Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Point Isabel

We've discovered yet another amazing dog heaven in the Bay Area.  This one isn't a beach but IS the country's largest dog park (so we hear).  Point Isabel is technically in Richmond, but is seconds away from Berkeley (where we hopped to afterwards for dinner).  It's right on the Bay and a little inlet is a haven for dogs who love to swim, like the one above.

I didn't get many cute dog pictures this time because the weather got cloudy.  This cute girl was bundled up, since her mom must have known the clouds were a-comin'. 

I just loved the stoic stance of this guy.  I am also a sucker for dogs in bandannas.  Not sure what that's about.
This is probably the biggest dog I have ever seen - a giant St. Bernard named Ruby.  This particularly amused me because Ruby is the obese woman who has her own reality show on Lifetime.  Not that I would ever watch a show like that.  Ruby was one of the sweetest dogs.  Her owners knew what to expect when they brought her here - that she would go from one human to the next waiting to be pet.  Her ears were probably five times the thickness of Maddie's, but just as soft.  I can't say I would ever own a dog this big, but I'd love it if my neighbor had one for me to play with.

On a clearer day you can see the San Francisco skyline in the distance, but we'll have to save that for another time.  The clouds were beautiful and I loved capturing this family enjoying a good afternoon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka is one of my favorite Italian dishes.  Favorite anything dishes I suppose.  I order it at my favorite restaurant (Il Giardino in Virginia Beach) and have been doing so for about a dozen years.  That is dedication!  I love regular marinara sauces too, but the richness and depth of flavor in penna alla vodka is just amazing.  This version is super simple and tastes great.  Next time I might add less cream (because that's how I prefer my version), though 1/4 cup isn't much anyway.

Okay so this looks like a lot of ingredients, but it really is an easy recipe.  You need heavy cream, chicken broth, penne pasta, vodka, olive oil, butter, kosher salt, pepper, crushed tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and basil.

Hello, vodka, we have not been friends since college. 

Heating using a medium flame one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet.  Okay, mine is more medium than large.  I halved the recipe since it was for 2 people, but I'll be discussing the 4 person version here. 

Throw in 2 minced shallots and cook for 3 minutes. 

Add in 2 minced garlic cloves and saute for another minute. 

It's starting to smell good in here!

Add 1 cup of vodka to the pan and stir. 

Allow the vodka to simmer and reduce by half, which takes about 3 minutes.  This is for the best - no drunken noodles. 

Add 1 cup chicken stock.

And then add one 32 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.

Stir to combine, because it looked gross with the tomatoes just sitting there.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  While sauce simmers, cook your penne pasta.

When pasta is ready, add in 1/2 cup heavy cream. 

Stir to combine and watch your sauce turn orange!  When sauce returns to a boil, remove from heat and toss with pasta. 

Serve with fresh basil on top and you'll never look at boring marinara the same way again.  We used whole wheat pasta I think, because clearly that makes this a health food.

Penne Alla Vodka

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 oz)
Kosher salt and pepper
16 oz penne pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter.  Stir in 2 minced shallots and saute for 3 minutes.  Add in 2 minced garlic cloves and cook for another minute.  Add in 1 cup vodka and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken stock and 1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Season with kosher salt and pepper.  While sauce simmers, cook penne pasta.  Stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a simmer, remove from heat. Toss pasta with sauce and top with fresh chopped basil. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Treat

Well what do we have here?  Only one of my favorite holiday traditions!  These delicious cookies were waiting in a package on our doorstep when we returned from our holiday trip to Pennsylvania.  It was perfect, since we no longer had any of the cookies left I had baked.  Don't want to go through cookie withdrawl. 

These delicious waffle cookies are a tradition in my family that has been around much longer than I have.  If I recall correctly, my grandpa's secretary made these for him every Christmas, and my mom and her sister would look forward to them eagerly.  Well now the roles aren't the same - my aunt is the one baking these cookies and I'm the one eagerly awaiting them.  
They are only lightly sweetened have a faint almond flavor.  I would probably make these year-round for myself if I had a waffle iron that could do it (we only have a deep waffle iron).  Today John and I opened our gifts to each other and I had these cookies for breakfast with a big mug of hot cocoa.  What a way to start the day.

I start a new job tomorrow and need to start studying for the California bar exam.  It's going to be a crazy couple of months, but hopefully I'll still have time to blog!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my friends, families, readers, and people who happened upon this blog by mistake.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and that you get two stockings while your husband has one.  Because my husband has two and I have one, which isn't going over so well with me.

Anyone who knows John knows that this ornament is pretty spot on.  ("What a great present, Kathy!")

This one was from my great grandma when I was a little girl.  "Cinderelly, cinderelly..."

This one lights up from the light inserted in the cloud bottom left.  I hope these still in style, because I love them.

Hello, Hershey Kiss elf.  Please get back to work and make me some Kisses.  Thank you.

Apparently back in 1983 when I got this ornament, Santa was in a band.  I think they've since broken up.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

So I'll be honest here, I don't really know how to pronounce latkes.  When I lived with Eve we made them once and I was struggling to say latkes all night.  I eventually stopped calling them anything at all.  Other than delicious.  I love a crispy potato pancake, and this isn't something you see on menus too often - which means you better learn how to make it at home.  And if you can pronouce the name, please let me know.

The main ingredients in latkes are potatoes and a little bit of onion.  You can use russets, but I happend to have some yukon golds on hand and used them instead.  Two small yukons and half an onion or so.

Using a box grater or grater on your food processor, shred your potatoes and onions.  I highly recommend the food processor method.  I am also lazy.

It annoys me that whenever I use the food processor everything clumps up on one side.  I have issues.

It is important to get as much water out of your potatoes and oniions as possible.  Either squeeze with cheesecloth or drain in a collandar and then use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

To a medium bowl add 1/4 cup flour, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Whisk together until fully combined.

Add your drained potatoes and mix together with a fork or something other than a whisk (because the potatoes will just get trapped in the whisk, not that I would know).

The potatoes all get coated, but it isn't soupy at all.

In a large cast iron skillet heat two tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil) over medium high heat.

Drop in globs of batter and flatten with your fork/spoon/whatever to make pancake shapes.  Cook about two minutes per side, waiting until golden brown to flip.

Depending on the heat of your pan it may take more time for them to brown.

Now steal a hot one off of the paper towels where they are draining and dig in to make sure they are edible.  They were.  Oh how they were.

I only put them like this on the plate for the picture, I then devoured them with my hands.  John didn't have any.  Maybe I should keep things like that to myself.

Latkes (Potatoes Pancakes)
From Smitten Kitchen

1 large russet potato or two medium yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled
1 small onion
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

Shred/grate peeled potatoes and onion in a food processor or on a box grater.  Drain in colander or in cheesecloth, squeezing liberally to remove liquid.
In a bowl, whisk 1/4 cup flour, egg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together until a paste forms. Stir in the potato and onion mixture until evenly coated.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable or peanut oil until hot. Drop teaspoons of mixture into the skillet and flatten itno pancakes. Cook over medium-high heat until the edges are golden brown, about 2 minutes and then flip and cook until golden on the bottom. Drain on paper towels.  Add more oil to pan after a few batches.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to Smoke a Turkey

Okay, I really haven't the slightest idea how you would go about smoking a turkey.  

But as far as advice for receiving a smoked turkey in the mail as a gift...

I suggest you get a job as an attorney for a company and hire law firms that are in Tyler, Texas (where Greenberg smoked turkeys hail from).

This cracked me up to no end.  Apparently smoked turkeys are considered "the holiday aristocrat."   By whom I'm not so sure. 

This is what the bird looked like.  The insert said it is most often eaten cold or at room temperature with the skin is discarded.  

We enjoyed the turkey in two ways - by munching on huge slices with our hands and in sandwiches on thick fresh bread and a little bit of mayo.  I was definitely a bit of a skeptic when we got this turkey, but I am officially a convert.  This is probably the moistest turkey I've ever had, and it's full of flavor.  I don't think I'll be buying one for Thanksgiving anytime soon, but it would be perfect for a Christmas brunch or something.  It was so delicious that maybe I'll be the one calling in the "holiday aristocrat" from now on.
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