. The buttermilk gives it creamy richness without all the calories.

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound shelled cooked crab
    • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
    • 1 cup chopped carrots
    • 1 1/2 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth
    • 3 cups low-fat buttermilk
    • 1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
    • Salt
    • Fresh-ground pepper

    Instructions

    1. Peal potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch chunks.
    2. In a 4- to 5-quart pot over high heat, combine potatoes, carrots, and broth. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes and carrots are tender when pierced, 10 to 15 minutes.
    3. Lower the heat.
    4. Slowly add buttermilk to pot and stir until hot, about 3 to 4 minutes.
    5. Add crab, mixing gently for a minute or so.
    6. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
    7. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with parsley.
    8. Serve with sour dough or crusty bread.

    Joey Recommends - Paxti's Pizza



    After our excursion at the King Tut exhibit in Golden Gate Park, we were looking forward to having pizza at Paxti's Pizza in Hayes Valley. The near hour walk definitely helped build our appetite. Anyway, once there we were welcomed with the friendliest of greetings and the glorious smell of pizza! Our server was very outgoing, helpful, and made us feel at home.

    We started off with the antipasto plate which came with olives, grapes, crackers and a choice of three meats. From the list we selected Spanish chorizo, aged prosciutto, and Genovese salami. It was a nice little start to our lunch.

    Next we had the salad wedge with fresh, crisp iceberg lettuce topped with bleu cheese dressing, tomatoes and bacon. This was a very refreshing interlude while we waited for our pizza.

    Paxti's is renowned for their Chicago style pizza so we had to try it! We were wrestling between getting a 10” for 2 or 12” for 3 people because we love bringing home leftovers to enjoy at home. After some serious consideration, we decided on just getting a 10” pie with three toppings: Italian sausage, mushrooms, and kalamata olives. They do have specialty pizzas but we wanted to build our own. It took about thirty minutes so the antipasto plate and salad were a good way to keep us happy. When the pizza finally got to our table I was pleasantly surprised at the size of this little monster. Our server dished it out for us and I was happy to see all the cheesy goodness ooze from the pie. The pizza was cut into six sections but we could only finish one each. It was that filling! The crust was perfectly made, there was the perfect amount of sauce, and a generous enough amount of toppings.

    The only things that I wish they had were a bigger selection of appetizers and some sort of dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth. Other than that, this was a very good experience and we will definitely come back again. Next time I’d like to give their thin crust pizza a shot!

    Paxti's Chicago Pizza
    511 Hayes Street
    San Francisco, CA

    Sun - Wed 11am - 10pm, Thurs - Sat 11am - 10:30pm


    Website | 415-558-9991

    Let's Cook Japanese Food!


    I have an embarrassing number of cookbooks. Really, I do. Probably close to 100. What's worse is that more often than not I go online to search for recipes rather than go to my cookbooks to find a recipe. When there is a book I find myself going to again and again, then that's a great cookbook. Let's Cook Japanese Food is that kind of cookbook for me.

    Having lived in Japan for eight years I found myself missing some of the more comforty foods I used to have there. Chicken Kara-age, Fried Rice, Croquettes, Okonomiyaki, Doria - the list goes on and on. These are not foods you find readily in Japanese restaurants. These are really home foods or foods you would eat in a tiny little restaurant on your way home from the train station. When I did find them, quite frankly, they were horrible. Even in Japantown. Actually, especially in Japantown.

    One day when I was particularly obsessed with finding a seafood doria recipe online I came across this book. I was skeptical, but being the online shopper that I am I naturally bought it. When I received it I was happily surprised to see what it had in store for me. All the foods I have been missing for years all wrapped up in one little cookbook!

    Amy Kaneko knows what she's doing with Let's Cook Japanese Food and was obviously well tutored by her Japanese mother-in-law. This book is chock full of Japanese comfort foods. All the foods I love, but couldn't find here in San Francisco.

    The book is divided into four sections:

    • Tofu and Eggs
    • Vegetables
    • Fish and Shellfish
    • Meat and Poultry
    • Rice, Noodles, and Dumplings
    Within each section is a great introduction and each recipe also has a nice history of explanation of the dish. The instructions are easy to follow and the ingredients are very easy to find. More importantly they taste just like "mamasan" used to make! Recipes I could never find online. I have made so many of these dishes and have been pleased with the outcome each and every time.

    If you lived in Japan, have a Japanese mom and want to cook like her, or are just curious about Japanese food, this is the ideal book for you. You will be going back to this cookbook again and again.

    Hungarian Hot Sausage and Lentil Stoup


    While spring has sprung some things always remain the same in San Francisco. One of them is the weather. It's never going to get very hot or very cold here. That has some definite advantages. While the rest of the country may be packing up their sweaters and dusting off their shorts, I can wear the same clothes year round and it's never too hot or cold to make my favorite dishes.

    This is definitely one of my Rachel Ray favorites and one of the first recipes of hers I ever made. Now it's very easy; and, in some circles trendy, to criticize her cooking. To those of you who do, I challenge you to try this recipe and not like it. It's not only delicious buy very healthy and figure-friendly. The combination of the hot sausage and the smoked paprika give this a very homey, old-world flavor. The chard is a great way to get some healthy greens in while adding texture and flavor. Since this is what Rachel Ray calls a "stoup" it's combination of a soup and a stew. Served with some crusty bread you have a one-dish meal that will please everyone - even those who don't like Rachel Ray. While this is a "30-minute Meal" it really takes longer to make and if you make it ahead the flavors just get better and better!

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
    • 1 1/2 pounds bulk hot Italian sausage
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 portobello mushrooms, gills scraped out, chopped
    • 1 cup pre-shredded carrots, available in sacks in produce department of the market
    • 1 cup lentils
    • 1 large starchy potato, peeled and chopped
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
    • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or substitute a mix of 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika and 2 pinches cayenne pepper)
    • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, in tact on stems
    • 1 (14-ounce) can fire roasted chopped tomatoes, such as Muir Glenn or, regular diced tomatoes
    • 6 cups chicken stock
    • 4 cups kale or chard, a small bunch, veins removed and chopped
    • Crusty pumpernickel bread, to pass at table
    • Butter, for bread
    Instructions
    1. Heat a medium soup pot over medium high heat.
    2. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, then add sausage to pot and brown and crumble it, then add garlic, onions and mushrooms.
    3. Cook a few minutes, then add carrots, lentils, potato, salt and pepper, bay leaf, paprika or substitute mixture and rosemary (leaves will fall from stems as stoup cooks).
    4. Add tomatoes and broth and cover pot then raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
    5. Uncover pot and place heat back a bit but keep stoup at a good rolling boil.
    6. Cook 15 minutes until lentils and potatoes are tender.
    7. Wilt in greens in small bunches, remove rosemary stems and turn off heat.
    8. Let stand 5 minutes.
    9. Serve in shallow bowls with bread and butter to mop up stoup.
    10. Reheat leftovers thinning it with broth or water.

    Joey Recommends - Triptych




    Triptych exudes so much charm that I couldn't help but really fall for it. First of all the food is excellent. I had the pork osso bucco with garbanzo beans and crispy pancetta. The meat was extremely tender and delicious. Another must have at this restaurant are the sweet potato fries which are crispy but not oily. The secret is that they are double fried! As for dessert I indulged myself in the warm chocolate molten cake, which was everything you could ask a warm chocolate molten cake to be! Pure gooey goodness!

    The service was nothing less than excellent. Our waitress was very attentive and engaging. And I just love the decor of this place down to the disco themed bathroom. There's nothing like going to the bathroom with Charlie's Angels. I would definitely go back here when I'm in the area and in need of food.

    Triptych
    1155 Folsom Street (Between 7th and 8th)
    San Francisco, CA 94103

    415-703-0579

    Website
    | Reservations

    Grateful For My Mom


    Today marks the one year anniversary of my mother passing. I remember that day so vividly. I was feeling the best I had felt in my life. Joey and I had just finished the Master Cleanse, I had been going to a trainer for a month and all was well in my world. I was feeling amazing. My mom was in the hospital, but was doing well and was expected to be going home the next day. All was well in my world. Then I got the phone call. The poor doctor stammered around for a bit talking about a pea (yes, a pea) and I finally asked, "Did my mom die?"

    "Yes," he said, "she swallowed a pea and it went into her lung. She died while we were operating to get it out."

    "My mother doesn't eat peas."

    "Well, she did today. I'm so sorry."

    At first I couldn't believe it. Not that she died, but that she died from a pea. Of all things she had done in her life and to her body it was a pea that killed her. We are taught not to find humor in death, but I know mom would laugh about this one. A PEA!

    I have missed my mom a lot this past year, but I have also been grateful. Grateful that my mother and I were so close, grateful for all she taught me and even grateful for the way she moved on.

    My mother and I didn't spend a lot of time together when I was growing up, but we made up for that when I became an adult she was my best friend. A lot of what I am is because of her. We are amazingly alike in many ways - good and bad. On the good front, I embrace all those qualities of myself that remind me of her. On the bad qualities, she did her best to teach me how to work with them. She always told me that she thought she went through so many hard times to teach me what not to do. She sure did teach me and I listened. Not always at first, but I did listen.

    So, today I celebrate all that is my mother. I can still feel her touching my life and if I listen closely enough she is still there guiding me down the right path. I will always be grateful to have this amazing woman in my life.

    Life is Perfect


    Yesterday was an extraordinary day. It's not that anything out of the ordinary happened. The day was quite typical. I got up, had coffee, made the bed, went to work, came home. All the usual things one does during the day. What was extraordinary was my attitude towards life has finally seemed to shift in the right direction. I finally realized that life is perfect the just way it is right now.

    I have spent most of my life trying to make to make things perfect. When I played clarinet as a boy I would practice for hours and hours on end because I was never good enough. When I started singing it was the same thing. Hours and hours of practice and I was never good enough.

    As a young man I became obsessed with my appearance. I would spend hours in front of the mirror doing my hair, ironing my clothes and making sure the pastel blue of my socks was the exact shade of blue in my shirt (it was the 80s so I get some slack here) and I never looked good enough.

    In the 90s I went on this journey of self discovery where I would examine each and every thing that was wrong in my life and was wrong with me. I didn't really do anything about it, I just looked at it. I examined my inner child so closely that my outer adult grew weary. Nothing was good enough.

    In my late 30s I started obsessing about the "shoulds." I should be further in my career. I should own a house. I should have these kinds of friends and those kinds of things. Nothing was good enough.

    The last year I completely spiraled deep into a little midlife crisis. Now I knew it was me that not good enough and it was too late. For so long I have never been completely satisfied with anything, mostly myself. I was certain I was too old to change and life was what it was - not good enough. I have spent a lot of time regretting the past and looking for more in the future. I have never sat and just enjoyed the present. I mean really enjoyed the present until yesterday.

    Last night when I was getting ready for bed I had this new and wonderful feeling - contentment. I don't think I have ever really felt that so strongly or so completely. This really didn't come out of the blue. I have been working on this for a long time and recently I have been working really hard at it. Well, it paid off. This feeling, though, is not what I expected. It's better. I finally know that my life, right now, is perfect. Everything about it is perfect. My job, my friends, my partner, my birds, my home and most importantly me! Everything is as it should be. Right here, right now.

    Yesterday really was an extraordinary day. It was perfect.

    Bread Machine Sour Dough


    What a glorious day! I woke up in such a wonderful mood and was quickly rewarded by the Universe: the sun was brightly shining and the boys were particularly happy to see me. Their excitement and love for me each morning is a great way to start the day. It feels good to be needed. Maybe that's why I like making sour dough bread. It kind of needs you to get started.

    I have been obsessed with making sourdough bread since we got a bread machine last October. I tried endlessly to get my sourdough starter going with poor results. Everything always started out right, but in a couple of days I would only have a sad jar of yuck. I tried again and again. I finally discovered the King Arthur Flour website and they had just what I needed - Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter and complete directions. Apparently, it is descended from a starter in New England that has been nurtured since the 1700s. Wow, it's more than just an ingredient, it's almost like a pet!

    My little plastic jar of started arrived with complete instructions and the request to feed it. I placed it right in the jar that I just had to buy and fed it according to the instructions. Four hours later that starter was going to town! It had more than doubled in size and was bubbling like mad. Finally, I had a happy starter. After a couple of weeks feeding I was ready to make my bread!

    Since I was determined to make this in my bread machine, I went to one of my many cookbooks and found what I thought looked like a good recipe. The result? Failure. Boo! The bread was doughy inside. Determined not to give up I searched the web and it didn't take long to find a recipe on Recipezaar. Not only did it have great reviews, it was surprisingly simple. The result? Fantastic sourdough bread. The crust was crunchy and the inside was soft and chewy, just like it should be. I have made this bread four times and each time it's been delicious. I have no idea how it stacks up to other recipes besides the one I tried because this one is a hit!

    The recipe below makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf. Use the basic bread setting on medium or light. (We prefer light.) Don't use the delay function with this recipe.

    Oh! By the way, this starter is honestly going to town, so if you live near me and want some hit me up!

    Ingredients

    • 2 2/3 cup bread flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast*
    • 1 cup sourdough starter
    • 3/4 cup water

    Instructions
    1. Take your starter out of the refrigerator and feed it about 4 - 12 hours before you want to make the bread.
    2. Add all the ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
    3. Bake on the basic cycle with medium or light crust setting.
    4. Remove and cool immediately when finished.

    Notes

    Depending on the brand of yeast you have you might need a little less. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, but I have found in general that my machine and yeast brand usually requires more than the recipe so I used 2 teaspoons.

    Chef Joe's Culinary Salon


    I have wanted to take cooking classes for a long time but they always were either totally inconvenient or way too expensive. Enter The Culinary Salon. My friend, Greg, heard about them and asked if I wanted to take classes with him. I jumped at the chance. The location, right in Castro, couldn't be more convenient for me and with the variety of classes and prices I could easily find something in my price range. In fact I signed up for Thursday night classes for the entire month of September.

    Chef Joe offered a "Tribute to Julia Child & The Art of French Cooking" series and we decided to take all four of the Le Bistro classes . Since we had just seen "Julie and Julia" the classes seemed perfect. There are only six people in each class so you are sure you get a hand at all tasks. You also get personalized attention from Chef Joe who is not only an amazing chef, but a delightful person.

    Each week we prepared a specific menu, but these are not random menus. They are well thought out and not only allow you to make a fabulous meal, but teach you invaluable cooking skills. However, the proof is in the pudding. Can you make these dishes when you get home? You betcha! The weekend following each class I tried my hand at the entire menu and we had four weekends of fabulous eating. I could never have whipped these meals up with such ease and perfection had in not been for Chef Joe. Once you have finished cooking, you dine with the chef and your fellow classmates, who by now are your new-found friends.

    Whether you know how to cook or not, these classes are great for every level. There's lots of fun to be had and lots of learning to do. They also make a great gift! Check out Chef Joe's schedule. You are sure to find a class that's right for you.

    Since I have personally made all the dishes from the Le Bistro classes I am dying to show off my skills. I will be blogging about each class individually next week, but until then check out this video from my four classes.


    Potato Leek Soup


    One thing Joey and I both want to do this year is lose weight. We all know it's "easy." All one needs to do is eat healthily and exercise. I wish there was a way to divide up those duties. I would gladly let Joey do the exercise part and I would do the eating. It seems totally fair to me. Of course that is not the case, so we need to do both together.

    Another thing we want to do this year is save money. That ranks right up there with exercise for me. I have visions of myself waddling to The Dollar Store to buy discount SlimFast. At least I would have all my bases covered. Rather than do that I am going to focus on low-fat, inexpensive, healthy meals. I was shocked to find it surprisingly easy. There are a myriad of low-fat cookbooks out there and I have most of them! I recently purchased 1,000 Lowfat Recipes by Terry Blonder Golson and along with all the other great recipes is a fantastic soup chapter. I had a lot of potatoes and found this great recipe. Not only is it 123 calories per serving, it's completely nonfat. As with most soups you can make this well ahead of time and it can be served hot or chilled. Either way it's a light yet satisfying soup.

    Ingredients

    • 3 cups chopped leeks, including the light green part, washed well and chopped
    • 4 cups peeled, shredded all-purpose potatoes
    • 6 cups reduced-sodium, defatted chicken broth
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives
    • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
    • Freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
    Instructions
    1. Simmer leeks, potatoes, broth, and salt in a pot for 30 minutes.
    2. Add the chives and parsley.
    3. Cook for 10 minutes more.
    4. Season to taste.
    5. Puree if a smoother soup is preferred.
    6. Chill or serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt.
    Notes
    • I chopped my leaks first thing then soaked them in cold water while I gathered up all the other ingredients or ten minutes. Then rinsed and drained them. Leaks can have a lot of sand.
    • If you intend to puree the soup, you can just cut the potatoes into small pieces, which faster than shredding them.
    • I didn't have chicken broth so I used mushroom broth and vegetable broth. It was really tasty and is a great vegetarian way to make the soup.

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    About Sean & Joey

    Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean

    Dedication

    This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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