Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homemade Granola

Granola has a hippie stigma. So does tofu. I've even heard the word granola used to describe a person, like, "Is she a granola?" Meaning, "Is she a hippie?". Meaning, "Does she wear all cotton, eat health food, vote Green, play guitar, worship the goddess, etc.?". I'm actually not sure if healthy eating was a big facet of the original hippie movement. But somewhere along the line granola and tofu have come to be considered the quintessential "hippie" foods. Okay, I just checked my computer's dictionary for granola and it actually says this: chiefly derogatory, denoting those with liberal or environmentalist political views, typified as eating health foods. See?!?

I was born in the late 1960's between the Summer of Love and the Woodstock Festival. My parents embraced and embodied certain elements of "hippieness" through my childhood in the 70's and 80's. As far as food went, dad baked whole wheat bread and grew a vegetable garden. Mom experimented in the kitchen with vegetarian cuisine. But we never ate granola. Or tofu.

I must have been in my late teens by the time I even tasted granola. I liked it. I started making my own not long after that. I remember that I would melt butter and honey together in a pan and pour it over oats before toasting it in the oven and then adding lots of raisins. Wow. It was calorie-laden and I ate huge bowls of it with soy milk (I know, how hippie). But, as an aside, I am one of those adults who doesn't drink cow's milk. I think I had my last big tall glass at age 18. It just doesn't appeal to me. I'm not lactose intolerant. I cook with it and I adore cheese and yogurt, but milk, as a beverage, just doesn't do it for me.

Today, granola is the only cold cereal I ever eat. I make a batch of it every few weeks. I have found that just a half-cup of the stuff keeps me sated until lunch. I cover it with enriched vanilla rice milk (I know, how hoity-toity). My method now uses egg whites and olive oil instead of butter. It is nutritionally fortified with flaxseed meal and other seeds and nuts. It is sweetened with agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup and dried cranberries, cherries, golden, and dark brown raisins.

Happy Hippie Granola

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine:
5 cups of organic oats
1 cup of chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans [yum!])
1/4 cup of seeds (raw sunflower, pepitas [my favorite])
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 t. cinnamon

Next whisk:
2 large or 3 medium egg whites and 3/4 t. kosher salt (or 1/2 t. salt) until frothy. Whisk in 2/3 cup of honey or agave syrup or maple syrup and 1/3 cup olive oil (I use non-extra-virgin, but extra-virgin will work.)
Pour this mixture over the oat mixture and stir thoroughly to coat. Spread out on a large baking sheet with a lip. Bake for 20 minutes. Pull from oven and flip brown edges in towards the center with a spatula. Re-spread and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1 cup of mixed dried fruit of your choice (cherries, raisins, cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins, coconut, currants....) Store in airtight container.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Potato Leek Soup and Ale Gougeres

Now that I have started doing a bit of food blogging, there are a few food blogs that I peek at regularly. I got this recipe for gougeres from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. So I guess I have already resorted to stealing material from other food bloggers. It's a blog eat blog world out there. 

This was my first time making gougeres. I hear that Thomas Keller serves them often at The French Laundry. I wouldn't know. The French Laundry is considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the world. Yeah, the world. Solar-system even. And it is only about an hour away from my parents' house, and less than 30 minutes from my in-laws. Although my in-laws have been there once for dinner, my parents, who include a restaurant-obsessed father, have not. They find it difficult, as I do, to rationalize the $600 bill that would accompany a meal for two there. And that is with maybe a glass of house wine each. Many of the bottles of wine on their wine list are over a grand. I saw one for $15,000, a 2005 Burgundy. The 2005 Screaming Eagle Napa Valley Cab will set you back $10,500 for a bottle. So that's not that bad. Completely within the average working stiff's budget...NOT. We're talking 1% action here. It is hard to imagine that a bottle of wine could be worth that to someone. I could build a wine cellar AND stock it for money like that. 

My, how I digress. 

Back to dinner. I made a simple potato leek soup. Saute chopped onion, garlic, and leeks in generous olive oil and butter. Season with dill (or thyme) and salt. Cook thin-skinned potatoes, peeled or un-peeled in vegetable or chicken or beef broth/stock. Add sauteed mixture to broth. Let cool. Blend till smooth. Heat and salt to taste.

And then I made these French puffed-pastry things called gougeres. Really easy to do with unique and impressive results. I won't post the recipe here. You can follow the link to it on Heidi's blog above. I tried crushed rosemary on some and fennel on others. They were equally good. It is hard for me to think of a hot-from-the-oven bread creation that doesn't just call out for a slathering of pure butter. These gougeres were an exception. They are rich, moist, buttery, and super-flavorful just as they are. Husband loved these! 


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stephan Way Chardonnay - Part 2

My dad is a big fan of evaporation as a phenomenon. Yeah, evaporation is cool......but do you know what is even cooler? Fermentation! Fermentation is a chemical change brought on by the action of yeasts and bacteria. The souring of milk, the rising of dough, and the conversion of sugar to alcohol are all examples of fermentation. 

Making wine is really quite simple in principle. Grapes are crushed to release the sugar-rich juices. Yeast is then added. In the fermentation process yeast enzymes break down the sugar producing both alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The grape juice is allowed to ferment for a number of weeks, at which point it is moved to different containers and fermented at a slower rate, and eventually aged or bottled.

Making a great wine requires a lot of experience and finesse. I began my project humbly, with only the wish of creating a non-offensive, drinkable table wine that I could share with the neighbors who live within a block of where the grapes were grown. As I seem to do with everything these days, I turned to the internet to guide me in my first batch of wine made from fresh grapes. I found a recipe for dry white table wine that I would follow. I had a large bucket with 34 pounds of Chardonnay grapes. Lacking a grape press, I did it the old-fashioned way. I stomped them. (After thoroughly scrubbing my feet!)

It felt like stepping on a sea anemone at first
But then I got used to it and quite enjoyed it

This first batch yielded 2.4 gallons of juice. It was almost syrupy sweet. After tasting and sharing a bit of the juice, I set the remaining 2 gallons to fermenting. I did add sulfur dioxide in the form of 3 crushed campden tablets. Sulfites are a natural by-product of the yeast metabolism during fermentation. So even if you do not add any additional sulfur dioxide, your wine will still contain sulfites. Sulfur dioxide is antioxidant and antibacterial and plays an important role in maintaining wine's freshness.

A week or so later Marilyn, the neighbor with the grapes, called. Did I have any interest in making more wine? The vines were still laden with perfect, ripe grapes. It was almost mid-October by then and it could freeze anytime. Sure, why not? My 5-year-old son and I headed over with our huge bucket. Marilyn cut the bunches off the vine and handed them down to me. Soon the bucket was reaching capacity. Scott, Marilyn's son, weighed the grapes by standing on a bathroom scale with and without the bucket. 80 pounds!!
Here I am stomping and pressing simultaneously
They yielded almost 6 gallons of sweet grape juice. I set the juice to fermenting with some yeast and yeast nutrient after adding some more sugar, campden tablets, and toasted American oak cubes. Cross your fingers! This is a lot of Chardonnay!

Okay, fast forward through waiting part. The wines were racked (siphoned) off of their sediments to clean containers from time to time. First to be bottled was the smaller batch and a week later (Jan. 20) the larger.

The Big Mistake
The second batch was so big that I wanted to sweeten it at different levels to provide for a larger range of tastes. I was aiming for half to be on the dry side and the other half to be in the medium sweet range. I added 2/3 cup of sugar to the 5-gallons which raised the specific gravity (SG) .002. I then bottled half (or 2.5 gallons) of the wine. Then, desiring to raise the SG another .006, I multiplied the 2/3 cup of sugar by 3 and came up with 2 cups. So I added that. Yep, I neglected to account for the decrease in the volume of the wine I was sweetening! Only half as much. So, 1 cup was what was called for, not the two. The SG shot up and there was no way to take it back. 

After all of the picking and picking over, the crushing and hand-pressing, the recycle-bin diving and label scraping, the sanitizing and patience; I had pretty much spoiled half of the large batch at the very last step. To me it is overly sweet. I got on-line again looking for recipes using sweet white wine. I found a pear galette that called for a sweet white wine reduction sauce and several poached pear recipes...... So, I'll keep a bottle for next summer's neighborhood pears. But if any of my readers like sweet Gewuztraminer types of wine please let me know because I have 11 extra bottles! It will pair well with cheesecake, creme brulee, and fruit.

On the bright side, I have high hopes for the 20 bottles of Chardonnay that were not mistakenly over-sweetened. Everything seemed to go fine. The alcohol level is at an ideal 13% by volume for both batches, the clarity is good, there was no contamination, and the taste was pleasant at bottling. I plan to have a neighborhood wine tasting party in May for the Stephan Way Chardonnay. It should be fun regardless.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Stephan Way Chardonnay - Part 1

Last summer was an epic fruit year on Stephan Way. Well, all except for apples. We have an apple tree in our yard that in many years produces hundreds of large crisp apples but in 2011 had exactly 3 to offer us. But the cherries, grapes, pears and plums produced by our neighbors were outrageous. Especially the cherries and the grapes. In fact, the cherries and the grapes were so bounteous that my discussion of them requires two separate posts. This first, is the grape post. And this, in two parts.

Stephan Way is the cul-de-sac of 11 homes that we live on in Quincy. If you have read my blog, you know that I complain about the shade on our side of the street in the wintertime. I do not, however, complain about the neighbors. On the contrary, I have never experienced anything like the rapport that our family has with our neighbors. Growing up on acreage in a country setting, this is the first real neighborhood I have lived in for any length of time.

At first I was a bit uncomfortable with the close proximity of the other houses. I felt self-conscious as I walked from room to room or spent time in the front yard, like everything I did was on display for all to see. Two things happened over time. I realized, of course, that no one was really bored or interested enough to watch my every single move. But the other, more subtle change that has occurred, is a shift in my perception of the monitoring that does occur. The feeling of being watched has slowly transformed to one of being watched over. Our neighbors care about us and we about them. We keep an eye on one another and the neighborhood as a whole. We offer a hand when we see that one is needed. 

And we share food. As my neighbors have become aware of my aversion to waste, my love of fresh produce, and my proclivity for food-related projects, I have become the happy recipient of surplus fruit in the summer and fall. 

One beloved neighbor, named Marilyn, has lived on our street for the past 56 years! She and her husband, now deceased, planted four Chardonnay grapevines around their patio over 20 years ago. Now the vines are huge and sprawling, covering and cascading over a large wooden arbor that shelters the patio and provides summer shade. The trunks are gnarled and mighty. In 2011, for whatever combination of reasons, the vines produced more grapes than they ever had before. Marilyn hand-delivered bags and boxes of grapes to many neighbors but nothing made a dent. Finally, I decided to take on the task of trying to make wine from the grapes. My previous wine-making experience was limited to 5 small batches of honey wine, or mead, and a 5-gallon batch of Zinfandel made from a Central Coast juice concentrate. But I had the necessary equipment and the prospect of being successful intrigued me. In order not to let all of these lovely Vitis vinifera grapes rot on the vine, it was time to make some wine!

Look for Part 2 soon! It will have photos and more of the nuts and bolts of the process.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Seasonal Sensitivity

Without doing any research into the matter, I pronounced years ago that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. I have noticed it in myself just since moving to our north-facing, winter-shadowed house in Quincy. It also seems to worsen each year that I live here or the older I get, I don't know which. Whether I would be diagnosed with the disorder by a doctor is unknown and I don't have any intention of finding out. In general, I feel that I have a fairly stable disposition that tends toward the optimistic and the happy. I consider myself a happy person. But this is what I notice. In the summer I have a propensity for irrationally exuberance. I seem to have almost endless energy for exercise, new projects, socializing, housekeeping, activities, etc.  I feel excited about each long summer day. In the winter, I am not motivated to go outdoors in the cold weather, the shade and cold that envelope our property are depressing to me, and I sometimes feel paralyzed, as if I am just waiting. Waiting and waiting until the weather warms back up again and real, quality life can resume. 

So, what do you think? Do I have it? I found this quote on Wikipedia:
In the popular culture, sometimes the term "seasonal affective disorder" is applied inaccurately to the normal shift to lower energy levels in winter, leading people to believe they have a physical problem that should be addressed with various therapies or drugs.
I have never considered the possibility of using drugs to feel better. In general, I like to feel all of my feelings, even the uncomfortable ones. I know that some drugs are invaluable to people, but in general, I am anti-prescription drug. Even legal drugs, like alcohol, I believe should not be used to self-medicate. I like the quote, "Never drink to feel better, only to feel even better". 

The more I read about SAD the less I think I would be diagnosed with the disorder. Apparently it is not even considered a stand alone affliction. Instead it is called a "course specifier" and may be applied as an added description to the pattern of major depressive episodes in patients with major depressive disorder or patients with bipolar disorder. Many of the symptoms that are listed, I either do not experience (morning sickness, difficulty concentrating, feeling of hopelessness, tendency to oversleep and eat), or experience only mildly (withdrawal from social activities, carb cravings, pessimism). There is a lesser form of SAD called subsyndromal SAD which may describe my experience more accurately.

I've decided to coin a new phrase for my experience. Rather than refer to myself as someone with subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder which sounds so clinical and unfortunate, I have decided that I, along with many others, are seasonally sensitive. We are mentally healthy folks who are especially sensitive to the seasonal extremes. Apparently there is an established "subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder" rate of about 25% in Alaska! So one in four has a named mental illness! That is the thing about psychiatry, once something is given a name and classified as a malady, people who have those symptoms feel like they fall outside of the norm, that there is something WRONG with them. Well guess what? While certainly there are deviants at the far ends of the spectrum, the vast majority of us fall into the "normal category". I think it is completely normal to be a little bit crazy at times.   

So I will try to respect, if not embrace, my seasonal sensitivity. There are things that I do and can do to ameliorate my winter symptoms. One thing that I have just discovered is the Farm Girl Blog. Writing and sharing make me feel good. I also enjoy planning and taking trips to warmer, sunnier climes. I beg friends to drag me outside in the winter weather to ski, walk, or snowshoe. This year I have begun taking a vitamin D supplement when I remember. Another option, of course, is to move south or, at least, out of the mountains to where the winter weather is milder. At the very least, a sunnier house location is in order.

I have an abusive boyfriend analogy that I use to describe our current home. Never having had an abusive boyfriend, I am only conceptualizing. In the summer our home is seductive. When the days are hot we have a bit of afternoon shade that makes being out of doors pleasant. Our air conditioning consists of leaving the windows open at night and then shutting them in the late morning as the temps start to rise. Our yard backs to the forest so the backyard and patio are private. We string lights and eat our BBQ dinners out there. It sits close to the downtown (but with a stately elevation on it) so we walk to do our errands. I am in love with our home in the summer. It is gentle and kind and beautiful. In the winter it can be bitter and mean. Just across the road there is sun but we are deprived. Old snow remains stubbornly in our yard long after others are barefoot in theirs. It beats me up and spits me out and I am just ready to leave it when.....the first of the tulips begin to color, then come the irises. The lawn turns an invigorating green, the back patio and garden beckon, and the love affair begins anew.

So with my seasonal sensitivity comes a passion for spring and summer and fall that perhaps are a worthwhile trade-off for the winter blues. So as to not neglect food in my examination of seasonal lows and highs, I will share that I took a peach and cherry crisp, that was cooked in our sun oven last July, out of the freezer today. With every bite there is a visceral connection with the sweetness and abundance of summer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant and the Epiphany

I'll always remember my first taste of African Groundnut Stew made from the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. It was in the Fall of 1991. I had purchased the cookbook on a whim from a health food store in Sonora, Ca. that summer. It had been published the previous year. I was a vegetarian at the time and in college. I lived in a 5 bedroom house in McKinleyville, Ca. with 5 or 6 others. My repertoire of vegetarian main dishes was small at that point and slowly expanding. I remember cooking black bean chili and homemade vegetarian spaghetti sauce and lots of veggie stir fries. 

One of my roommates and I chose the groundnut stew recipe out of the first section of the book to try. We gathered the ingredients from the Arcata co-op and made the stew minus the okra and with almond butter instead of peanut butter if I recall correctly. I remember sitting on the floor near our beast of an old wood stove waiting for the concoction in my bowl to cool. Then the first thick, rich, sweet and spicy mouthful! The complexity of the flavor! Its sheer deliciousness! And it was created in our funky communal kitchen. It was a cooking epiphany. I was exhilarated to think that something this hearty, satisfying, healthy, and flavorful; almost exotic, was not only possible, but even easy to achieve. It was a landmark moment in my cooking life and set me on the path to greater curiosity, experimentation, and courage in the kitchen.

Moosewood Restaurant of Ithica, New York was begun in 1973 and still thrives today. It began as, and remains, a collectively owned restaurant run by 18 or 19 cooks. Here is a link to the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook on the restaurants webpage. I just discovered they also have a blog where they post recipes, etc. The collective has now published something like 12 cookbooks. Sundays is a treasure-trove of diverse food possibilities. The book is organized by different regions worldwide. Each segment was tackled by a different cook. There is a section on Armenia, the Caribbean, Chile, China, Finland, Italy, and Southern United States to name a few. Over the years I've tried many recipes and never have been disappointed. But guess which one I have turned to time and time again? Yep, the groundnut stew.

African Groundnut Stew
From book: Always serve groundnut stew on one of the West African starches--rice, millet, or stiff porridge (ugali). And alongside serve any of the following: hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, cubed papaya, sliced bananas, mangos, pineapples, or oranges, grated coconut, whole or crushed peanuts.

2 cups chopped onions
2 T. peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 t. cayenne or other ground dried chiles
1 t. pressed garlic cloves
2 cups chopped red or green cabbage
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup apple or apricot juice
1 t. salt
1 t. grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 chopped tomatoes
1.5 to 2 cups chopped okra (I've never used the okra)
1/2 cup peanut or almond butter

Saute the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and garlic and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and saute, covered, for a few minutes. Mix in the juices, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the okra and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in the nut butter and simmer for a few more minutes. Add more juice or water if the stew is too thick. Serves 6.


Last night I made the Eggplant Marrakech out of the section on North Africa and Northeast African Highlands. I am a huge fan of eggplant and was glad I tried this dish even if I might not return to it again and again like the stew...

Yum, I think I'll go eat the leftovers now!

Friday, January 6, 2012


Limoncello, pronounced Lee-mon-chello, is a lemon infused liqueur of Italian origin. In Italy it is served chilled at the end of the meal. Friends of my parents made their own upon returning from Italy many years ago. They gifted my parents with an Orangina bottle of their elixir. My parents, who have never been hard liquor drinkers, enjoyed tasting it but then passed it on to me. I kept the Orangina bottle in the freezer and drizzled it over ice cream. That was my first experience with it. Then a friend of mine made some a while back and that got me to thinking about it again. A year ago I made my first batch.

Other than a weakness for a good margarita in the summertime, I'm not a hard liquor drinker myself. But I have grown to like an occasional digestivo with desert. I am fond of late harvest zinfandel port with dark chocolate or berry crisps; my spicy orange mead with ginger cookies or spice cake; and in the summertime, limoncello with lemony desserts or with chocolate-dipped or Mexican wedding cookies. 

If you have a source of good lemons and are interested in trying it, it is a super easy project to take on. The ingredients are only lemon zest, liquor, sugar, and water. A bit of patience is required as you wait for the essence of the lemon to be imparted to the liquor. Most recipes you find call for high-octane grain alcohol such as Everclear which is illegal to sell in California. I substitute vodka. I think this makes for a milder tasting final product but because of its much reduced alcohol content, (40% vs. 95%!), it doesn't draw quite as much color or flavor from the lemons. So if you are using vodka I'd say the more zest the better and the longer you can let it sit the better. 

When I was ready to try making my own limoncello I called my friend and asked what kind of vodka I should use. She told me to buy the cheap stuff because it will be completely transformed anyway. For my first batch, as I did with this most recent batch, I went mid-shelf. I am planning to start a third small batch this weekend and I think I am going to try top-shelf and see if I can taste the difference in quality in the final product.

Basic Limoncello Recipe
10 or more lemons
750 ml. vodka or more high octane grain alcohol like Everclear
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
(I doubled this for yesterday's batch)

First you need some beautiful, fresh, unsprayed, unwaxed lemons.....
Then you need to zest them, leaving the pith on the lemon. Some people use a peeler and get much larger pieces but my zester gives me more control. It took me about 45 minutes to do 21 lemons this way.
Put zest into a large glass container. Pour alcohol in. Let sit for 40 days swirling occasionally. Strain out zest. Simmer water and sugar together for a few minutes until well dissolved, let cool, and add to lemon liquor, stirring well. Let sit at least another week in original container or in bottles before drinking. You can bottle your limoncello in any size or shape of bottle with any type of seal (flip-top, screw cap, bottle cap, cork). When made with vodka the limoncello is kept in the refrigerator. If you use Everclear it would probably stay liquid in the freezer.
After zesting, I juiced all of these lovely, fragrant lemons. Some of the juice is in the fridge and some is frozen in containers for future use. Think lemonade in the summer, in hot water when you have a cold, in salad dressing, in lemon curd or bars, to brighten soup, etc.
Making citrus-cello for summer enjoyment is becoming a winter routine. This weekend I will try a 3-citrus-cello with orange, grapefruit, and lemon zest.  Small bottles of limoncello make nice little gifts and tiny chilled glasses of it are a special treat for summer company. 

I will post a link to a pleasant YouTube video I found which shows the basic process of making limoncello. There is an advertisement at the beginning which can be skipped after a few seconds if you like.
3 minute limoncello video to music


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Joys of Travel and Homecoming

After two weeks on the road staying in various places, our family has returned home. I love to travel and I love the way travel memories punctuate the everyday sort of memories of my life. I love to dream about trips, plan trips, be on trips, and also to return home from trips. 

When I was 16 or 17 years old I began saving for and planning a trip to Europe. As high school graduation neared I had saved enough for a round-trip ticket from SFO to Amsterdam, a 3-month Eurail Pass, and $2000 in spending money. For 10 weeks, 18-year-old me traveled through Europe and Morocco either alone or with friends I met along the way. It was a life changing experience in a good way. It built my confidence as an emerging adult, it cemented my life-long (so far!) passion for travel, and it left me with an optimistic view of humanity.

Since our son was born in 2006 our style of travel has changed, at least temporarily. Gone is the complete lack of itinerary and the moving to a new spot almost daily trying to see as much of a state or country as possible. With the added expense and logistics of traveling with three, we have been doing more car trips and vrbos (vacation rentals by owner). We have discovered the joy of going somewhere and staying in just one place for the duration. It is nice to get to know a new town and discover its secrets, to create a mini-routine in a new environment, to settle in a bit.

The trip we just returned from was a vrbo/family-holiday-trip combo. We were searching for warmth and found it all along the way in the form of sunny weather, pleasant temperatures, and kind family members. Food highlights were many and included:

  • Eating fresh seafood in Morro Bay on the central coast of California where we spent 4 nights. Think oyster po-boys, fish tacos, fresh fish and chips....
  • Drinking local Peachy Canyon Incredible Red
  • Making guacamole with local Morro Bay avocados purchased directly from an orchard east of town
  • Making chocolate Christmas mice with my aunt-in-law
  • Finding a big bag of oranges with a "Free! Merry Christmas!" sign on it in front of a lovely home with citrus trees near the Mission in Santa Barbara
  • Our absolutely scrumptious Thai food Christmas Eve Dinner (Meun Fan Thai Cafe, Mesa area) in Santa Barbara
  • Food gifts from family that included: a huge jar of my parents' solar dried tomatoes, another of apples, and one of preserved farm lemons; store bought olive oil, almonds, salsa, dried figs, and agave syrup; and a large bag of perfect Meyer lemons from my in-laws tree.
  • Drinking Zenaida Cellars 2005 Zinfandel
  • John Ash's crab corn bisque made by dad 
  • Breakfast at Howard's Station Cafe (Howard's) in Occidental
  • Sweet fresh Dungeness crab (Seafood Watch Best Choice) for New Year's Eve dinner

Kinda cute, right?

My son found this carrot
in my parents' garden
Sweet west coast winter delicacy
Citrus and dried food bounty upon return home
Lemons ready for limoncello (next post)
Inside the oranges
One of the things I like about returning home from a trip is getting back to my own kitchen where I know where everything is kept and the heft of particular kitchen tools is so familiar. Although I love improvising meal preparation during travels, moving around in my own humble kitchen feels luxurious in its ample, casual, relaxed, natural way.

Here are a few more photos from our trip. We had a wonderful time and are happy to be home beginning an optimistic 2012.
Morro Rock, Morro Bay, Ca
Montagne de Oro State Park
Sunset from the top of Black Hill, Morro Bay, Ca
Enjoy! Happy New Year! Look for a post on making limoncello soon!