Food, family, crafts, and other stuff we like


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clothes Peg Christmas Decorations

A simple, lovely Christmas craft to light up a table, clip on the tree, or as I've done, attach to houseplant pots.  I got this idea from one of my favorite kid crafts newsletters, Kids Crafts Weekly, based in Australia. Worth a look-see at

We ventured beyond the suggested Christmas tree shapes and made stars and ornaments too.  You could do stockings, candy canes, Santa hats, Gingerbread people...

Just cut your desired shape from cardboard, paint with any old color you fancy, and add some sparkle with glitter, jewels, buttons, yarn, stickers, etc.

We found it difficult to get the buggers to stand upright.  The bigger Christmas trees refused to do so.  My suggestion would be to try using thinner cardboard, like from a cereal box.  Or just do what we did:

Clip on plants!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

One of my favorite stores in Berkeley is Monterey Market. Its on Hopkins Street in the tidy little bundle of shops, butchers, fishmongers, bakers, and pizza at the corner of Monterey Avenue in North Berkeley. Monterey Market is basically a huge produce market, as well as grocery store, featuring some of the best local, seasonal fruits and veggies you can find outside of a farmer's market. It is not stylized, nor trendy, like Whole Foods or Trader Joes. It is simple, never insults your intellect or senses, and only begs of you to be adventurous and open minded when thinking about whats for dinner.
When I was pondering just this the other day, walking through the overflowing aisles, I was immediately drawn to the box boasting organic, fresh yellow "cheddar cauliflower" from Full Belly Farms. The color could be described as nothing short of cheddar, I agree. I love cauliflower, steam it, sautee it, add it to soup, its delicious and so good for you. Since I've discovered these crisp, yellow beauties a few years ago, I have been hooked. The yellow ones, especially if they are super fresh, are so much more tender, mild, and dare I say, almost cheesy?
So into the soup pot it went, and with the help of a little cream fraiche, onions, garlic, butter, chicken stock, and a hand held blender it became the most lovely and creamy cauliflower soup. There is no cheddar in it, and I swear you would never know.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

1 head of yellow cheddar cauliflower
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
3 to 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 C cream fraiche or sour cream, more to taste/garnish
1 bay leaf
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cayenne (optional)
Salt and pepper

1. Chop onion, garlic, and cauliflower into medium sized pieces.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in a soup pot. Add onion, garlic, cauliflower, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and cayenne, and about a tsp. of salt and pepper. Sautee on medium heat until tender and golden.
3. Stir in enough chicken stock to cover vegetables by an inch or so.
4. Simmer for 10 to 20 minutes until cauliflower breaks apart easily.
5. Add cream fraiche or sour cream, stirring until blended.
6. Remove from heat and with a blender, puree soup to desired consistency.
Note: If you don't have a hand held/immersion blender yet, I highly recommend getting one – they revolutionize soup making and are really easy to clean. And not too expensive either, worth every penny.
7. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, and always feel free to adjust seasonings as you like, I am pretty moderate with recommended amounts of spice in recipes, but will always be adding a pinch or two more of spices to taste as I go. You should too.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Padron Peppers!

OMG. This is the only time I'll use text lingo in this blog, I promise. But these little babies truly deserve an OMG. Last time, I swear. Padron peppers, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, perfectly salty, and delicious when prepared correctly. And "correctly" is super simple and takes all of 5 minutes. You will find these little green peppers in season, at least in Northern California, from mid summer to late fall. Just last week I was still able to track some down at the farmer's market, but my man claims that was probably the last of them, so sad. When they are in season I order them every time I see them on a menu and I buy them every time I see them at a market (they are sort of hard to come by, mostly I have found them at farmers markets. Regular grocery stores rarely seem to have them). They make for a great little side dish, but mostly I eat them as an appetizer, perfect when paired with crusty, warm bread, olive oil for dipping, and some cheese! Here's how to prepare...

Get a skillet good and hot, I prefer a cast iron in this case, with some oil. Grapeseed oil is nice because it has great flavor and works well at high temperatures, but any cooking oil will do. Once your oil is hot, throw in your clean peppers and just let 'em go. Turn and toss them a few times until the skins get black and kind of charred in some spots. Right before you take them off the heat, toss them in some good sea salt or kosher salt. Sometimes I will also splash them with a bit of lemon juice, but they don't really need it. Let them cool a minute and enjoy! Beware, about one in every 20 or 30 peppers is really pretty spicy and hot. Other than that, they are generally pretty mild and oh so delicious!!! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Local Urban Honey

We discovered this incredible backyard honey cultivated by an Alameda mother-of-four named Stefani Leto.  Her backyard is basically an urban farm:  huge vegetable gardens, sunflowers, fruit trees, chicken coop, and honey bees.  My girls were able to romp about and see the bees and chickens when we went to pick up the prized amber jar of goodness. The card attached to the jar reads:

"This honey is completely pure.  It's cold filtered, but not heated.  The bees are never treated with chemicals or medicated.  They forage in Alameda, using neighborhood flowers to bring you a completely natural, local honey."

I actually read recently that many bees are fed corn syrup and/or treated with chemicals, therefore their honey is, well, a product of corn syrup and chemicals.

Local-to-you honey made by bees foraging local flowers is actually a homeopathic remedy for allergies, which is one of the reasons I was so excited to find this honey.

 An article was written about Stefani and her backyard here:

I love little jars of sweetness and will soon be posting pictures of the jams we found at a tiny farmer's market in Uppsala, Sweden, as well as more Swedish foodie pictures.  

This honey is the perfect addition to warm pumpkin bread on a cloudy afternoon (like today).  Or on buttered toast for breakfast.  Or...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tempeh Reubens

Who doesn't love a good reuben? The classic reuben, a huge pile of corned beef piled high with kraut, thousand island or russian dressing, and swiss on grilled rye, is delicious if done right. I love them, but it would be rare to find corned beef in my refrigerator, or thousand island dressing for that matter. But I do now and then have a chunk of tempeh hanging out in my fridge, begging for attention. This lighter and just as tasty version is the perfect warm and comfy sandwich, but won't make you feel guilty afterward. Toasty tempeh topped with sauteed shiitake mushrooms and onions, swiss cheese, arugula, and sauerkraut on toasted bread with a shmear of horseradish mayo and dijon. Bliss.
Even if you don't have sauerkraut or swiss, you can easily make lots of delicious sandwiches with a few slices of sauteed tempeh. Other suggestions for yummy tempeh sandwiches are mozzerella with roasted veggies, basil, and tomato sauce, or sauteed greens with feta, olives, and hummus, or a simple mayo, mustard, lettuce, and tomato sammy. Just sautee tempeh as in this recipe, and top to your hearts content. A healthy, easy, and fairly inexpensive treat to pack into your lunch.


Organic Tempeh (I like Lightlife brand)
A good handful of shiitake mushrooms
Swiss Cheese
Minced Horseradish from a jar
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
Bread (Rye is traditionally used, but I used flatbread here)

Slice tempeh into thin, sandwich-friendly squares. Slice onions and mushrooms, use as much or as little as you like.

Heat olive oil in pan on medium-low heat, add tempeh. Allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes on the first side. Flip slices of tempeh and add onions and mushrooms to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sautee the mushrooms and onions while the second side of the tempeh browns.
When both sides of the tempeh slices are lightly browned remove from the pan and lay the swiss on top to melt.

Finish mushrooms and onions if needed, and remove from pan when soft.

Grill the bread lightly in the same pan while mixing mayonnaise and horseradish in a bowl. Add as much or as little horseradish as you like to the mayo, its your sandwich!

On a plate, spread the horseradish mayo on half of the bread and dijon on the other half. Add the tempeh with swiss, mushrooms, onions, arugula, and sauerkraut. Serve with a pickle and chips.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pa's Potatoes

In July we visited my Dad who lives in the Kickapoo Valley of western Wisconsin, near Viroqua.  It's a land of rolling green hills, winding rivers, small organic farms, and smart back-to-the-landers.  Our Dad has homesteaded a plot of 30 acres; slowly building his house, maintaining the rugged driveway, and cultivating his incredibly abundant garden.  He runs exclusively on solar power and woodstove heat.  I oh so admire his way of life, and to visit his rustic land is truly magical. 

One fine morning while there we sauntered down to the garden, taking photographs on the way, to pick some delicacies for breakfast.

Children of the corn!  We dug up some potatoes, munched on snap peas, ogled the broccoli, carrots, kale, onions, garlic, etc.

Back inside we washed and sliced the potatoes, and began sauteing them with olive oil, fresh green onion, garlic, dill, basil, and salt and pepper.  When they were soft we scrambled in a few eggs.   Simple food lifted from the ground moments earlier.

Simple food lifted from the ground moments earlier. So here's to our (Mel and I's) Pa!  A true modern day hero.  

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cornmeal Pizza Crust

I have been wanting to try a cornmeal pizza dough for a while, I love the crunch and flavor of cornmeal in a crust. Have you ever tried the amazing cornmeal crust pizza at the Hayes Street Grill/Vicolo Pizza stand at the Ferry Building Farmers Market? Or the crust at Little Star, deep dish crunchy cornmeal, with some of the best chunky tomato sauce. Sigh...
We have been making our own pizzas for a few years now, and I had always used the recipe in Alice Water's cookbook, Fanny at Chez Panisse as my guide, tweaking it along the way until I found I had the perfect classic pizza dough. I found Martha Stewart's cornmeal crust recipe in a magazine recently, and vowed to try it out. I found it was somewhat close to the version I normally use with the addition of cornmeal.
It turned out amazingly, and I now can almost hardly imagine a crust without the golden deliciousness of cornmeal.
The original recipe is can be found by searching for Cornmeal Pizza Crust at
I am going to post my version of it below, as I follow the steps a little differently. Martha's recipe states that it makes four seven-inch pizzas, but I only got two out of it. I would recommend doubling or tripling the recipe if you want leftovers or to freeze some dough balls for another day.

Makes two medium sized pizzas

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon milk
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus a bit more
1/4 cup cornmeal, plus a bit more
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl

  1. Mix flour and yeast together in a large bowl with a whisk. 
  2. Combine sugar, warm water, milk, and olive oil in separate bowl.
  3. Add cornmeal and salt to the flour and yeast mixture. Add the liquid mixture slowly to the dry ingredients, stirring all the while.
  4. Slowly blend ingredients with a wooden spoon or hands until the dough starts to stick together. 
  5. Spread some flour on a table and turn the dough out onto it. Knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth, adding more flour to hands and dough if it becomes sticky. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Divide dough in two balls. Rub oil into the sides of a bowl and the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towels, and let rise for an hour or until dough is doubled in size. (Or overnight in the refrigerator.)
  7. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone make sure it is in the oven now. If not you can make the pizzas right onto a baking sheet.
  8. Stretch or roll the dough into rounds of desired thickness. 
  9. We like to use parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal to create the pizzas on, as they make it easy to slide straight onto the pizza stone and out again when its done. If you dont have parchment paper just use plenty of cornmeal if you will be transferring to a stone. If you are baking in a pan, just a sprinkle is fine to keep it from sticking.
  10. Cover pizza with toppings of your choice.
  11. Slide pizza onto pizza stone or place pan in oven. Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes until toppings are browned and bubbling, and crust is golden. 
  12. Cool for a few minutes before cutting.