Thursday, May 31, 2007

Detox Time

So I'm writing this with shaky hands as I slowly sip upon my second cup of coffee for the day. My second, very large, and very strong cup of coffee. My last cup of coffee until who knows when.

You see, I used to take breaks. I used to give up caffeine for a period of time every year. I used to do a cleanse or a fast every now and again. But the last couple of years I've been indulging, full speed ahead, every single day, without a break. It's time to slow down a bit. Or at least, tomorrow it will be. Famous last words, eh?

Truth be told, I feel like complete and utter crap much of the time. Sure, I still manage to pack a lot of fun into my life. But sometimes I feel like an 80 year old woman, all achey and sluggish and constantly exhausted. Probably 90% of the reason I'm always running around like a madwoman is so that I can attempt to avoid feeling just how bad I really feel. Sad, but true.

So now, at least for a little while, I'm going to cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar and carbs. And I know, I'll probably feel worse before I feel better. But I have to try. And it wouldn't hurt to lose the spare tire either.

But oh lord, do I dread those first days without coffee. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am completely unfit for human company until I've had my coffee. Every day I drag myself out of bed kicking and screaming, with puffy eyes and a pained look upon my face that does not fade until I've had those first few sips. I'm crying already at the thought of it...but I'm trying to remain motivated by the notion that EVENTUALLY, I'm going to feel good again.

And really, how can I expect to accomplish anything in my life if I can't break an addiction? I just have to show myself that I can. I used to be able to, and I can again. And I will, just as soon as I drain every last bit of strong-as-rocket-fuel-caffeinated-goodness from this cup.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Snapshots from my Kitchen

What good is a little time away from work if most of it isn't spent in the kitchen? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Here are a couple of pics from my weekend, with a soundtrack that featured the Genuine Diamelles, Noe Venable, the Boot Cuts, Jim Bianco...all independent artists, some from days gone by, once or always from California. And all of it good! No doubt, it made the food taste better.

First, I tried out a recipe for "Ultimate Picnic Chicken" from Cook's Illustrated. Delicious and worth the nearly two-day prep time! But, I'm not so into slathering spice rub all over the meat and under the skin. Next time, I'll need a picnic chicken loving grunt to assist me. Call me a primadonna, call me what you will. I wouldn't want to get my bass pickin' fingers all uncalloused, right?

And next, there was the Indian food spread, with recipes from the current issue of Food & Wine. This here my friends, is a sight that just makes me happy to behold.

Some of that, became this:

And though it was a delicious weekend in my kitchen, by Memorial Day, I was ready for the picnic on the beach, and most of all, ready to just collapse my tired body into the sand...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mangos and Strawberries with Toasted Coconut and Molasses spiked Whipped Cream

There I go with the random capitalization again. I dunno; I think this title just looks better this way.

But screw the title; you should've been here for dessert! Shit, you should've been here for dinner for that matter! I was fortunate to enjoy both fish curry redemption, and a lovely improvised dessert moment.

Since I didn't have time to seek out a recipe for coconut custard, I improvised by doing this:

Peeled, sliced and diced one ripe mango. A bit of a bitch; I need to learn how to do this properly! Slimy mess! Nearly sliced my fingertips off! But it was worth it in the end. What's a little pain when dessert is involved?

Next I combined the mango chunks with ripe, thinly sliced organic strawberries. Stirred it all up and added a splash of Grand Marnier.

Next, I poured into a shiny bowl: a splash of maple syrup, a thin drizzle of molasses, a splash of vanilla extract, and a splash of Grand Marnier. To this I added about a cup of heavy cream, and then I whipped it, whipped it real good..."da na na na na. na na...When a problem comes along, you must whip it..."

Uh anyway, next I spooned some of the fruit mixture into ramekins, topped each one with a generous serving of the whipped cream, and topped each one with toasted coconut. Not quite coconut custard, but not bad! I would even say... good!

In fact, I would even say so much more.

I would love to tell you about the fish curry and the fine company and my maiden voyage with star anise and the spinach, basil and plum salad with citrus-vinaigrette, and how the kaffir lime leaves and ginger and cumin seeds and shallots filled our house with the most exquisite scents, and about the music of Tara Linda, Denise Funari and Jason Kleinberg that we enjoyed after. I would love to tell you all these things, and so much more. And perhaps I will, and perhaps I won't, but that is neither here nor there.

Right now, I'm a little obsessed with coconut custard. As if I didn't already have enough obsessions....

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Selfishness is Fun

I'm trying on a couple of new habits this week - worrying less, and letting other people do more for me. And it turns out, selfishness is fun!!! And it keeps one from worrying!

The last couple days have been packed with so much good music and food and company, and here are a few highlights, in no particular order:

- Wandering down Valencia street on a perfectly balmy evening with my friend Myles, and happening upon a most excellent gypsy jazz band called Gaucho. It was a marathon night cause before that, Myles and I played music together, and after that, we had a most exquisite meal at a place called Osha Thai. This place does with curries and spicy fusion dishes the things I only dream of in my kitchen! The salmon sashimi salad was just divine. And there's more! After our dinner, we saw one of my favorite bands The Shut-ins, followed by a kick-ass twangy supergroup known as the Fireball Mailmen. Mmmmmm I love the sound of pedal steel. It's right up there with sashimi salad and gypsy jazz.

- In the interest of my needs and my needs alone, I spontaneously took half the day off work today and am taking all of tomorrow too (special thanks to my dear co-workers for helping to make this possible!). Today I got to enjoy a delicious lunch at Cesar courtesy of the lovely and talented Janet. If you can't make it to Spain, I guess the next best thing is Tapas and sangria. Janet was kind enough to accompany me to a certain doctor's appointment that I had been dreading, and lunch, and her company, was my reward.

- After a visit to my much loved hairdresser, I treated myself to a new cookbook and some fancy ice cream. Yeah... down with worrying, and up with indulgence!

Soon I'll have to post about all the great local music I've been listening to at home. But for now, it's getting late and you are getting verrrrry sleeeepy...and don't worry, I'm gonna live. It just turns out I'm inhabited by space aliens, but I'm told that if I eat enough fancy ice cream and tapas and listen to enough gypsy jazz, the aliens will vanish.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Who needs Sleep when you've got your own Doll??

Another action packed weekend has passed like some kind of crazy tornado, leaving me feeling like I need another weekend so I can recover from my weekend!

Thankfully there were quite a few highlights, so the bags underneath my eyes today are not completely without value.

Friday evening found me making a very spontaneous dinner for a few friends, in which I learned an important lesson. When improvising a fish curry dish, or any dish containing coconut milk for that matter, DON'T get distracted and boil the coconut milk! For if you do, then poof, there goes your delicate coconut flavor! And you really don't want that to happen!

Saturday I went to a Big Concert Arena and saw a Major Star named Bjork. Perhaps you've heard of her? I went cause some friends had an extra ticket, and I was curious. Now THAT is what I call entertainment! There were lasers! And fire! And dancing! And a 17 piece all female brass band! And two live drummers! And electronics! It was positively electrifying and worth every penny spent. The seven dollar beers I could do without, though...

And as an added bonus, lovely local siren Joanna Newsom opened up the show, and she completely and utterly won me over. I was mesmerized and I think several of the other thousands of folks in attendance were too.

Sunday El Mirage played a fun outdoor show at Lanesplitter, the place where I used to sling beer and pizza. 'Twas a treat to get to see my very own action figure on display, along with all the other action figures of current employees and employees past. It was also a treat to hang out with wonderful people on a perfectly sunny day while enjoying some of the best micro-brewed beers that Northern California has to offer. Man, are we spoiled living here!

And if all that wasn't enough, I developed a new flavor of granola in those few extra hours when I should've been sleeping. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, vanilla almond granola from Val's kitchen. Since I didn't have time to grocery shop, I guess it'll be granola for dinner tonight, and right after that, the couch will be waiting for my exhausted ass...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Taste of the Himalayas

It's been rather quiet in my kitchen this week, the sink filling with empty coffee cups and not much else cause I've been busy, busy, busy.

Last night Miss NoNo and I happened upon a sweet little spot called Taste of the Himalayas, at 2420 Lombard Street in SF. I'd never had Nepalese food, and it was wonderful. Very much like Indian, in fact, many of the dishes are the same - like Chana Masala, Naan bread, and the very delicious Sag Paneer, which was unlike any other version I've tried. It seemed to be scented with cinnamon, and it was so delicate and comforting.

The owners and staff here are so genuinely kind and welcoming, adding to that very comforting vibe. You can tell they are passionate not only in bringing lovingly prepared foods to your table, but in the sharing of their gifts with people in need around the world.

A message from the owners:

"Our mission is to share hearty soul food and music from Nepal and bring friends from the East and the West together while sharing part of our income with local and international charities. We serve authentic Himalayan dishes, tasty momos (steamed dumplings), rich curries and succulent tandoori, in a casual atmosphere. We use freshly grown organic vegetables and spices to bring the most authentic taste in town. We believe in bringing the best service to our valued customers. Your valuable comments will make us grow. We listen to you."

At the end of our meal, the owner came out and sang to us - and what a lovely voice. He clearly has a sense of humor too, cause he didn't even balk when Miss NoNo made a reference to "Nepal" sounding like "nipples". I'm sure it wasn't the first time he heard that one...

Anyway, this place is definitely a shining example of Soup and Song at its finest. Food and music really do soothe the soul. And we could all use more of that!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Quinoa for Kathleen

I've been experiencing some very good mojo in the kitchen recently. Today, the kitchen gods were smiling kindly upon me as I whipped up a potluck dish to take to Kathleen's impromptu birthday celebration.

The quinoa and black bean salad with lime zest, dried cranberries and roasted yams was as impromptu as the party, and was another thrown-together-from-what-I-had-in-the-house creation. And it turned out to be a hit!

But first, let's talk about Kathleen, and in no particular order, a Few Reasons Why I Adore Her:

She rocks. She is a talented and creative chef. She makes exquisite paintings and sculptures and glowing, pulsating creatures, and gardens! She sings like a beautiful bird. She has tools and she knows how to use them! She also rollerskates in a fiber-optic suit! The list goes on and on!

So hell yeah, I'm gonna be there to celebrate her b-day with her on a Monday night, even if I have to stop off and buy something pre-made.

But fortunately, besides quinoa, black beans, dried cranberries and limes, I had some leftover salad that I had made for yesterday's impromptu picnic at the beach. It featured roasted satsuma yams and brocolli in an orange-vinaigrette. It was a very nice addition, but I bet this salad would still be tasty on its own. And it goes like this...

Cook the quinoa. In this case I used red quinoa. If you don't remember or don't know how to cook quinoa, go here:

Drain a can of black beans. When the quinoa is done, rinse it lightly in cool water and drain it well. Mix it with the black beans in a real pretty bowl. Grate some lime zest into it, add a little salt and pepper, a couple squeezes of lime juice, a light little drizzle of olive oil, and a couple dashes of curry powder. Give it a good mix, and toss in a couple handfuls of dried cranberries. And if you happen to have roasted yams and brocolli lying around, invite them to the party too. Feel free to let your own imagination and pantry be your guide... you could use currants instead of cranberries, and snap peas instead of brocolli. Instead of sweet potatoes, you could use mango.... mmm.... mango. I'm gonna have to try that one!

Indeed, it was a rocking salad for a rock star on her birthday.... happy birthday Kathleen!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Important Things

48 hours passes too quickly, but I managed to pack a lot of goodness into those hours, and am writing this as the Sunday evening sky is just barely beginning to swirl into blue-grey-pinkness.

This is where Loretta Lynch played a fine little gig last night. Too bad I didn't bring my old clunker bras to leave my personal bit of bra-ness at the Black Cat Bar.

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And today... today was just divine. I blew off every last "important" thing I needed to do, and did the most important thing of all. It has been about a year since I've had a picnic at the beach with good friends, and that needed to change.

So I took whatever food I had in the house and turned it into sesame noodle salad, roasted sweet potatoes and brocolli in orange vinaigrette, and marinated pan seared tofu....

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... and we piled the dogs and guitars and food and beer and blankets into the van, and before I knew it, there I was, sticking my toes in the sand ...

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... chasing the dogs into the surf ...

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... marveling at the silver light on the gorgeous, endless ocean. What could be more important than this???

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

After a hard morning of Bra Shopping, Pho soothes the Soul

It was time. In fact, it was long overdue - the trip to the Mall to visit the Major Department Store to spend the morning trying on what felt like 700 bras. Misery loves company, so I was really glad that my friend Janet wanted to join me.

Now don't get me wrong; I love a good bra! I just hate shopping for them. Like all women's clothing, sizes vary. You gotta try 34B, 36B, 34C, and on and on, no matter what size the lady says you are. And that can be tedious. And tiring. And then when you haul your tired ass out of the store (but happily with a wonderful variety of new bras - pink! leopard! black! light blue and lacy! 15% off!), you have to settle for bad mall food to "satisfy" that hunger that you just worked up...

That's why Janet and I were delighted that later in the evening we were to enjoy a perfect bowl of Pho, courtesy of our friends Blayne and Lu. And wow, it really was perfect. Blayne knew about this place in Oakland, at 412 E. 12th St, and we reached our destination just as the hot afternoon sky was turning to evening.

The Pho was plentiful, tasty and cheap, the broth rich and soothing, and the company just absolutely divine. Probably won't have to go on a major bra-buying excursion for another couple years, but hopefully I won't wait that long to enjoy another bowl of that Pho!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

100 Posts, Good Granola News!

Wow, today was a good day!

I just this moment logged in and realized that I've been writing in this blog for a litte under a year, and that my last posting was my one hundreth. I don't know why that gives me a little thrill, but it does. I still find it a little shocking that people actually READ this thing! Hi Mom! Hi Dad!

It's also VERY cool that in the span of this nearly one year's time, I've reached some exciting and gratifying milestones, like having an apron named after me, just for starters!

This blog was kind of related to my first granola making obsession just about a year ago (a by-product of my having lots of leftover nuts & seeds from last year's b-daybatch of mole!). Hence, 100 blog entries and almost exactly one year later, it was REALLY FUCKING COOL to get a call from a friend informing me that a soon to be opening specialty foods store in San Francisco wants to carry my granola!!!!

Shit, now I have to get my shit all together and it's so exciting and terrifying!

In order to avoid obsessing over all my little fears, instead I'll share this amazingly sexy pic on the eve of my 38th birthday. Photo courtesy of Lucio Loud.

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I do believe Miss NoNo was frightened of the gloves.