Category Archives: Food & Grog

When Life Hands You Basil



Basil is one of the few things I’m able to grow and not kill! So it’s ever so thrilling to make a batch of fresh pesto and eat it!

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Beef Boerie, Stywe Pap and Hummingbirds, Oh My!

With kids and summer camp and vacation and work travel, it’s easy for the grown-up birthdays in our home to go unmarked.

And so for Dave’s birthday, I invited some close friends round for dinner and decided to do a South-African braai — something we never do.

Our local supplier of all things South African provided the wors and the pap, and the good people of the Internets provided the wisdom:

Rather sad that I’ve been out of South Africa so long that I need directions on cooking mielie meal and making bredie!

We enjoyed Dave’s birthday out under the stars, with a bottle of sparkling wine to toast him, followed by something from our German vino stash. And a good time was had by all. 

The Angry Birds Cake

 
This year we gave Tau the choice of either having a party for his birthday (big bucks) or getting annual family Legoland passes (equally big bucks). Smart boy, he opted for the Legoland passes, and so to celebrate his birthday, we let him choose just two friends and have their families over for a barbecue.

Can I leave it at that? No. Of course not. Got to make a little bit of a fuss and have a little fun. So when Tau asked for an Angry Birds birthday cake, I went whole hog.

We’d seen this video:



With a new baby in the house, I had to take a few shortcuts — I bought readymade plastic birds and pigs online, and used wafer cookies, KitKat bars and other candy for the tower, but the effect was the same. Tau was thrilled!

I also used a fabulous free download from The Party Animal to create a few Angry Birds balloon decorations and goodie bags for Tau’s friends.

The kids (not to mention a few of the adults) had a great time launching the birds at the pigs and trying to annihilate the cake. A great time was had by all!


The rest of the birthday pics are on Flickr.

Cocooning Over the Holidays

 

After a very busy 2010, and Thanksgiving spent away at Solvang, CA, we decided to spend Christmas at home this year.

I had the week between Christmas and New Year off, and Dave only worked a few days, which gave us all lots of time for sleeping in, leisurely meals and playing with all those gifts from Santa.

A few highlights from December:

We spent New Year at home also with a quiet but yummy meal, and have been slowly easing ourselves into the new Year.

For more pictures, take a look at our Christmas and New Year 2010 set on Flickr!

Lego Party: Party in the Park

 

And finally, a wrap-up post on the Lego party. For those searching the Internet for ideas for a Lego party, here are a few ideas:

 

Lego Party: The Perfect Cupcake Swirl

 

I have two favorite cupcake decorating tools. Hmn. Make that three.

  1. My frosting spatula, which makes smoothing a flat layer of icing onto any cake a breeze (also used to to smoothe the Lego Marshmallow Pops)
  2. My disposable piping bags (I really should invest in a set of re-usable ones)
  3. My new #18 Wilton frosting tip.

Yes, I’ve finally taken a leap into the enchanting world of the swirl. When I knew I was going to make special cupcakes for my friend Andrea’s birthday and for Tau’s birthday, I decided to kick it up a notch in the frosting department.

Where do you go to learn the swirl? Duh. The Internet of course. I was pleased to learn that the swirl is even easier than it looks. Especially with the right tip.

Evidence. Even I can do it!
 

For Tau’s party, I made one batch of red and one batch of blue cupcakes, and then added a simple Lego cupcake topper based on these by Amy Locurto.

Though they were very cute, I’m not sure I’d do red and blue again. The amount of coloring required to get the right red and blue is downright scary.

Not that any health concerns deterred the kids from enjoying them! I love this picture of one brother and sister at the party. His cupcake matching her dress, and hers matching his t-shirt? Total fluke — but super cute nonetheless!

 

Lego Party: Lego Marshmallow Pops

 

 
One of my main inspirations for Tau’s Lego party was the party Amy Locurto threw for her son.
 
I “borrowed” her cupcake topper design (thanks to Andrea, who created a set for me in red and blue), I liked her idea of having the party outdoors and adding a Lego pinata, and I absolutely LOVED her Lego cake pops.
 
Although I didn’t fancy the idea of mucking with a bowl of smooshed up cake and frosting to form the Lego heads. So I went the marshmallow route, using large ones for the head and mini-marshmallows cut in half for the bump on the top.
 
All went well until dipping time. I’d bought yellow candy melts from Michaels, which I assumed would do the job, and imagined heat the melts up in my double boiler and simply dipping the marshmallow heads quickly into the liquid and then letting them cool.
 
Turns out, candy melts don’t melt into a liquid — the mix was more like a thick paste. I managed to thin the mixture out with a few drops of vegetable oil, just enough to smudge each head around in the thick paste and then smooth it out carefully with my trusty frosting spatula.
 
“Dipping” 40 Lego heads took a long time, I tell ya! And If I made these again, I’d be tempted to try white chocolate colored yellow to see if I could quick-dip them.
 
Second challenge was adding the faces. Amy suggests using food writing pens, and I was delighted to find a black one at Michaels. But it didn’t seem to take well on the cooled candy-melt surface. So I resorted to piping on the faces with black frosting, which was quick and the faces ended up looking great.
 
We gave these out as party favors and the kids LOVED them! Definitely a fun addition to any Lego party!

 

Alice in Wonderland Cupcakes

Yesterday was my friend Andrea’s 30th birthday. She threw a fabulous Alice in Wonderland themed picnic, which was a lot of fun!

I made crazy red and blue cupcakes — red for the Queen of Hearts (the kings there too, as you can see) and blue for Alice’s dress in the Disney version! They were a bit hit!


 

Submitted to:


 

Roughing it at Lake Poway

A couple weekends ago—I know, it takes me a while to get to these things—we took advantage of our neighborhood’s annual family campout at nearby Lake Poway.

We haven’t been camping with Tau since he was tiny. Really tiny. And we figured it would be a good way to get our feet wet again.

It was rough, I tell ya …

Late Saturday afternoon, we drove the three miles to the lake and backed into a parking spot. We then erected our pop-up tent on the grass, a few feet from the car, and settled down in camping chairs to read, laze and enjoy the sunset.

At dinnertime, we jumped back in the car and went out to a local restaurant for Thai food. Seriously, why pack a camping stove and pots ‘n pans when you are three miles from home?!

The hardest part was waiting for S’mores time, which was laid on by the good  folks at the city’s Community Services Department.

Tau was over excited for S’mores, not to mention overtired from waking up extra early Saturday morning. Eventually, he got to roast his marshmallows on a coathanger, squish them with chocolate between two Graham Crackers … and then crash, fast asleep between us, in the tent.

At seven the next morning, we had coffee, bagels and fruit, all laid on as part of the event, and we were home before 9:00 A.M.!

Laziest camping ever!

 

Loco en la Cabeza February – Part 2: Eyepillow Party Favors

So I did something very unlike me for my birthday. I had a party. For myself.

Yep, I invited a bunch of girlfriends over that I don’t get to see very often, and we nibbled on finger food and drank champagne with raspberries in it and ate pink and white vanilla cupcakes. We also did a “white elephant” exchange of beauty products, each guest bringing their favorite beauty product wrapped to give away.

As take away favors, I wanted to give guests something nice, something that went along with the party’s pamper theme. And when I remembered this Amy Butler tutorial for flax and lavender eye pillows, I was thrilled. They were fun to make and the girls loved them!

To Quote Frank Zappa

  

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”

~ Frank Zappa

Used this quote on a birthday card for our friend Gerhard. Very appropriate!

Too Much of a Good Thing

This year I’m participating in a sew and cook along hosted by Africankelli and Finny Knits.

Why? Because I’m loving sewing again after so many years away from it. That and this monthly challenge gives you the option to do EITHER the sewing project OR the culinary project.

Up this month, either this sassy little cap or a spicy garlic dressing. I opted for the dressing because I’m just not a hat person — and looking at all the measuring and interfacing and stitching work that goes into that hat (one of MANY gorgeous projects in the amazing little book One Yard Wonders), I realized I wasn’t about to stitch it for anyone else!

So last night was a regular Tuesday night. On the menu, soup and salad. Ho hum.

Not so when the soup is Alessi’s Zuppa Toscana (a very tasty white-bean and pasta packet soup that tastes like you’ve spent all day at the stove). And definitely not when the everyday green salad is dressed with Kelli’s spicy garlic salad dressing.

First thing I wished was that we’d already replaced our ex-hand blender, which died some time back. The only blender I had to work with was the big old beast we use for making smoothies and bulk homemade pesto.

So I had to make a TRIPLE batch of Kelli’s dressing just to have enough to cover the blades. No problemo — the recipe scales quite well.

The only problem I had was that I was out of fresh limes. OUT OF LIMES!

** Insert story here about how my husband thinks I’m a FREAK because I always have to have lemons and limes in the fruit bowl **

The lime juice bottle said the juice was “natural strength” so I estimated the average lime could probably generate about two tablespoons of fresh juice.

Guess not. The finished dressing was flavorful with a good kick to it. And it would have complemented any salad, vegetable or meat dish had it not been for the WAY TOO MUCH LIMEyness of it! I added more olive oil and then some more to balance it, and that helped but not quite enough. Next time round, I’ll add just a squeeze of citrus.

That said, the mid-week soup ‘n salad were definitely elevated by the spicy garlic dressing, hunks of soft French bread and a nice glass of red wine. It was a satisfying MEAL on a winter’s evening for sure.

But I’ll be trying the rest of the dressing as a fish or chicken marinade!

Related

So my husband comes home last night from a week in Argentina.

He brings the boy a glow-in-the-dark dinosaur (winner dad) and me a very beautiful black leather money purse. Double winner husband who knows me very well.

For himself the two of us he brings I won’t tell you how many bottles of Argentinian wine. And this morning, he stands at the kitchen counter reviewing the labels, turning the bottles over.

“This Luigi Bosca is from the same winemaker as the red we had last night. They’re related.”

And I’ve been married to him long enough to know that he’s talking about the wines being related, not Luigi and the winemaker. And that talking about wines as siblings or cousins or spouses does not seem strange to me at all.

Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz

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Empire Grade Road,
on the Boony Doon Road ride
 

A couple days in Santa Cruz saw us visit Healdsburg (very much worth it), drive the scenic Westside road past the wineries to our hotel, stop in at Flying Goat Coffee and Bottle Barn, stop by Enkidu‘s tasting room (their wines are fantastic and very well priced), and spend some time at Howarth Park with lunch at Superburgers (insert from Sue: BEST burger and strawberry milkshake I ever had!) . Not bad!

We left Howarth park with a screaming three-year-old who insisted he needed to ride the “digger” but his evil parents declined shelling out $2 for the ride. Quick lesson in “life’s not fair” and “you can’t have it all kiddo.”

So p*ssed was he that at sleep time that night, when Sue asked him what his “best thing” of the day was, he blurted out “No, I’ll tell you what the baddest thing of my day was, and that was not going on da digger.”

Stu and Kristi will be happy to know that we stopped by ChezShea in Half Moon Bay on the drive down to Santa Cruz. It’s a funky eatery with world cuisine – Brazilian, Thai, South African etc.  The restaurant and Half Moon Bay is a recommended stop along the coast.

We have been staying in a family neighborhood in Santa Cruz, two blocks from the ocean. At night you can hear the waves crash against the cliffs. Here, we have discovered the neighborhood library and park, local beach and organic grocery store. And Tau has had a lot of fun playing with the kids of our hosts.

tau-bikeTrying out a two-wheeler

I took a ride along the cliffs yesterday afternoon and witnessed a pod of dolphins steal a set of waves from the local surfers in one of the nearby bays. Two to three dolphins a wave, they jumped and spun through the waves into the shore break, where they then turned around and swam back out to sea, right under the surfers. Pretty darn cool.

Today I headed out to climb Donny Boon Road which was part of the 2009 Tour of California route into Santa Cruz. Leaving Santa Cruz, you ride 10 miles north along the coast before turning onto Bonny Doon Road and then head directly inland. After about half a mile the climbing starts with an 11% grade. The climbing continues for another 2-3 miles of varying steepness before “leveling out” on Pine Flat road (nothing flat about this road) then finally turning onto Empire Grade Road and heading back into Santa Cruz. The descent was incredible as the redwood forest finally gave way to open grasslands and ocean vistas. Certainly worth dragging some other cyclists here to do this ride with me again sometime.

Nothing in Particular

Sue’s Anderson Valley (Boonville) post pretty much summed up our time in the valley — it was a pastoral break from the coast. Rolling hills, sheep farms, vineyards and orchards on either side of the valley, set up against the mountains that separate the valley from the coast on the west and from the Ukiah/Willits valley that carries the North/South I-101 highway in the east. The weather was also wonderful – cool and overcast until late morning and then clearing with a strong breeze for the afternoons.

Apart from the drive into Ukiah so that Tau could run wild and climb in a neighborhood park, and his parents could check email, we did a whole lot of nothing in particular. I did get out for a road ride to Breggo Cellars for some wine tasting - extremely well-structured wines, particularly their Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Other wineries worth visiting are Navarro Vineyards (for the whites) and Toulouse Vineyards (for the Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, winery dogs and friendly winemaker Vern).

Crazy thing about the Anderson Valley is the temperature swing from east to west. The east (inland) side of the valley is hot and dry, and can easily reach temperatures of 105 °F (40 °C) in the summer and grow more Cabernet Sauvignon type grapes. The west side of the valley reaches the Pacific ocean where morning fog rolls into the valley, lingering until late morning and sometimes rolling back in the late afternoon. Temperatures are significantly cooler to the west and favor the cool climate grapes of Gewürztraminer and Riesling. So across this 25 mile stretch, summer temperatures can easily swing 40 – 50 degrees making for some extremely diverse grape growing and wine making.