Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

We like to sing a little song in our house entitled "Mean Mommy."  It goes along to the tune of "My Buddy" or "Kid Sister" if you are familiar with those commercials form the eighties.

Mean Mommy
Mean Mommy
Wherever I go
She's gonna go
Mean Mommy
Mean Mommy
Mean Mommy and meeeeeee!

I usually break into this tune after I take away something Harper is very much enjoying.  Usually a toy she is destroying or on the brink of destroying or maybe her antler chew toy.  I usually try to replace what she was chewing on with something else, but I will be admit it doesn't really fill the void.

Luckily for Harper, now that I have a box of pumpkin dog biscuits in the fridge, what I'm most likely to replace her toy with is a homemade treat.

Granted, Mean Mommy doesn't just hand out treats for no reason.  So I hide it within a toy within a toy so she has to work to get it out.  That's Mean Mommy for you.

These are great treats for dogs (not humans - I tasted the batter and ick) - they love them and they actually have some healthy nutrients too.  Pumpkin is full of vitamin A and helps dogs who have upset tummies.  Cinnamon and molasses are high in nutrients too, surprisingly enough.  But really it's just fun to bake something for my favorite pup and watch her enjoy it.  Having a Mean Mommy has its perks sometimes.

Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
From The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook

1 c. oat flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1 c. pumpkin (canned or fresh)
2 tablepoons molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients and mix until a cohesive dough forms.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters to cut into shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  The cookies can be placed very close together, as they do not spread.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Five Things

We don't have the heat on in our house yet, but I officially turned off the air conditioning.  The heated blankets remain in storage, but I have been snuggling with the cashmere blanket quite a bit.  I might not be wearing socks to bed yet, but I have pulled out my long pants.  Baby steps into fall, people.

Brussels sprouts are such a great fall vegetable.  We've loved them roasted for awhile now, but I recently discovered how good they taste raw and chopped into a salad.  They are essentially mini cabbages, so it's similar to the cabbage flavor in cole slaw.  Delicious!

If not for the bone cookie cutter, you might think these pumpkin cookies are for humans.  I promise to share the recipe soon for Harper's favorite new biscuits!  We had fun this week making them together.

David Tanis just left his post as chef at Chez Panisse to become a writer for the New York Times dining section.  I'm excited to delve into his cookbook and to read his work at the Times.  From what I hear, the book is full of earthy and flavorful recipes.

I think the real reason everyone was upset about the iPhone 4S not looking different than the iPhone 4 was because we all wanted to show off that we had the new one.  Well, I have the new one, and I have to post about it on my blog or else no one would know.  My new favorite discovery is not Siri but realizing I can watch Grey's Anatomy reruns on Netflix while at the gym.  This is life changing, people.

I wish I could tell you the name of these grapes, I really do.  The vendor at the farmers market said they were "crispin grapes" (or something).  I tried to Google it, and it appears that isn't a real type of grape.  These are my new favorites because they are as crisp as an apple (all week, according to the vendor, but mine didn't last that long) and full of flavor.  No one likes biting into a sad, mushy grape.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Simple Carrot Salad

I'm sorry, did you think this was a food blog?  I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked lately what with all the Paris business going on here and then some sort of pumpkin nonsense.  We are now back to our regularly scheduled blogging - meaning, less exciting things than gay Paris and pumpkin patches.

This salad may not be "exciting" but it sure is delicious.  THe recipe perfectly epitomizes Alice Waters cooking and "The Art of Simple Food."  Just grated carrots, a vinaigrette and parsley.  Simple, but perfect.  

This recipe calls for real grated carrots, not carrots grated in your food processor.  This is for the benefit for the maker and the eater.  As far as the eater goes, the thinner, irregular shaped carrots have a better texture, and the dressing adheres to them better.  As far as salad making goes, I can promise you that using a food processor involves about zero fun.  Alice Waters is keen on doing things manually, and I'm learning to love it. Cheesy, I know, but with a pound of carrots, it doesn't take much longer to grate it by hand than to set up the food processor.

Alice Waters said in the cookbook that her daughter always loved this salad and she would  make a small version for her daughter's lunches, changing up the cuts (grated, julienne, or curls from a peeler).  Don't you want your friends and family to eat like Alice Waters' daughter?

I sure as hell do.

Simple Carrot Salad
From Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

1 pound of carrots, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Peel and grate one pound of carrots.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, kosher salt, and fresh-ground black pepper.  Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil and taste for salt and pepper.  Toss the dressing with the carrots and stir in 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.  Let the salad stand for 10 minutes, and re-taste for flavor.  Add lemon juice, salt, or pepper as needed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Patching

Our neighbors across the street put quite the menagerie of pumpkins on their porch that John and I have been admiring all week.  Well, admiring, and plotting against.  

Not just any pumpkins would do for our rival porch display - we needed some of all shapes and colors.  There's no better place to get pumpkins than Farmer John's in Half Moon Bay.  

This was our third year in a row going to Farmer John's - and Harper's first trip.

Harper's favorite part was probably all the hay that she tried very hard to snack on.  We told her "hay is for horses," but she was unmoved.

The strange thing about the whole day, is that we are having an Indian summer at the moment, and it was a high of 85 today.  Kinda odd to be picking pumpkins in such heat, but I'm not one to turn down warm weather!

Farmer John said that last year they had three rainy Sundays (in their short one-month season) and they almost went out of business.  I think the farm essentially needs to make enough money in the month of October to last the entire year.  Talk about a stressful month.

We are always happy to support this great farm, though.

Especially a farm that provides us such ridiculous photo-taking opportunities as this.

Look closely and you can spot Harper in the wagon.  She is a good sport.

Happy 80-degree fall to everyone.  I wish you bath tubs full of gourds...

And wagons full of purchases.  Purchases beautiful enough to rival any neighbor's. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Five Things from Paris

I promise this is the last post about Paris, guys.  Since I went into detail about the stores and shopping areas, I figured it would make sense to share what I picked up in all these wonderful places.  I can't, unfortunately, tell you everything I bought in Paris, since most of the items are being handed out as gifts at some point.  I mostly just bought things at random the whole trip - not knowing if we would keep them or if I would give them away.  Then when we got home and unpacked all the goodies I started sorting everything on the top of the dresser.  It seemed like an insane amount of stuff when we were in Paris, but when we got home I wished I had bought more.  More jam.  More tea towels.  More whisks.  You name it.  I guess this loot will have to do until next time.

Above - some fragrant floral green tea from a killer tea shop that I highly recommend.  Tea is huge in Paris (which surprised us both), and Mariage Freres is the tea shop to end all tea shops.  This wonderful loose-leaf tea even comes with some tea bags to fill yourself.  A nice touch.

Orangettes were everywhere in Paris, and this version with milk chocolate was calling to me (as my mom would say).

There was one thing I went to Paris with the intention of buying:  Madeliene pans.  Preferably from E. Dehilleron.  I picked up two, in fact, and I can't wait to try them.  I also bought a big whisk for good measure.

At Shakespeare and Company I was eager to pick up a book as a souvenir.  What better kind of book to buy than a book on French cooking?  I've been dying to get an Elizabeth David cookbook after learning she is one of Alice Waters' favorites.

I fell in love with this modern tea towel that we bought when walking around Marais.  Tea towels are sold all over Paris, but this was the only one I saw with a modern twist.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recommendations for Paris

I'm not an expert on Paris, but while the trip is fresh in my brain, I thought it might make sense to distill the trip for everyone and provide recommendations from our experience.

1.  Try to find a hotel in a fairly central location.  If you do this, most things in Paris are walkable, which allows you to explore even more of the city.

2.  While I loved walking around Paris, our feet would usually start protesting 3/4 through the day.  As a result, I definitely recommend walking away from your hotel all day and then just taking the Metro back.  The Paris Metro is phenomenal and easy to use.  There are stops virtually everywhere.

3.  Everyone is obsessed with buying the Museum Pass, but we skipped it.  We were there for a week and unless we wanted to do all our museum-pass heavy things in a short period, it just didn't make sense for us.  We didn't necessarily want to see every museum in Paris, and planned our trip around more casual events.  Try to figure out how you want to spend your vacation before you necessarily buy the Museum Pass.

4.  Speaking of museums, the Louvre is the most famous, and also the most heinous.  You might need to go because you are in Paris, but it will likely be overcrowded and very hot in some rooms (it was hotter in the Louvre than outside for us).  Maybe go in, see the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory and call it a day unless you are very interested in more ancient art.

5.  The Musee d'Orsay is a much more manageable museum than the Louvre, and can be strolled in a couple of hours.  It houses a lot more popular artists to modern crowds - Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, etc. - so it can be a lot more enjoyable.  It was crowded but nothing like the Louvre.

6.  Go to the Rodin Garden on a nice day.  The line at this museum is little to nonexistent, and seeing the garden only costs 1 euro.  The garden has a lot of Rodin's highlights and it is a beautiful setting to relax on a bench in between other activities.

7.  The Arc de Triomphe is an underrated place.  Of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, this is the easiest place to get a view because the line is very short.  Notre Dame and the Arc both require hundreds of stairs, however, so make sure you consider whether you are up for that.  (We were panting by the end but didn't need to take any breaks.)

8.  Definitely do the Eiffel Tower, but make sure when you go you purchase tickets in advance for a particular entry time.  The line will otherwise be one or two hours, which is fairly unbearable.  You should go to the second platform at least, since that is where the best views are.  If you are up for it, there is almost no line to walk to the second platform instead of taking the elevator.

9.  The Champ de Mars park in front of the Eifffel Tower is the perfect place for a picnic.  Pick up your picnic supplies on the nearby Rue Cler (in between Rue de Grenelle and Av. de la Motte Piquet) and stroll over to the park.  Make sure you find a bench facing the Tower.

10.  If you are of the food-obsessed persuasion, like me, I definitely recommend visiting E. Dehilleron (old-fashioned cookware store shopped at by Julia Child and Ina Garten) and Hediard (fine ingredient store selling teas, spices, chocolates, and more).  Patrick Roger was our favorite chocolate shop.

11.  Try to walk around as many neighborhoods as possible - ideally on the less touristy streets.  We especially loved Marais and the Left Bank.  (Be sure to visit Place de Vosges if you go to Marais.)

12.  The books we used and relied upon heavily were Rick Steves' Guide to Paris and Hungry for Paris.  Rick Steves' book has walking tours of many museums and sites, and also has walking tours of some of the exceptional neighborhoods in Paris.  I highly recommend this book and carried it with us everywhere.  All the restaurants we visited from Hungry for Paris were exceptional - much better than the random lunch spots we popped into.  If you are interested in planning out your meals in Paris and going to restaurants with a purpose, this book is perfect.  (We actually didn't get a reservation until we got there, and once we did we relied upon our concierge to make them for us at the restaurants I picked out.  We couldn't get into some of my choices, but we got into most.)

13.  Last but not least, here is my map of Paris, with a detailed key of all the color-coding up top.  I will try to update it sometime to put my personal notes in there now that we've visited everything.  (HFP = Hungry for Paris and DL = David Lebovitz.)

I hope you have the opportunity to go to Paris soon.  And if you have any recommendations for how I can manage to move there, I'm all ears.
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