i feel incredibly loved

My husband may be the most thoughtful man on earth. I hope everyone finds a “Michael” if they’re looking for one. He is intelligent, quirky (though mostly behind closed doors), an amazing designer and photographer, and incredibly thoughtful. We are coming … Continue reading

Hand Made Tortillas

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We recently took a family trip to Belize. Family trips don’t happen often, especially when the children are late twenties early thirties. It was a fantastic trip and we were able to do some amazing things. We went deep sea fishing, snorkeled, kayaked, and lounged. Lounging is a necessity in beachy places. We stayed off the coast of Belize on a tiny island, Ambergris Caye, in a house a short boat ride north of San Pedro. I read three books, and made it into the ocean without panicking too much. I don’t like being near fish, but I really enjoy watching them. So I have this huge dilemma of wanting to snorkel but being slightly terrified at the same time. Yep you see those fish and nurse sharks. You’d be terrified too….

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On land, we made dinner with the fish we caught, and were lucky enough to have a house keeper who offered to make us tortillas a few times. They were amazing and we gobbled them up. After we showered her with compliments, she said she could teach us how to make them. While half the family was fishing, the other half stayed for a tortilla lesson. Marena said that she learned to make these from her family (not in Belize) and that they make more corn tortillas than flour in her home town. She preferred to make the flour version because they are a bit easier and her little son loves them.

I documented the process step by step so I had a better chance of recreating them again, and I thought it would be a great post to share with you. Here we go!

Measure 4 C flour into a large bowl. Add 1/2 spoon of baking powder (using a normal spoon here), 1/2 spoon of salt (optional), and a handfull of shortening (about 1/2 C).

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Using your hand mix the dough together much like you would a pie dough (but it’s much softer due to the amount of  shortening).

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Knead the dough for five minutes until it is thoroughly mixed and soft (don’t add flour during this step)

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Once you’re done kneading, give the dough a little pat and let it rest for another five minutes.

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After the dough has rested (it’s already had a hard life in only 10 minutes) divide it evenly into about 16-17 pieces.

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They should fit nicely into your palm like this.

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Once you’ve divided them all, let the dough rest again for another five minutes. At this time, heat a large flat griddle pan on your stove on high heat.

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Now it’s time to flatten them into tortillas. They should be very soft and elastic. Grease a flat surface with canola oil. It can be your countertop or a cutting board. Flatten a dough ball and begin pressing it into a circle using your fingertips. Move your hand in concentric circles to try and keep it round (harder than your think).

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Marena’s perfect tortilla

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See, we tried to make ours as round as Marena’s but failed.

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Then place top side down onto the hot griddle. Marena has a beautifully seasoned cast iron griddle but I’m guessing your pancake griddle will work just as well. It’s important that you place it quickly on the grill so it doesn’t deform on the way over. Work closely to your stove. Once it starts to bubble, flip it over by sliding it towards the edge of the pan so you can grab it and flip it quick. Why? because it is hot and burns your fingers. Cook on this side until it starts to brown just slightly on the bubble areas and flip one more time. This whole process takes about a minute or so. If it takes longer, increase your heat.

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Repeat and keep them in a tortilla warmer until ready to eat.

While you’re waiting for dinner have your captain-fishing guide-snorkeling expert make you fresh ceviche on the dock with a snapper your family just caught. Yum! Then indulge in your tortillas and cooked fish.

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I thought the tortillas would be a lot more difficult, and thankfully they are not. It means when I make them on my own I’ll hopefully succeed. There are countless uses for a tortilla. We fried fish for fish tacos, and ate them with eggs for breakfast. You could also do shrimp tacos if your backyard is not an ocean. However you eat them, I suggest eating them in moderation since they are full of fat… and you’re working on your bikini body. Or you could always just make a bunch for your friends so they get fatter and you look better in comparison!

Thanks family for a fantastic vacation! Michael and I are ready to plan our next adventure….

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If you want to see more gorgeous photos from our trip, feel free to peruse Michael’s Flickr site. I promise you’ll want to go there for your next vacation!

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

I thought it would be fun to dye some eggs naturally this year. It’s amazing what you can do with items in your refrigerator or pantry. I decided to try Turmeric, brewed Coffee, and Red Wine Vinegar. They all turned out lovely and since eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the morning is a regular occurrence of mine… eating a pretty hard boiled egg is even better. 

How to hard boil an egg:
Fill a medium pot with eggs and cover with about one inch of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let stand for ten minutes and put in an ice bath. Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. 

I have no specific recipe for the dyes I used. I added 1 tsp of vinegar to the coffee and used about 3 C water and 2 T of turmeric and 1 tsp vinegar for the yellow eggs. I like how bright they turned out with speckles, but I also really like the grayish-purple the red wine vinegar created. Check out Bon Appetit for some guidelines on other natural dyes.  

If you’re not into chicken eggs, try Martha’s Chocolate Truffle Eggs even though they are so gorgeous you won’t want to eat them. Oh, who am I kidding, any kind of chocolate no matter how pretty must be eaten immediately! Happy Easter and Happy Egg Dyeing. 

Beet Chips

When I was little, the only beets I knew were in a jar the fridge submerged in dark purpleish-red juice and they were gross. I don’t like pickled beets (Michael does). I don’t like many things pickled but beets are at the top of my list. It wasn’t until I moved to SF that I experienced beets in a positive way. A lot of restaurants jumped on the “beet and goat cheese” bandwagon, and I finally realized I loved roasted beets. Naturally sweet and earthy, how can you resist?

It’s hard to cook beets any other way, or make them different because beets always taste the same. I don’t  eat beets with goat cheese much anymore. The best beet salad I had recently was literally a pile of thinly sliced red and gold beets with a handful of greens, bleu cheese and candied walnuts from Chez Spencer. Yum. I often get tired of roasted beets. When this happens, I go in search of a new recipe. I’ve heard of beet cake, and beetloaf, but the most appealing were beet chips!

We had a little package of beet chips from Whole Foods in my office recently. One of my bosses set them out. My office likes to munch. If they had been normal potato chips, they may have made it past lunch, but the beet chips last a few days. They were thick cut and fried. Shame on you Whole Foods! You don’t have to fry all things to make them taste good. Instead, I sliced up a few beets with the mandoline, sprinkled them lightly with kosher salt and baked them until they were light and crispy. They are delicious and pretty. They also don’t taste as vegetal as the WF fried version. They are a great snack, and most likely an easy way to get kids to eat something different. Who would not try a purple chip?

The only unfortunate thing about beet chips is they shrink so much when you bake them. Almost by half. So, in order to feed a lot of people for an interesting party snack, you would have to peel and slice a lot of beets. Not bad if you have a little time and like pink hands.

Beet Chips
10 medium size beets peeled and sliced thin on a mandoline (or as thin as your knife can slice them)
2 T olive oil (optional)
kosher salt

Slice the beets and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment or a silicone mat. Place the beets in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with salt. (also you can toss the chips in olive oil before placing on the sheet) Bake at 350˚ for 15-20 minutes. Most of the moisture should be gone. Let air dry until completely crisp. Enjoy!

My Man Can Cook

Michael and I enjoy good food. We spend a lot of money food, mostly in two categories: Groceries and Restaurants. We are completely spoiled to live in such a fine city as San Francisco. There are so many restaurants you could eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the year and not repeat. That is a lot of restaurants. Some of those are likely terrible and may make you sick, and some are fantastic and leave you happy and feeling gluttonous. We have an ongoing list of restaurants we want to eat at. It’s a good idea because there are so many you loose track. We have our favorites, and we have our desires. Restaurants we desire are the ones you need a really excuse to go to because you end up spending way too much money on two people. They also require a bit of planning since you need to make reservations too far in advance. Our favorites are a bit more simple and we tend to go more often.

While dining out is fun and someone else has to clean the kitchen, we do cook quite a bit. I have mentioned before in my Lovely Lady Baker Cooks posts or Meatless Monday posts, that I like to plan meals. Michael on the other hand can throw something together in less than 30 minutes (eat your heart out Rachel Ray) and it is simple and tasty. I’m envious. Just last night he made onion and gipsy peppers with polenta rounds, shrimp, and marinara sauce for a quick and tasty meal.

He also likes to grill. This knack is likely derived from growing up in the midwest. Both of us grew up grilling on warm summer evenings and we grilled quite a bit in college too. One warm summer evening in college, our propane tank caught on fire while we were grilling! The house didn’t blow up, and the kebabs came out fine…. Now, we have a seriously-large Weber (thanks Dad!) and we grill on our little deck even though most of the time it feels like very very late fall weather.

Michael’s grilling is getting more and more serious. Manned with grilling recipes galore, he has smoked ribs and other meaty items, and learned to make BBQ sauce. One of my favorites was the smoked chicken basted with BBQ sauce. His barbecuing is testing patience since smoking meat takes a lot longer than your standard grilling, but it’s worth it. Definitely worth it. Michael, Master of the Grill, please don’t stop grilling! Just looking at these photos makes my mouth water.

Now all we need is real summer weather and big slices of watermelon. Oh, and you might want to check out this grilling cookbook – it’s proved itself so far.
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Rosemary Focaccia



I recently planted an herb garden in window boxes on our deck. We get fantastic sunlight in our neighborhood and there were some leftover hangers begging me to use them. (If you didn’t know, San Francisco has crazy microclimates and it can be foggy in one neighborhood and two blocks away really sunny.) Finding boxes that were the correct size was quite a feat. I think it took me two trips and M one trip to find one that fit the width and length of the ancient hangers. I planted Rosemary, Italian Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, Thyme, Mint, and Oregano all from little starter plants. So far I have only managed to kill the Oregano and I’m crossing my fingers on the rest which are no where close to plant death. I also planted basil from seeds and they are beginning to sprout!


While M’s parents were here they also helped us clear out the backyard (shared by 4 units and not actually used by anyone) and build a raised bed. This is going to be an interesting learn-to-garden experience. At most, I’ve grown peppers and tomatoes in pots, and helped my grandpa harvest tomatoes when I was little… maybe this previous experience will inspire my green thumb…. 



Our yard was really really overgrown. One side has pavement and tons of leaves, the other has a mixture of weeds, overgrown shrubs, and hidden flowers. The weeds and grasses were reaching almost 18 inches in height. We would have received a “notice” if living anywhere where the backyard was visible to the public… thankfully we have an 8′ fence surrounding us! Oh, and I should mention we just rent so maintaining the yard is technically not our responsibility! So, while my in-laws were digging around in our backyard, they found a healthy, mature rosemary plant (among other treasures I’ll share later). This is where the rosemary for the focaccia came from.


I know I posted about Rosemary Focaccia once before, but that was long ago when I was new to the blogging world. I actually used the same basic recipe as before, but changed the ingredients slightly. I’ll add the new recipe to this post. I can’t wait for more fresh herbs this spring/summer. Do you have any great recipes for herb bread? Or herbs of any kind, I’m hoping to have enough to share. 



Rosemary Focaccia
adapted from a recipe by John Ash, From the Earth to the Table


1/4 C olive oil – good quality (plus more for the top)
1 1/2 C warm water (110˚-115˚F)
1 T + 1/2 tsp yeast
3 3/4 C a.p. flour
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T chopped Rosemary


Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl. Let it stand for about 5 minutes until it gets bubbly. Mix in the oil, flour, and salt. Knead until smooth (about 10 minutes). Coat another clean bowl with olive oil and coat your dough too. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours (or doubled in size). Punch down the dough and prepare a 12×17 pan with olive oil. 


Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Stretch the dough across the entire pan making sure to keep it even. Dent the dough with your fingertips and cover with a tea towel. Let it rise again for about 15 minutes. Dent the dough again and add about 1/2 C more olive to the top making sure to spread it evenly. Use a pastry brush to spread the oil if you need. Pooling in the dents is welcome, your rosemary will have a nice hot tub. 


Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle the rosemary on top. Bake for 10-12 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Enjoy warm! 


Additional topping ideas: Sliced black olives (one of my favorites in Italy), Rosemary + Garlic, Kosher/Sea Salt, Pizza Sauce, Golden Raisin, Green Onion   

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers



I’m going to tell you first that I don’t really like cheese flavored snacks. I was never a fan of goldfish crackers until they made the parmesan cheese flavor – and even those I would never buy. I don’t like cheez-its either. Yellow cheese and I are not great friends. I have eaten more recently (meaning the past 5 years) in an attempt to be less picky and compromise on sandwich cheese with M. After all, we don’t need to store multiple cheeses in the fridge or they get moldy too quickly. I like most other cheese, even the smelly ones. I’ve also grown to like bleu cheese, thanks to our good friends at Williamson Winery. It will be hard to forget Bleu cheese on top of Irish Cheddar with a little drop of honey. mmmm. 


Now that you know my history of cheddar cheese dislike, you may be asking why I chose to make cheese crackers for the Easy Bake cOven recipe of the month…. I could have made home made oreos or pop tarts. Home made graham crackers should have come before goldfish crackers as well! Fortunately for me, there was a block of neglected cheddar cheese in the fridge calling my name. It started to look a little frosty on two edges so I cut those pieces off and put the rest to good use. (yeah yeah, but all cheese is mold right?)


M and I eat a lot of crackers. They are a good snack to pack with lunch, and are good to munch on when we get home from work if we won’t be cooking for a while. The whole wheat version of a goldfish cracker was pretty tasty. They puffed like goldfish (though I wasn’t as interested in creating an exact replica as Smitten Kitchen). They had a nice crispy exterior, and as Nicole mentioned when she picked the recipes, you can control every ingredient that goes in. 




The recipes we used all came from Smitten Kitchen. The version I made using 100% whole wheat flour. I don’t know that I need to try these with all purpose flour, but I imagine the AP flour version tastes slightly more like the original. Give them a try yourself! They are quick and cheap to make, and your children may love them! 



Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers


1 1/2 C cheddar cheese coarsely grated
4 T butter
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse a couple of times to incorporate. Mix for two minutes or until the dough forms a ball and sounds like it might break your machine. Immediately roll into 1/8 inch thickness (if I did these again I’d make them slightly thinner). Cut with any shape cookie cutter as long as it is easy to eat. (I used a 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet as close as 1/4″ and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Cool on the pan for 30-45 minutes. Remove and store air tight. 

A Delightful Trio

I love avocado. I tend to over-use the word love (and I sometimes “hate” things I only dislike) but I do love avocados. Their skin is beautiful deep purple and slightly lumpy. They fit perfectly in your palm while you slice them. Their flesh is silky and vibrant green and I will eat them plain, entirely plain. 


Since moving to land of Avocado (aka California) I have adapted very well to eating almost everything with it. Likely anything on the menu that is “California style” has avocado on it. We even add avocado to BLT’s, which you must try if you haven’t. Within a couple of months of living here, I had developed my signature Guacamole. It’s the perfect amount for a dinner for two, and can be scaled easily to feed more people. 


This year, the Superbowl happened to fall on one of the warmest days of winter! It was close to 80˚ outside when our normal highs are around 55˚. We hosted a small party and probably spent more time in the kitchen and on the deck than watching the game. Ok, so maybe that was me and some of the other girls, but it was so hard to escape the sun! I made the guacamole as usual, and created a black bean and corn salsa and a pico de gallo for fun. All three were delicious and almost completely gone by the end of the night. Fresh salsas are really quick and simple and you can spend less than you would on sauce in a jar. And they’re FRESH! If you can slice a tomato, you can make fresh salsa. (If you can’t slice a tomato, maybe you should call me for a lesson). 



Guacamole
serves 2
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 T minced onion
juice of 1/2 of a lime
2 T diced tomato (optional)


Mash the avocado with a fork in a small bowl. Mince the garlic, or use a garlic press and add it to the avocado. Mince the onion and mix it in. Add the lime juice and salt and stir until combined. Adjust salt to taste. Add tomatoes to the top and serve. (Double everything for additional servings). 

Black Bean and Corn Salsa 
serves 4-6
1 15oz can low sodium black beans drained and rinsed
3/4 to 1 c fresh or frozen corn (if frozen – bring to room temperature and drain)
1 jalapeno seeded and minced (add seeds if you like spicier salsa)
1/4 c red onion diced
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 1 lime


Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and let sit for at least one hour before serving. 


Pico de Gallo
serves 4
4 roma tomatoes seeded and diced
1/4 C diced red onion
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 jalapeno seeded and minced
2 T chopped fresh cilantro


Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and let sit for at least on hour before serving.