Ginny’s Famous Baked Apples

Most days it is easy to feel invisible. And quite honestly this can be beneficial. As a shy introverted young girl, I often felt most comfortable when I was invisible. In a boisterous Italian family one may wonder how it was even possible to survive on the quieter side of the spectrum, but when you are surrounded by strong personalities you don’t need to compete. As the story goes, my two closest childhood friends will eagerly tell you that I found my voice towards the end of high school and the personality followed to reveal itself in the college years. Continue reading ‘Ginny’s Famous Baked Apples’

Coconut Pistachio Bites – Mermaid and Cinderella Stories

Life gets tricky, relationships get complicated and the unknown can be terrifying. There are certainly a lot of ways to read or read-into that last sentence so I should explain.

Tricky=We are all stretched by time constraints. Picking and choosing what to spend our free and work time on is something that we all navigate.

Complicated Relationships= just a fact. With true communications skills on the decline it is easy to become isolated and wonder if the subtext is really a declaration of more.

Unknown= there can and is some sort of anxiety around that which we cannot yet understand. Even excitement can bring with it elements of this emotion.

And yet, despite all of those factors, life has some amazing high points. Times when you realize just how great it is to be in the midst of your life, and enjoying the here and now. These past few months in many ways felt surreal with a dose of magical.

Dress shopping for my daughter’s junior prom brought with it all of the excitement of a Disney princess movie, eg Cinderella heading off to the ball, with elements of tricky, complicated and the unknown lurking. Life as a young adult is not easy and it wasn’t when I was growing up either. Technology now plays a more prominent roll in the lives of this generation; the struggle is real.

And as you may have read in my last blog post, there was some questionable feelings I had as I approached this next decade of my life. Regardless, this next half century of my life (to quote my daughter), was ushered in by people that brought with them contagious happiness and more fun than could be bottled up. In her usual way, my daughter required me to ‘sparkle’ and I went out of my comfort zone and dawned my mermaid-esque top to show that I would not run or hide but meet this new phase head-on.

With so much fantasy in the works…princesses and mermaids alike, the reality was that I was living large and consumed a few too many calories. It was fun, and well, at a certain point I have to get back to the basics. And while this recipe is hardly glamorous food, it fits the parameters of trimming the waistline, providing fuel and eating on the healthy end of the plant-based spectrum. Like all dichotomies, for as much as I love to get all slicked up for a formal event, I also like to wear my faded blue jeans and embrace my pseudo-inner hippie roots (growing up in Marin County in the 70’s and 80’s had a way of seeping into my blood). This carries over to my food vibe too. I love food that is a showstopper and yet I also love food that is simple and healthy.

Coconut Pistachio Bites – This simple combination should not be underestimated, the flavor of the oats, nuts and maple syrup gives this recipe a good texture and subtle sweet flavor. The recipe is quick to assemble, great leftover and a good energy booster.

Coconut Pistachio Bites

Ingredients

1 cup raw, shelled pistachios plus more for sprinkling on top

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup unsweetened coconut

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp salt

2 TBS olive oil

honey (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8×8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a food processor, using an S blade, combine pistachios, oat and salt and blend for 30-seconds until it is the consistency of a meal. While the motor is still running, slowly add the wet ingredients (maple syrup and olive oil). A dough should start to form.

Firmly press the dough evenly into the pan and sprinkle with coconut flakes and chopped pistachios. . Bake 10-12 minutes until the coconut is golden brown and the dough is baked. Set aside to cool.

Carefully remove the cooled bites out of the pan by holding the sides of the parchment paper. Cut into squares. For extra sweetness, drizzle with honey.

Suzie’s Cinnamon Kahlua Chocolate Cake

This year I celebrated a milestone birthday which was feeling a bit unnerving – there were juxtaposed emotions (1) reality of mortality, (2) being ever so happy to actually be here since I am very aware without the miracles of modern medicine I could easily not have made it to this birthday and (3) the weight of carrying a big number as part of my identity and being vain. Continue reading ‘Suzie’s Cinnamon Kahlua Chocolate Cake’

Southern Hemisphere Meatballs…Meditation and Other Deep Thinking

I’d like to declare that we are officially in the era where meditation is not considered a fringe activity. In the day-to-day busy stressful lives we lead there is seldom time for ‘self-care’ let alone an at the ready tool bag that can help us release from the everyday grind of demands. We are hearing about the benefits of meditative work at the corporate level and even that Western Medicine doctors are prescribing meditation to patients. Continue reading ‘Southern Hemisphere Meatballs…Meditation and Other Deep Thinking’

Creamy Cauliflower Gruyere Soup

I truly feel like life is in transition and I am not quite sure what to make of it all. I am a contradiction of things at any given moment…observant, hurried, reckless, cautious, pensive and opinionated. [Is this what mid-life looks like?] I look for ways to embrace the calm, to smile and to laugh every day. I remind myself about the gravity of the past few years because it is perspective. I remind myself to be thankful for each and every experience – not only the good ones – because it is not without the sour that we know the balance and beauty of the sweet.

I always strive to learn and improve, but I know part of my learning is sometimes allowing for the imperfections and embracing those imperfectly perfect jagged edges. I’ve abandoned my inner ‘Martha Stewart’ and I am learning to embrace my quirky, passionate, satirical, geek techie and foodie undertones >I have no idea which public persona that correlates to, so I guess I’ll have to just be me.<

I can’t make excuses; I am still in soup mode. Perhaps it is because I feel gypped out of winter. I hear about record breaking snow stories on the East Coast, and yet I am wearing a sweater (and sweating) because it is 75 degrees outside. My brain refuses to accept this winter-free season. In sheer protest I am still making soups.

Thinking back on my love of flavors, I am reminded how much I enjoy soups. A large pot, filled to the brim with fresh ingredients, slow simmered with a pinch of this and that, until the wafting aroma fills the corners of the kitchen and you can practically taste it with your eyes. Soups seem so simple to assemble and yet so decadent in composition. While I tend to like ‘day old soups’, feeling their flavors are more robust, the beauty of this recipe is that once cooked it hits its full stride.

Creamy Cauliflower Gruyere Soup

Soup Ingredients

1 TBS olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry white wine

2 heads cauliflower

1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups heavy whip cream

Pesto Rye Crouton Ingredients

1 loaf rye bread

olive oil

pesto

Directions

In a large stockpot, sauté onions, garlic and salt for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Deglaze pot with white wine and cook until it has evaporated. Add stock, cream and cauliflower and simmer approximately 30 minutes, until cauliflower is tender. Once cooked, transfer this mixture to a blender and puree until texture is smooth and creamy.

Season with salt and pepper. If soup is too thick, think with more stock. While still hot, blend in Gruyere cheese.

To make pesto croutons, slice bread into half-inch cubes and toss lightly with olive oil. Place on baking sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Before serving toss with pesto and finish with chopped chives and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili

There is a quiet Saturday morning space that I’ve discovered. I find it in the alcoves of the sun trying to push its way through the slatted blinds on a cold winter morning. The house is asleep; the neighborhood farm animals are tucked into the cozy spaces, and aside from the humming of the heater as it takes the chill out of the house, there is absence of sound.
Continue reading ‘Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili’

Lentil Soup

There are just certain facts about yourself that are known entities. For example, I’ve always hated mushy cooked carrots (unless they are sweetening up a soup). I function most effectively with everything in its place. My favorite drink is a Negroni; I refuse to pick a favorite color. Chocolate is my favorite food group. Spending time with people I enjoy is always an option. And I have a passion for photos that cannot be satiated. It’s just a fact. I love pictures; I always have. And if you were to scroll through my photo roll on my phone camera you would find that nearly 1/3 of them are food photos.
Continue reading ‘Lentil Soup’

Small Batch Carmel Corn

The holiday season brings with it heaps of food memories. For me, the smells and tastes are triggers. As we work our way through so many of the traditional Sicilian dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation, I feel blessed and cursed. Blessed to have a family so very steeped in traditions in their love of food and cursed that these time intensive delicacies rob me of what little free time I have. There is certainly joy in finding time to cook with my Aunt, Cousin and my Mother, but there is so much pressure to get things done for the big day.

My husband and I are both products of divorced families. As children, having multiple Christmases has its silver lining – seemingly infinite gifts. As adults, the silver lining can sometimes be overwhelming – driving, shopping, cooking (repeat x 4). I end up feeling energy depleted and trying to figure out how I might lighten the load next year.

There is no sugar coating it; four Christmases is A LOT to be merry about. That’s not to say that each celebration is not coveted and special; I love them all. We all do. And we love all of the nice interactions with family and extended family and friends. Yet this year I think I reached my saturation level. I’ve declared that next year I will take the year off. I want to truly appreciate how special it all is, and in order to do that I need to be able to have a holiday where I can just relax. As I shared this with our families the response was very mixed if not perplexed. Even my children were wondering why such measures would be necessary. The reason is simple. I’d like next Christmas to be different. Not complicated or time consuming but indulgent. I am not looking for an epic adventure, just long lazy days, a book and a walk on the beach followed by some festive red cocktail as we head out to dinner.

So I’ve got a dream. Let’s see if I can make it happen. As we head into these final days of 2017, I am making my wish and resolution list and I am going to be a bit selfish with how I spend my time in 2018.

For those interested in a preview (or inspiration) this is what my list is starting to look like.

• Finding the peace in quiet moments

• Work life flow; in the direction of ‘life’ (admittedly there is no ‘balance’)

• More fun, more smiles, more memories, more laughter

• First Friday gatherings with my girlfriends, make a standing date to see the ladies I adore with zero planning

• Travel!

• Be spoiled…

While reflecting on food memories I was ‘reminded’ by Facebook about my favorite childhood caramel corn recipe. This was a ‘camp’ recipe shared with me by the mother of one of my friend’s, and it’s something I’ve never outgrown. >I use the term ‘camp’ loosely because this interlude hardly involved tents or camp fires; it was time away from home in the summer and it was pretty darn amazing!<

This easy Caramel Popcorn is the perfect salty/sweet combo! It starts with fluffy, freshly popped popcorn then it is glazed with real butter and decadent brown sugar, and nuts of your choice — pieces of almonds, cashews and/or pecans make for an irresistible crunch.

Small Batch Carmel Corn

Ingredients

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

½ cup corn syrup

6 quarts popped corn (1 cup uncooked kernels)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

pecans, walnuts or cashews, to your liking

Directions

Put popped corn and nuts into large bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Boil sugar, butter, syrup and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add in baking soda. Stir well over popped corn and nuts. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring in 15 minute intervals. Remove from oven and cool then store in air tight container.

Dark-ish Chocolate Pistachio Bark – Help Santa Slay Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’d like to quit Christmas this year. Let’s be honest. You get all the credit. I do all the work, and this year it seems quasi impossible to make it as dreamy as days of yore. I know, it is the most wonderful time of the year – unless, you can’t keep up with the to-do list of shopping, tree trimming, house decorating (inside and out), baking, cooking and well…the list continues. Now excuse me for not being reverent, but if this is feeling merry, how much longer can it last? I think it is time to take a stand. If I do nothing for Christmas well then I might just have some time for me. Continue reading ‘Dark-ish Chocolate Pistachio Bark – Help Santa Slay Christmas’

#Giving #Thanks

The Thanksgiving Day celebration is an important part of American culture. From the iconic tales of Pilgrims and Native Americans to a holiday now focused on food and excessive retail therapy. It is easy to feel caught up in the hustle and bustle of the celebration.

The wafting aromas of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, a house filled to the brim with family and friends and a beautifully set table. When I think about the words tied to the holiday I realize that much of our attention as a society focuses more about turning the ‘giving’ into a way to promote spending/gift giving. But what if, for just a moment, we could really make a difference by giving the gift of sustenance. I often talk to my children about how we can make a difference and an impact. I am not suggesting that we turn in all of our gifts and put it towards a fund, but I am suggesting that for a moment we focus on really giving to help make someone’s reality better.

I’ll never forget that my Grandfather, Nunzio, during the days when he ran the crab stand at Alioto’s Restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco; he was always looking for ways to help. One morning, I joined him at work and was perplexed to see him talking to the homeless people sleeping alongside the restaurant. It was even more surprising that they all knew him by name. When I asked him what he spoke with them about he said that he was asking them what kind of sandwich they would like to eat that day. I learned that he would prepare food for them, every day. I inquired further as to why he didn’t just bring out the sandwiches that he had made, and he kindly explained to me that being poor was not a crime and that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. He respected them enough to give them what they wanted to eat, he cared for them deeply, just like he cared for all of us. Years later I learned he would even go out and buy them winter jackets so that they could keep warm.

Do you ever wonder how to make an impact? There are so many ways to give and make a difference. This, one of the richest countries in the world has millions of hungry children, approximately 13 million, that go to bed hungry every day. I often ask myself, how this is possible. There are so many families that can barely make ends meet let alone plan a festive dinner.

What if you could be the difference and make a dent in the hunger crisis that plagues so many, too many, children? I know that I can, and I will. Annually I make a conscious decision to stop the foodie talk and to make this space that I covet a platform to do more. I am a supporter of No Kid Hungry. As I sit down tomorrow I hope that my donation will allow others to sit around their table with those they care about to enjoy a good meal. To be part of the celebration so many of us enjoy. So for a time, I am choosing to forgo the pricey designer coffees and that new top I saw in the magazine because I know I can happily scale back and share with others to give them the memories I think are so important – to be seated around a table, enjoying the aromas of the meal, sharing laughter and stories with those that they care about most. Perspective… $10 = 100 meals.

I hope that you too will take this is an opportunity to provide a meal for a family in need because even one match of humanity can make an explosive positive impact on the lives of others. I raise my glass to all of you, I am so very thankful for all of your support as my beloved blog family. You make the difference to me by feeding my soul.