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..

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thanks Ruth

Sunlight. Normally, the sun streaming in my window early every morning is a welcome sign of a new day. But this early Saturday morning light, was a brash reminder that sleep was no longer a possibility, and that the rhythmic pounding right between my eyes was not going away any time soon. Attempting to filter out as much light as my covers would allow, I made every attempt to coax myself back to sleep. I was calm. I was breathing slowly and deeply. I was even imagining myself peacefully floating in a tranquil blue ocean.  Despite these desperate measures for sleep, I gave in, pulled back the covers, opened my eyes...thud, thud, thud.

Just about this time, my other senses kicked in, smelling coffee from down below in the kitchen. I knew it would be here soon; a steaming cup, full of aroma, bitter and rich, brought to me by my husband on these lazy weekend mornings.

I inched my way up my misshapen pillow, adding one more, then two to support my throbbing head. Sitting there, propped up and unmoving, I wondered how I got to this state from the two, no must've been three glasses of white wine I had enjoyed with friends the previous night. How could such a small amount of wine do this to me?  I searched through one memory after another, to the countless days and nights in my life that I've shared drinks with friends and family for celebrations, get togethers, vacations and adventures, and to those times in my life where a glass of wine was my only company. Some of those morning after's came with the evil headache but mostly I came out unscathed.  I finally snapped out of it as the coffee arrived, still unsure of how this headache came about. I was absolutely sure, that two (maybe 3-could've been 4) glasses of white wine, couldn't possibly create this monster holding me hostage.

Coffee propped in the fluff of my comforter, and Ipad ready to roam, I sat happily (as happy as I could feel) in my bed for a good hour.

Still under the constant pounding of my head, but now feeling a growing sensation of hunger. With my husband out to play on his dirt bike for the day, I contemplated my options. Get up and make some food, or...well, there was no other option as far as I was concerned. This was clearly the only choice I had unless I was to stay in the same position all day. That's never happened and I wasn't planning to start today.

I was now starving. I had just read a tweet from Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet Magazine and food writer. She was describing a beautifully written account of what I assume was breakfast. It sounded delicious and only heightened my sense of hunger.  Her short quips about food and what and how she eats is lovely. Here is what she tweeted this early Saturday morning:

"Mist blowing gently away. Deep purple mountains. Robin's egg sky. Saffron risotto, sauteed, Soft fried egg. Sliced tomato. Sunshine!"

I am often inspired by food writers, and devour any book about the author and his or her experience with food. On this quiet (except for the pounding), lazy Saturday morning, Ruth Reichl's lovely description of her breakfast was the inspiration for mine.

So out of bed I climbed. Down the stairs past the forlorn look I got from the dog (I think he actually shook his head at me), and into the kitchen. This is what I had at hand:

One organic brown egg
One large, perfectly ripe, just picked Paul Robeson heirloom tomato
One Acme sourdough roll
1/2 of an avocado (I adore them. I ate the other half for lunch the day before)

Out came the frying pan, olive oil, salt and pepper and these 5 ingredients. First the tomatoes, salted and grilled golden. The egg is next, salted and peppered, nestled in with the tomatoes, cooked sunny side up (adapted for a broken yolk). Toast one half of the roll, spread with avocado and a sprinkle of salt.

In ten minutes I was back in bed, plate propped in front of me. Coffee steaming. Vivaldi playing softly. Carmelized tomato-smooth, rich, crisp, fried egg-toasted sourdough crunch, and buttery sweet avocado.

For those 15 minutes that I savored this nurturing return to normalcy, I had no recollection of a headache. As it was, I did eventually rise and shine, happy and full of good food that came from my kitchen and garden, leaving me ready to face whatever the day would bring.

Perhaps I'll switch to red wine tonight. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I was inspired to take a drive to Sonoma, about 45 minutes NW from where I live. When I'm off work during the summer, I like to get and go, often not really knowing where I might end up. Adventures I like to call them, patterned after day trips my mom and I used to take when I was a little girl growing up in Pasadena. We didn't drive our car (Mom never drove), but instead we'd take the bus. Hand in hand, we'd hop on, and off we'd go to some new and exciting place. These adventures were very well loved by me, and nowadays, if I've been on my home turf for more than a week or so, I feel the itch for another adventure.

A few weeks back, I had spent a wonderful few days with a couple of equally wonderful girlfriends in Sonoma. We had stopped at this great little store on Hwy 121, called The Fat Pilgrim.  This place is as  sweet as could be and we had no trouble finding lots of things to like,, including their massive vegetable garden sitting out back. This morning, I decided to head back to the store (again..3rd visit) to take another peek at all they have to offer.

The drive to Sonoma is pretty ho-hum...BUT, once you get past Hwy 29 and veer onto The Carneros Hwy, man, it's something else. It feels and looks like you're driving along the autostrade in Italy (or France, depending on your mood).  As you come down into this valley full of neatly lined vines dotting the lush hillside, villa's and wineries that beckon you to taste, take your time and experience this lovely area. It's breathtaking. Continuing on to Hwy 121, you'll come upon a huge favorite of mine for breakfast, Fremont Diner. DON'T PASS THIS PLACE UP! Trust me, you'll love it.  Unfortunately I missed it this time, as they were closed for the holiday.

A bit further on down the road, you'll find Fat Pilgrim. I know, weird name, but I have no doubt they named it well. I love wandering in their back yard. Yes, it is a backyard. Back there, just behind Fat Pilgrim and it's sister-Modern Farmhouse, you'll find a chicken coop, and sitting under a majestic old oak, you'll find some amazing pieces of handmade tables and lovely aged iron pieces.  But the main attraction out back is a huge organic garden that you can wander about in. Lovely stuff. But here I was, admiring all these beautiful veg, and out comes the owner, a real nice guy. We chatted a bit about what he's growing (everything) and how well it was doing (amazingly). I admired the beets, onions, squash, and was in complete awe at the tomatoes. He said he hadn't done anything but till the soil some.  I smiled to myself at what a cool place this was, and he reaches down and pulls up some beets. "Here he said, I bet you like beets".  The guy grabbed a few more bunches, and recited the names as he picked, "chioggia, cylindra and golden", and off he went. What a cool guy. I also found out that Fat Pilgrim grows for local restaurants. And another cool thing, did I mention that it's all organic?

Had a glorious day. Ate a fantastic salad at The Carneros Inn (a night here would make all your dreams come true...yes, trust me again), and came home with another bag from Fat Pilgrim along with a beautiful bunch of beets to cook up. I know not everyone is into beets, but really, what's not to love?


Health Benefits of Beets! (excerpt reprinted from WebMd magazine)
Before passing on that bowl of borscht, consider the health benefits of its main ingredient: beets. This often unloved veggie contains fiber and potassium and is an excellent source of folate -- just a half cup of cooked beets provides 17% of the recommended daily folate intake -- and, like all vegetables, has no saturated fats or cholesterol. Researchers believe the red pigment (called betacyanin) in beets could protect against development of cancerous cells and might play a role in reducing the inflammation associated with heart disease.


Heat the oven to 400*. Peel em' and cut into quarters

drizzle with really good olive oil

Add a good sprinkle of coarse sea salt and roast until fork tender, about 35-45 minutes  

My friend, the owner/organic gardner told me to splash a bit of champagne vinegar on them as soon as they come out of the oven, and let them sit for a while...smells divine

Add feta cheese and roasted walnuts...Simple, eh!

If you're anywhere near Hwy 12/121 in Sonoma, check these places out!!