Thursday, 31 December 2009

Best Homemade Tastes in 2009

The things we made in our teeny little Napa or even teensier Vero kitchen that were so delicious. I say 'we' because husband is the best sous chef anyone could ever ask for, or as of late, the only chef around here.

Silky chestnut soup (recipe here)

Toasted pasta with duck leg guazzetto (A Mingling of Tastes)

Caramelized tofu (101 Cookbooks)

Roasted asparagus with walnut crema and pecorino (Orangette)

Plum sorbet (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

Watercress soup with gentleman's relish--buttery anchovy heaven--toast (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques); part of our St. Patrick's week eating in March

Slow-cooked brisket sandwiches with blue cheese coleslaw, part of our July 4th feasting (from the September 2008 issue of Bon Appetit)

Leche merengada with a shot of espresso poured on top (from the bible of ice cream books, The Perfect Scoop)

ridiculously easy Nectarine sorbet (also from The Perfect Scoop)

apple tart cake (here, from Orangette)

olive oil cake with creme fraiche and candied tangerines (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

potimarron soup -- via Chez Pim (we couldn't find potimarron or kabocha squash, so we went with butternut. Simple. Amazing.)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

let your hearts be light

from now on our troubles will be out of sight....

Am taking a cue from the oldest one in our house and am all set to really enjoy every second of Christmas this year. From singing my heart out at midnight mass to eating tortellini in brodo to giving Steve new pj's to wear tonight. This is our first Christmas with my family in five years. And I'm over the moon about that.

May you have joy wherever you are. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Some advice

  • Don't wait until you're 30 ripe years old to watch It's a Wonderful Life for the first time; I mean, you can, it's certainly better than waiting until you're 31--but you'll wonder what else you've been missing out on.
  • It feels good to listen to your husband's gentle suggestion that homemade cookies don't need to be packaged with a handwritten note listing each type of cookie because really, people just want something delicious in their belly. Amen. 
  • Miniature gingerbread houses to perch on steaming cups of hot chocolate for Christmas morning are buckets of fun to make with your Marmousch on the 19th...even if the roofs still aren't attached by the 22nd. There's always tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

il presepio

A presepio is the nativity scene, a collection of miniature houses, people, and animals (most importantly a stable with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus) to represent and honor the most important birthday of all. Marmousch always made an elaborate one for us growing up, typical in Italian homes, and as you can imagine getting to play in this miniature world was a dream come true. This year she gave me the green light to go haywire on the presepio. It may not have been the main reason to move back to my hometown, but it was way up there :) 

Here it is. I am plum proud. Our presepio by Marmousch and I. 

p.s. no baby Jesus yet as that gets put on at midnight by the youngest in the family. We are tradition sticklers 'round these parts.
p.p.s. what, you didn't know there was a gorilla present at the birth of Jesus? 

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

In which my heart leapt into my throat

...+ I thought, this is stupid.

September 27th 2009.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

happy birthday to my lamb

Now I'm going to go pee my pants like I did 28 years ago when we first met.

Monday, 14 December 2009

St. Lucia

December 13th we honored St. Lucia. I don't have a spreck of Swede in me but I've always loved loved loved the idea of the eldest daughter waking up before everyone else, baking saffron buns, and serving them to her family in bed whilst singing with her hair gloriously done up in braids.

Well...the buns took a wee bit longer than planned. By the time I finished at three in the afternoon, Steve had long been out of bed.

But. Hair braided, check. Singing, double check.

Friday, 11 December 2009

happy weekend

does this little boy and his dad make you go weak in the knees or what? This was in Kenya.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

my wrapping drawer--

our freezer--

the Christmas box--pulled down from the tippity topmost shelf--

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


It's our adventing for today--get a pot of gluhwein going and enjoy it while watching one of the Christmas movies we've got (probably the Heat Miser/Cold Miser one, it's my man's favorite).

Steve introduced me to gluhwein. I think gluhwein plus nighttime Christmas markets equals happy memories of the six years he spent in Germany. We tracked down a how-to and it gets made at least a few times each winter. You would think that after living in Napa I'd be horrified at the thought of heating up a perfectly good bottle of wine but no. It's the perfect Christmasy drink, all fragrant and warm and sweet. And no goodly amount of teasing from the cute Scottish couple we met in Kenya (how can you like that crap?!) will change my mind. Here she is, via recipezaar.


1 bottle red wine
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar

Combine wine + sugar and heat on stove until just before boiling. Wrap remaining ingredients in cheesecloth, tie, and add to wine mixture. Simmer on stove for about 15 minutes. Ladle into your favorite coffee mugs.

in the photograph is Pride merlot, quite possibly our all-time favorite, but no way did we use that for gluhwein! that would be a sin. feel free to go way cheaper. we do.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cookie Sunday

Yesterday kicked off cookie week. I did this last year and in a bizarre June Cleaver fantasy way I sorta loved it. All year long I squirrel cookie recipes away in a certain clear sheet protector marked Christmas. And yesterday I firmly knotted my favorite apron and set to making 7 batches of cookies. Over the next few days I'll make five more. They're tucked away in our freezer and soon the 12 Days of Cookies can begin, little gifts for family and friends. Hip hip. 

1. Brown-Sugar Brown-Butter Shorties -via Smitten Kitchen
2. Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies - from...I have no idea (sorry)!
3. Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bites - via Chez Pim
4. New Orleans Pralines - also Chez Pim
4. Apricot Dreams - ??
5. Toasted Pine Nut Cookies - from this NY Times article
7. Viennese Chocolate Sables - via aaplemint
8.  Chocolate "Blocks" with Fruit and Nuts -via Orangette
9. Ginger Snaps - from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food
10. Real Danish Butter Cookies -another Orangette
11. Schrafft'sButterscotch Cookies - and another.
12. Chocolate Chip Cookies - mmmm yes, the NY Times recipe

So far the undisputed favorite has been the New Orleans pralines (pronounced PRAH-leans, did you know?). It's so melty that as Steve puts it, is more candy than cookie, but we'll certainly take it. 

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Our Christmas playlist

I love it so.

Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt + Henri Rene

Adeste Fidelis - from A Scottish Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka - Bing Crosby
Baby It's Cold Outside - Ella Fitzgerald + Louis Armstrong
Auld Lang Syne - Mairi Campbell + Dave Francis
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing - Amy Grant
Where Are You Christmas - Faith Hill
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - Sixpence None the Richer
Here Comes Santa Claus - Elvis
Blue Christmas - Elvis
Silent Night - Susan Boyle
It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams
Overture from The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky 
March from The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky 
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky 
Russian Dance from The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky
Happy Xmas (War is Over) - John Lennon
If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out - Cat Stevens (I know it's not Christmas, but...)
Frosty the Snowman - Jimmy Durante
Jingle Bell Rock -Bobby Helms
Oh Holy Night - Angelina
Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24 - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Burl Ives
Dream a Dream - Charlotte Church +  Billy Gilman
Christmas Canon- Trans-Siberian Orchestra
All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey (an homage to my favorite movie)
Silver Bells - Elvis
Oh Come All Ye Faithful - Mormon Tabernacle Choir (one can't have it on their playlist too many times)
Winter Wonderland - Tony Bennett
Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle - Ennio Morricone
You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch - Thurl Ravenscroft
White Christmas - Clyde McPhatter + The Drifters

and while I'm catching up, here was our adventing on December 2, 3, & 4th:
2nd: Writing our wish lists.
3rd: Making hot chocolate on a stick (Delicious--how to is here). It tasted way better than the $16 Sarabeth's version I bought a few weeks ago.
4th: Going to see The Nutcracker. Took me way back. Like, 4th grade back.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Love you pook

Seven years ago today we went out to lunch and ten hours later we were still talking out by our cars. My parents almost called the police they were so worried. I knew you felt the same way I did when you called to make sure I had gotten home safe.

It was our first date.

Happy (dating) anniversary to the man I can still talk to for hours and hours and hours and forget all about what time it is.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Why I wanted to go to Zambia.

So I could swim in the Devil's Bathtub. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Victoria Falls

Rightly so one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

happy 1st day of advent + our advent calendar

Yesterday after putting in the hours at work, after getting my knitting on, after going for a run, after eating dinner with the Saints-Patriots game in the background (go Saints!), I finished up our advent calendar.

a faboo roundup of advent calendars is here. Next year I'm all about the hanging slippers one, I will copycat it to the nth degree because it's that adorable (to me). The shoesies are already in the works.

p.s. December 1st is about our Christmas playlist.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Budín de Zanahoria (carrot pudding)

 I've decided. Come five, ten years from now I want to have a set collection of Thanksgiving recipes that we make year after year. The tried + true's. Last year I found our tried + true cranberry sauce (which I have since lost. a project for another day.) And this year I discovered one of our tried + true sides. I am not one for cooked carrots, I choke that junk down with huge gulps of water and then only when I have to-- but thankfully this dish blows all memories of those nasty little soggy orange discs out of the park.

Here's two versions of the recipe--the first I can vouch for, the second I plan to try. I'm feeling the rum add but would take away the chopped walnuts. (Marmousch said that the nuts looked like something that rhymes with shmomit anyway.) From Diane Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico, and I found it in the 2009 San Francisco Chowing with the Hounds picnic recipes.

Budín de Zanahoria (Carrot Pudding)

Serves 6

A food mill
2 pounds boiled carrots
6 ounces unsalted butter
A mixer
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces rice flour, sifted (I've always used all-purpose white flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound queso fresco, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Pass the carrots through the medium disc of a food mill. (I used a food processor and all was fine.)
Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.
Setting the egg whites aside, beat the yolks until they're thick. Add the sugar and continue beating until it is well incorporated. Beat in the flour alternately with the butter.
Stir in the carrots, salt and cheese, mix well, and lastly add the baking powder.
Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and fold them into the mixture.
Pour the mixture into a buttered pyrex dish. Place it on a baking sheet and rack 2/3 down into oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then lower the over temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking for about 55 minutes. The budín should be soft and spongy to the touch - the top and sides nicely browned, but the inside moist.
Serve immediately, with the orange and walnut sauce to accompany it.

Kennedy advises that when making this dish with carrots, rather than the standard peas, you should serve it with coarse salt and thick sour cream, but I've always ignored her and just served it with the orange walnut sauce (2 cups oj with 3/4 cups walnuts).

Budín Nuevo de Zanahoria (New Carrot Pudding)

2 pounds peeled and steamed carrots
6 ounces unsalted butter
3 egg yolks and 5 egg whites.
1/2 cup brown sugar sugar
6 ounces rice flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound jack cheese, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Zest of 1 orange
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cumin

2 cups orange juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 pinch cinnamon
1 tbsp rum
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Pass the carrots through a food mill, ricer, or food processor. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Beat yolks well. Add the sugar and beat until well mixed. Beat in flour and butter. Stir in the carrots, salt, cheese, zest, nutmeg, cumin, and baking powder. Mix well. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into mixture.

Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish (no larger than 9x13). Bake at 500F for 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 and bake for another 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the orange juice and sugar to a pot and reduce liquid by half. Stir in cinnamon. Add rum and simmer for another couple minutes to cook off some of the alcohol. Keep warm until pudding is ready.

When sides are well browned and pudding is spongy to the touch in the center, remove from oven. Pour sauce evenly over top, scatter walnuts, and serve.

bits & pieces of our Thanksgiving

How lucky were we, we had two Thanksgiving celebrations over the long weekend! Two times the happy bellies, two juicy turkeys, two times playing my new favorite boardgame Apples to Apples. Two times family and dear friends. 

Friday, 27 November 2009

the Friday after Thanksgiving

if it is the Friday after Thanksgiving, that can only mean one thing for me: Love Actually! It's 1) how I jump-start the Christmas-y feeling every year, 2) one of only two films that lamb and I can practically sit down and spout off the entire movie, quote for quote (the other is Top Gun, don't judge!), and 3) it is brilliant! The intertwining storylines are clever and touching, the characters are heartfelt, the dialogue couldn't be more perfect, the endings of the different vignettes are predictable and not-so-predictable. It makes my heart ache, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard, and always makes me cry. The music swells at just the right moments (like when Jamie's walking down the streets of Brazil going to find Aurelia, or when Juliet is walking down the aisle), there's the world's best cameo from Rowan Atkinson, and the whole thing just leaves you feeling good. Like all great movies, every time you watch it you'll make a new connection or notice something new in it that you hadn't before. Unless you're like me, who one year watched it every single day between Thanksgiving and Christmas--so now I just tear up or laugh or quote on cue.

So if you haven't seen it, what in Sam heck are you waiting for? And if you have, just smile as I run through some of these beauties...

Sam: I know I should be thinking about Mum all the time, and I am. But the truth is, I'm in love and I was before she died, and there's nothing I can do about it.
Daniel: [laughs] Aren't you a bit young to be in love?
Sam: No.
Daniel: Oh, well, okay... right. Well, I mean, I'm a little relieved.
Sam: Why?
Daniel: Well, because I thought it would be something worse.
Sam: [incredulous] Worse than the total agony of being in love?
Daniel: Oh. No, you're right. Yeah, total agony.

Harry: Tell me, exactly, how long it is that you've been working here?
Sarah: Two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, what... two hours?
Harry: And how long have you been in love with Karl, our enigmatic chief designer?
Sarah: Um, two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and thirty minutes.
Harry: I thought as much.
Sarah: Do you think everybody knows?
Harry: Yes!
Sarah: Do you think Karl knows?
Harry: Yes!
Sarah: Oh, that is... that is bad news.
Harry: Well I just thought maybe the time had come to do something about it.
Sarah: Like what?
Harry: Invite him out for a drink and then, after about twenty minutes, casually drop into the conversation the fact that you'd like to marry him and have lots of sex and babies.
Sarah: You know that?
Harry: Yes, and so does Karl. Think about it, for all our sakes. It's Christmas. 

Harry: Sarah, how long have you been working here?
Sarah: Let's see...2 years, 6 months, 13 days and I suppose 2 hours?
Harry: And how long have you been in love with our chief enigmatic designer, Carl?
Sarah: (pause) 2 years, 6 months, 13 days and I suppose 1 hour and 45 minutes?
Harry: I figured as much.
Sarah: Does everybody know?
Harry: Yes!
Sarah: Does Carl know?
Harry: Yes!
Sarah: What should I do?
Harry: Tell him you want to marry him and have lots of sex and babies with him.

Karen: So what's this big news, then?
Daisy: [excited] We've been given our parts in the nativity play. And I'm the lobster.
Karen: The lobster?
Daisy: Yeah!
Karen: In the nativity play?
Daisy: [beaming] Yeah, *first* lobster.
Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?
Daisy: Duh.

[on sheets of poster board]
Mark: With any luck, by next year - I'll be going out with one of these girls.
[shows pictures of beautiful supermodels]
Mark: But for now, let me say - Without hope or agenda - Just because it's Christmas - And at Christmas you tell the truth - To me, you are perfect - And my wasted heart will love you - Until you look like this.
[picture of a mummy]
Mark: Merry Christmas. 

Collin: I don't blame you. Looks like dead baby fingers. What's your name?
Nancy: Nancy.
Collin: And what do you do, Nancy?
Nancy: I'm a cook.
Collin: Ever do weddings?
Nancy: Yes I do.
Collin: They should have asked you to do this one.
Nancy: They did.
Collin: God I wish you hadn't turned it down.
Nancy: I didn't.

Colin: Exciting news!
Tony: What?
Colin:  I've bought a ticket to the States. I'm off in three weeks.
Tony: No!
Colin: Yes! To a fantastic place called Wisconsin.
Tony: No!
Colin: Yes! Wisconsin babes, here comes Sir Colin! Whoo hoo!
Tony: No, Col! There are a few babes in America, I grant you, but they're already going out with rich, attractive guys.
Colin: Nah, Tone, you're just jealous. You know perfectly well that any bar anywhere in America contains ten girls more beautiful and more likely to have sex with me than the whole of the United Kingdom.
Tony: That is total bollocks. You've actually gone mad, now.
Colin: No, I'm wise. Stateside I am Prince William without the weird family.
Tony: No, Colin, no!
Colin: Yes!
Tony: Nyet!
Colin: Da!
Tony: Nein!
Colin: Ja, darling!

Daniel: Tell her that you love her.
Sam: No way! Anyway, they fly tonight.
Daniel: Even better! Sam, you've got nothin' to lose, and you'll always regret it if you don't! I never told your mom enough. I should have told her everyday because she was perfect everyday. You've seen the films, kiddo. It ain't over 'til its over.

DJ: Wow. Thanks for that, Bill.
Billy Mack: For what?
DJ: Well, for actually giving a real answer to a question. Doesn't often happen here at "Radio Watford" I can tell you.
Billy Mack: Ask me anything you like, I'll tell you the truth.
DJ: Uh, best shag you've ever had?
Billy Mack: Britney Spears.
DJ: Wow!
Billly Mack: No, only kidding...she was rubbish!

Jamie: Don't worry about it, it's not like it's bloody Shakespeare or anything.
Aurelia: (in Portuguese) This better not be some shit my grandmother could have written.
Jamie: I really must start making copies.
Aurelia: (in Portuguese) Who doesn't make copies?
Jamie: There'd better not be snakes in here.
Aurelia: (in Portuguese) Watch out for the eels.

Harry: What's that?
Shop clerk: It's a cinnamon stick, sir.
Harry: Actually, I really, uh, can't wait.
Shop clerk: Oh, you won't regret it, sir.
Harry: Wanna bet?
Shop clerk: 'Tis but the work of a moment. There we go. Almost finished.
Harry: [sarcastically] Almost finished? What else can there be? Are you gonna dip it in yogurt? Cover it with chocolate buttons? 

David: It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there- fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge- they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is...all around.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


I am so thankful for my life and my family. I should shout it from the rooftops more often. Happy Thanksgiving!


just finished: the Elfin hat from the Wee Woolly Toppers pdf (isn't the japanese yarn incredible? swoon. it's from Eisa Kunoro's silk garden collection)

now starting: legwarmies (navy + white), from never not knitting