December 28, 2011

Krampus Festivus

Christmas Day feast for us and our friends. We hosted the first Krampus Festivus last year and had a grand ol' time. This year was even better.

Merry Krampus!

Nibbles before the big meal...and beer. Just the beginning....

Krampus Cocktail: Metaxa, pomegranate juice, gin, ginger ale, orange slices.

The main act: roast leg of lamb with herbs, garlic, and a special secret ingredient.

The sides: roasted brussel sprouts

and crispy potatoes.

Serious drinking.

Special guests.


Time for dessert: homemade apple pie, eggnog cheesecake, and holiday sweets.

We made pecan bars, macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, hazelnut mocha truffles, and peppermint marshmallows.

It's not a party if it doesn't end like this.
Thanks to everyone who joined us in celebrating Krampus Festivus. And thanks for bringing the tasty tasties. 

November 20, 2011

Tomatoes in November

Quite a while ago I planting some cherry tomato seeds. I watered them. I tended to the stalks. I whispered sweet nothings to the buds. And...nothing. After weeks of progress the buds remained green. I waited three weeks for the fruits of my labor to turn red. Finally, I gave up; I hate to admit it, but I did. Alas, I was too lazy to dispose of this tomato plant and so I left it on my patio.

Then, on Tuesday, as I looked out the window (procrastinating my departure for work), I noticed a fleck of yellow. I moved closer to get a better look and...couldn't believe it. The biggest tomato was beginning to blush. So I brought the plant inside, picked off all the dead branches, and gave it a drink. The leaves bounced back pretty quickly and more green tomatoes began following in the footsteps of that one, brave tomato (who was very tasty, by the by).

What's that hiding behind a leaf?

A ripe, red cherry late November.

Evan and I split it for dessert on Friday night. It was juicy and super sweet.

Two days later: more tomatoes turning red.

This one is next.

Then these guys.

November 13, 2011

Christmas Tree Fund

I've been lobbying for a real Christmas Tree for years. Our small (previous) apartment was always a convenient excuse for Evan to shoot down my desire for a non-artificial tree. Instead we've been putting up a mini, artificial tree--which is cute, but not my idea of a proper Christmas tree. This year we are in a bigger apartment with lots of room to spare...prefect for a modest douglas fir or white pine. 

So I've started a Christmas Tree Fund: a way to collect my spare change at the end of the day and make my dream of a green Christmas a reality. I can almost smell the pine needles...

November 5, 2011

Cure for the Common Cold

I woke up this morning with a stuffy nose, headache, and sore throat. Yuck. Time for soup. Thankfully I had frozen veggies and chicken broth on standby. I started by sweating a handful of chopped onion and some garlic in a tab of butter. I added a sprinkling of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and dried thyme. Then in went a bunch of frozen mixed veggies and some uncooked rice, followed by chicken broth. 

As I waited for the mix to come to a boil, I rummaged through the fridge to see if there was anything else I could throw in. I found some left over lamb from earlier in the week, parsley, and a parmesan rind--which I've read adds a yummy silkiness to soups. I let everything simmer for a bit, discarded the softened rind, seasoned to taste, and served myself a bowl. 

Time to eat and get well.

October 31, 2011

Let's Mash. Monster Mash!

I hosted a Halloween party on Saturday and it was a mash, it was a graveyard smash. 

I made a bunch of spooky food. Christina mixed up some Zombie Punch. A bunch of friends dressed up in fabulous costumes--Crazy Cat Lady, Cloudy Sky, Alexander the Great, Boo from Monsters Inc., a Once-ler with the Lorax, and two cute witches. I was properly zombified by the end of the evening...and well into the next day, too. But it was worth it.

Pumpkin Barf aka guacamole was a big hit. I got the idea from this pin. It was a little challenging carving the face, but I think it turned out pretty good. 

 Spicy Popcorn. Not scary, per se, but super tasty. I used this recipe as a jumping off point for my spice mixture.

 Our friend Kevin brought a killer cheese spread. 

Bite-Sized Ghosts. Strawberries dipped in vanilla white chocolate with dark chocolate faces.

Trick or Treat Cupcakes. 

Vanilla cupcakes topped with cooked vanilla rum buttercream and Halloween sprinkles, courtesy of Evan's mom...
...with a spooky trick inside! (Almost) blood red berry filling.

 Creepy crawly centerpiece.

Me and Christina: two cute witches.

October 23, 2011

Sushi Sunday

Yesterday was a day for trying new things. First we went to Cactus Jungle to find some plants for the patio. Afterwards we stopped at Tokyo Fish Market (also in Berkeley). I had wanted to check out this store for some time and I was determined to make sushi this weekend. 
They had lots of great Japanese grocery items. I was particularly impressed by the produce section (fresh yuzu!), wall of fresh fish (duh), Hawaiian specialties, and their vast array of tobiko (regular, black, habanero, wasabi, and yuzu). They seemed to have everything one would need to make a tasty meal. I picked up some sushi rice, some fish, Japanese cucumbers (a first), miso, and wasabi. 

Here's what I made of it all:
 To start: miso soup with shitake.

 Hamachi sashimi and the usual accoutrements. 
"Rustic" hamachi nigiri.
Tuna roll. (Less rice next time.) 
Asparagus with sweet soy sauce and chili pepper. (An experiment and treat for myself.)
Almost-vegetarian roll: avocado, shittake, carrot, cucumber, tobiko. 
Tuna with avocado and cucumber. My favorite of the bunch.
Everything turned out pretty good and we ate well. I think I need to work on my rice to filling ratio, though. I guess I'll have to practice. 

October 22, 2011

Cactus Jungle

My brood of drought tolerant plants is growing. This morning I went to Cactus Jungle, a nursery in Berkeley. We've passed it many times and I've always been intrigued. We got there bright and early and as we stepped into this lush, green world nestled amongst warehouses and industrial lots, I couldn't help but think of this song.

Walking around Cactus Jungle was a lot of fun. They have lots of neat succulents and cacti, and even some herbs and veggie seedlings. Plus, the staff was super friendly. It took me a while, but I finally settled on one cactus and two succulents--each to compliment the three buddies the I already have.
I chose this guy because he looks super tough and would be a good contrast to the cactus that I already have. It was a little tricky replanting him into his new home...especially bare handed.

This light green beauty caught my eye because its different and has the potential to grow into a lovely cascade.
I couldn't pass up this blushing succulent. I'm excited to see how the coloring changes (or doesn't) as it grows.
 I think they make a lovely pair.
My first two are doing well. The smaller one is doing a lot better since we've moved. I think he likes the fresh air and morning sunshine.
Isn't she lovely? Evan and I went to Home Depot last weekend to pick up some bamboo stakes for the tomato plant. And I came home with this cactus, too. I just couldn't pass up this little bit of sunshine. 
I think the cacti look good together.
My brood of cacti and succulents...hanging out on the patio.

My tomato plant is producing baby 'maters like gangbusters. At last count there were 17.

The first tomato to bud is now the size of a large marble and other bunches have appeared. They just need to ripen! Thank goodness autumn in the Bay Area is hot and dry.