My Story

I've always loved being in the kitchen. Isn't that the gathering place at parties and get togethers! That's where the action is, where delicious smells come from, and where I go to create some really great stuff! My Grandma was my inspiration. She lived her life in Baltimore and she was ALWAYS in the kitchen (or down at the VFW for a crab feast and beer) but Alice created so many wonderful meals for our family. I remember there was always soup before the meal, usually a steaming bowl of crab soup with a rich tomato broth and lots of vegetables. Her crab cakes were incredible, a recipe I use today, and undeniably the best. I would challenge ANY other crab cake recipe to match my Grandma Alice's. The first meal I made for my mom was macaroni and cheese from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook back when I was about 7 years old. I was very proud of it, and it was really good..a creamy white sauce combined with good old cheddar and shells sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs..yum. So off I went through life, cooking and baking, and came to realize that baking was the shizzy. I loved finding a great recipe and making it even better. Funny my kids didn't like sweets much, so I showered friends and neighbors with treats. Later down the road, when some real decisions needed to be made, I decided to attend the baking and pastry arts program at The California Culinary Academy. I was 47 years old and had no idea what I was in for (another blog). So I mastered the art of baking thanks to a dedicated and talented team of instructors. I did a gig in the basement of well known pastry kitchens and had a wonderful time working for a small caterer cooking with a great bunch of gals. But here I am now, still cooking, still baking and loving it, in my own kitchen where I can share my love of this sport with the world. I take all my own photos (another passion) and I hope you will have patience and stay with me in this newest adventure. So thank you Grandma Alice for all those delicious memories, stories and inspiration. Stay tuned..

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Better Than Jailhouse", he said...

Throughout the years, I've made a bleep load of chili.  I can't even begin to count the recipes I've poured
 over to find a fantastic chili know the kind of chili that you'll find at those 4th of July chili cook-offs where it's 110 degrees and the last thing you want to be eating at 3 o'clock in the afternoon is HOT chili.    Well, I've been to several of those chili cook-offs in my career, and I always walked away, spoon in hand, asking myself what was in that chili that made it so good?

 I think I actually made my first real pot of chili when I was 17 or 18 or some crazy teenage girl age...I wanted to impress my boyfriend..a born and bred Texan.  I don't remember much about it, only that I thought it was pretty good, and from what I do remember, I think he did too.  But later, when I got serious about the ingredients that went in to my cooking, along with why those ingredients were there, and how they affected the outcome of the dish, that's when I got serious about chili making.  Through magazines, cookbooks and friends handouts, I found a few recipes that were pretty darn good.  I tweaked them here and there to make them better. I finally found a recipe that I've used over and over again which is really pretty good for Turkey Chili, (a bit healthier perhaps?) and it's filled the bill as one of those rib sticking good meals~ good to come home to when you've had a long day and there's a chill in the air and you need something good and substantial, but good for you too.

 I made a batch of chili up last week and with my hard workin' husband coming home late at night, it filled the void he needed after his long day.  He continued to dig in to the bowl day after day for 3 days or so.  This chili's just one of those things that's gets better after it sits for a day or so.  There's one little bit left in the fridge now... and did I mention that I changed up the recipe?  It was a perfect fall afternoon to make up a batch of this chili, but realizing that I had one pound each of ground chuck and ground turkey, I improvised.  Either way, it's really good.

So here's a new and really delicious chili recipe that is guaranteed to win an award at the next chili cook-off...that is if my husband is a judge.  Serve this chili up with a good dollup of sour cream and a sprinkling of sharp cheddar. Add a big chunk of corn bread on the side and you've got yourself something you'll wish you had more of!

Turkey Chili, My Way
Pour a glug of olive oil in a heavy dutch oven.  Heat it up, add 1 chopped onion. Let it caramelize over med low heat for 10-15 min.  Give it a bit of salt. Add a clove or 2 chopped garlic.  Cook another 3 min.  Add 2 pounds ground turkey or ground chuck or 1 of each turkey and chuck (I use organic grass fed).  Stir now and then over med heat for 15-20 min until caramelized and no liquid remains.  Add 1/4 cup good chili powder and about 1/8 cup cumin, (I love cumin so I always add what you love!). Cook for another 5 min.  Add crushed red pepper (how hot do you like it?) oregano and salt.  * At this point, add any extra peppers to give that extra kick. When it looks nicely browned and it smells terrific, add a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, a 16 oz can of tomato sauce, 8 oz of a your favorite beer (that leaves you 4 to drink while you stir) and about a cup or so of good beef broth (I found the best is Trader Joe's brand, in the box).  Let this come to a boil, then simmer for a good hour give or take.  Chop up the tomatoes into the chili as it cooks.  Add 2 cans of your choice beans, rinsed and drained (I use cannelini and pinto).  Simmer another 10 minutes...then EAT IT!  IT IS SO GOOD.  REALLY! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bakery of Dreams

Aria fig walnut scone

For many years, I've had a vision of owning a little bakery in a small town.  I never imagined anything fussy or too big, but a place where the locals would drop in and have a chat, a coffee and a tasty scone, muffin or toasted sourdough with jam and butter. My little bakery's interior would be rustic, a couple old wood tables and chairs, and high something old, familiar and friendly.  Along with my photographs, I'd have photos of family spread out around me, images that remind me of the road we've all traveled together.  Right out front there'd be an old, weathered bench...the kind that has been worn smooth by time.  I'd serve up a hearty and delicious soup of the day, (I'm well known for my belly warming soups) and there it would sit, a big simmering pot of veggies, stock and herbs, the aroma of all good things spreading the news of lunch time soon to come. There would be a daily bread (one of my favorite sections in cooking school) along with the standard sourdoughs and levain's.  I've got all these images here in my memory bank, in fact, I've drawn a picture of my bakery, and most importantly, there I am standing there in front of my little place...smiling.

In my travels, I have found that bakery in Murphys, Ca.  Aria by far is my favorite artisan style bakery (French bakery~ Miette in San Francisco is tops).  This bakery/cafe is amazingly similar to "My Bakery"... a sketch I drew five years ago.  Undoubtedly one of the reasons I was drawn to this gem and why I love this bakery dearly.  Besides that, they have really delicious baked goods, breads and desserts (they also serve up tasty sandwiches, salads and soups).

Jim and I always stop here before we head up the hill to our cabin.  For a girl, who at 5 years old, stood and cried when asked what kind of ice cream she wanted at 31 flavors, ( Jim often has to come check on me to see what's taking me so long to get our goods),  I tend to look over each offering, appreciating what goes in to each lovely treat. Crafted with care, knowledge and quality ingredients, the gals at Aria have created a well~loved bakery that has locals and visitors coming back again and again. 

On our last stop at Aria, I picked up a bear claw for Jim (I did sneak a bite), and I chose a fig and walnut scone.  Both finger lickin' good.  The scone was so good, full of figs and walnuts, texture and flavor,  it inspired me to make up a batch at home.  Once again, using ingredients I had at hand, I settled on pear and walnut, and put together a recipe that is reminiscent of a traditional English cream scone.  It's a winner (Jim told me so)...tender, soft and delicately fragranced by the pear, which also provides sweetness.  The walnuts add crunch, texture and flavor to this perfect afternoon accompaniment to a lovely cup a' tea.  Cheers!

Pear Walnut Cream Scones

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons european style butter, cut in 1 inch chunks, very cold
  • 2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • handful toasted walnuts, chopped 
  • 1 pear, large dice
  • egg wash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment.  I use my Kitchenaide to mix the first 4 ingredients, but go ahead and use what ever you have...pastry cutter, knives or food processor.  Add the butter and mix slowly until the butter's the size of peas.  Mix the eggs, cream and vanilla together and add to the flour/butter mix.  Slowly mix until just blended.  At this point, add the walnuts, mix in, then gently fold in the pears.  The mixture will be slightly wet and lumpy.  Pour it all out onto a well floured board, counter or marble.  Keep moving the dough so it doesn't stick.  Pat or roll it into a 1 inch thick oval.  Cut 3 inch rounds with a cutter or knife and place on baking sheet.  Brush with egg wash (egg and a bit of water) and sprinkle generously with sugar.  Bake for 15~20 min. until the tops are browned and scones have risen.  Sprinkle them with more sugar and let them sit for 10 minutes or so before devouring. Makes about 6 scones.  These freeze well~ prepare up until egg wash and sugar, pop them in the freezer, then when you're ready to bake, pull them out, give them an egg wash and sugar, and bake 20~25 min or until brown.


Aria Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Dog, A Burger, and The Bay

Late last winter, when the hills were green and the air was wonderfully cold and crisp, Jim and I had a really good burger know, one of those motivating cravings that get you out the door and put you right at the source of the craving.

We both knew of a place in the City where we could satisfy that need, and even better, do it on the cheap.  I'm a sucker for any excuse to make the 35 minute drive in to San Francisco...I think Jim is right there with me though. I had been looking for an excuse anyway, ( burger and a trip to the City) so we gathered the dog, and off we went.  First stop was Red's Java House. Red's has been sitting at the end of Bryant St on the Embarcadero for years.  It's where folks go for one of those simply delicious burgers, made that way with good beef and a traditional San Francisco sourdough roll (the famous sourdough comes from the yeast in the SF air...seriously!).  No crazy fixins', but you can add your own rule with this burger is just a dab of mustard, a bit of onion and that's it.  Another rule of thumb with us is, if you're going to eat a Red's burger, order it with a beer.  So we did. Fries too.

But with Brody waiting in the back of the car...hoping for a stop at the beach for a romp in the surf, we downed our beer, licked our fingers clean and headed over to Crissey Field where we strolled the beach, laughed at our deliriously happy, salty-wet pup running himself ragged, and ended our incredibly wonderful day with a salute directed straight up to the Presidio.

That was one happy day.

Red's Java House  Pier 30 San Francisco