31 March 2011

Reflecting on Perfect Days…

When recently asked what would make a perfect day for Sam, he responded, “A day game…watching the Padres at PETCO Park!”  (Within days of this discussion, Sam ventured down to said venue to pick up two tickets to opening day!)  When asked for my perfect day, I couldn’t immediately come up with an answer.  After all, there are so many opportunities for a blissful day – I’ve been grateful to have many experiences all over the world, and would call several days ‘perfect’.  For example: a breathtaking solo climb past languorous llamas up the steep slopes of Huayna Picchu; crouching in the undergrowth of the Amazon rainforest to stealthily view a pack of peccaries dashing across the trail just a few feet away; walking across a forgotten footbridge in an Illinois park; watching the ordinary clouds trade places with animal figures on a summer’s day; kayaking in La Jolla Shores/Caves above the spotted backs of Leopard sharks; rolling out of the interior of a plane into the nurturing hands of the sky’s updraft; passing a football back and forth (at the dog park) with Sam while Chauncey euphorically rubs his back and tummy in the grass; watching from backstage as the third graders glow with pride at the conclusion of the Shakespeare Fest performance and India Showcase; sitting on a bed in a chic hotel, painting pottery on towels with Michelle & her daughter, Elizabeth, after a day of shopping and tea-time on the Magnificent Mile…I am filled with gratitude as I am reminded of all of these perfect days, those I did not mention and those that are to come. 

Yet, if I were to fashion a perfect ‘San Diego’ day upon request, it would most assuredly include a visit to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market.  It always includes: lusting over handmade jewelry, Día de los Muertos aprons, wire art and handmade soaps; a visit with Janet at Granny’s Granola; a stop at Peace Pie’s booth with my fingers crossed that they still have at least one delectable slice of their cashew-cheese pizza and coconut milk (straight from the coconut); a custom cookie from The Cravory (red velvet is my absolute fave!); a taste of Sam’s spinach/feta tamale from Gourmet Tamales; coveting fresh pastas and sauces from the Lisko Imports tables; and always concludes with a $3.00 bouquet of fresh flowers from my favorite flower booth.  I’ve included some photos in this entry of many of the aforementioned market-moments.  However, if you happen to have ever visited me in this lovely city, you will have experienced most/all of these treats first hand.  If not, please visit soon – or live variously through this posting!

I would love to hear about your perfect days – please add a comment to this post with your musings as well!

14 March 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Charlotte, the multi-talented Social Committee chair, asked me to make a cupcake creation to accompany the ‘Wizard of Oz’ birthday spread for our Lower School faculty/staff.  My immediate response was, “Of course!!! It’s my favorite film, and I’m such a fan of the Baum books!” Ah, yes…it was only a few moments later that I realized that they would be required at approximately the same time as parent-teacher conferences/conference-note writing and such craziness.  However, I couldn’t pass on this opportunity!  I found a blog posting at Baking Bites for rainbow cupcakes and I just had to try them!  My culinary confidantes, just mixing/pouring these lovely treats was a process.  It took close to an hour to prepare them for baking, and they were overflowing quite a bit!  Muffin tops, muffin tops, muffin tops – oh, my!  Needless to say, they were too moist upon retrieving them from the oven, so I put them in the freezer to firm up just a bit.  Only two were salvageable enough that I felt comfortable serving them to colleagues.  Due to the moisture added from the gel coloring, they were super-duper tasty, but too soft to hold their shape.  If/when I choose to recreate these little darlings again (anyone need LGBT/PRIDE cupcakes?), I shall reduce the amount of oil called for in the recipe, and use only 2t (rather than 1T) per color when layering the batter in each well.  Oh, and silicon liners would be preferred.  In the end, I chose to create chocolate ‘munchkin cupcakes’ and decorated them with white buttercream and a few fondant friends from Oz.  The ‘Accident in Munchkinland’ cupcake (photo to be added soon!) was inspired by another post I found online – so much fun!

06 March 2011

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie…Divine!

Some recipes just beckon to you and whisper, “Reinvent me, I beg of you!  Add your own lil’ flair!”  Mollie Katzen can do no wrong, especially in the sense that her recipes seem to welcome creativity.  Exhibit A: Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie.  I took this recipe from a fellow blogger’s adapted version taken from Mollie’s exceptional book, The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest and added a little bit of my own twist.  My adaptations* are included below.  Please note: this is the most  delectable, comforting, cozy, pajama-friendly feast you may ever enjoy.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Tater Topping (make first):
2 large potatoes
1T butter (or oil)
½c milk
3 large cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
½c minced fresh parsley
Veggie Hash:
1T oil & 1/3c dry red wine*
1½c minced onions
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1t salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1 med. celeriac (celery root), finely minced*
1 lb mushrooms, chopped (prefer Cremini & baby Bellas)*
2 small Mexican squash*
1 medium bell pepper, minced
2t dried basil
½t dried thyme
½t dried oregano
1-1½c soy crumble*
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (leave out to make vegan)
cayenne to taste
Make the Tater Topping:
Peel or scrub the potatoes, and cut them into 1 inch chunks. Cook in plenty of boiling water until soft. Drain and transfer to a medium-large bowl. Add butter, garlic, and milk, and mash well. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and stir in the parsley. Set aside.
Make the Veggie Hash (and assemble the pie):
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Have ready a 2 quart casserole or its equivalent (ex. a 9x13 baking pan).
2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or a Dutch oven. Add the onion, and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to soften.
3. Add garlic, salt, pepper, celery root, mushrooms, squash, and bell pepper. Stir until well combined, cover, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the herbs, stir, and cover again. Cook for about 5 more minutes, or until the squash is perfectly tender. *Deglaze with wine mixture by stirring and scraping up any browned bits.  Let cook until simmering and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
4. Stir in the soy crumble and cheese. Add cayenne to taste. Transfer this mixture to the casserole or baking pan, and spread it out.
5. Spoon and./or spread the mashed potatoes completely over the vegetables. *Rough up the surface of the potatoes so there are bits that will get browned and crunchy.  Dust generously with paprika.
6. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and bubbly around the edges.