31 December 2008

Happy New Year!!!
How and Where are you celebrating?

24 December 2008

One More Time

Do I need to say it again?

Yes, I think I do.

Happy Holidays

21 December 2008


So far, all my birthday presents this year have been hand-crafted. That or cookbooks. Which really amounts to the same thing. Cookbooks just perpetuate the cycle of giving and getting homemade. Here are a few things I got:

A felted birdie by my friend ew. Look at it's cute little hat!!

A beautiful necklace with a rhinestone and pounded metal by Amy Bixby, bought at Venue.

Not pictured presents include a shiny silver necklace with an orange glass bead by Laura Bee; A felted pouch with an A on it, complete with felted bacon, eggs, birthday cake and eggplant made by my friend kw; An apron with blue and green prints of birds by KIM (very needed and very cute); a black clay bowl with red paint on the inside from From The Heart Pottery; a painted calabash bought and made in Saint Martin's; caramel brownies and sweet home-made cards.

I had a great two-day birthday. The first day (birthday eve, shall we say?) my friends at work spoiled me with sweets and presents and lunch. In the evening more friends of mine met me for dinner and a concert. The night was complete with many slips and slides in the snow. As I posted earlier, on my birthday I walked in the snow. It was so fresh and bright and beautiful. My family took me to Divine for dinner. A high class Greek restaurant where every flavor blends perfectly in every dish. We sat in a private room upstairs that felt like someones dining room with big burning candles and window drapes. My mom ordered a rosemary martini-simply sprigs of Rosemary in vodka. It was oily and herby and went well with her roasted lamb. My favorite dish was the salty, savory Arugula-Calamari salad. Mmm. I was grateful that everyone could make it out in this surprising Seattle snow storm.

My cookbook gifts are:

Ina Garten's new Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics and Tom Kime's Street Food. Surely I will be showing you yummy and inspiring foods from both these books in the weeks to come.

'Tis the season for giving, too, n'est-ce pas? This year I've made (with the help of my new choclatier Dad)......drumroll.......plug your ears if you expect to receive a present from me.....Chocolate Bark!!!

Not any old Chocolate Bark, no. I used three different types of chocolate and the chocolate was tempered like you would the couverture of a truffle. It is crispy and crunchy and perfectly shiny! The dark chocolate was a 55% semi-sweet that I added toasted Macadamia nuts and bittersweet chocolate chips to. To the milk chocolate I added dark chocolate nibs and dried cranberries, little crunchy bits of bitter chocolate contrasted the squishy bitter cranberry in texture and complimented it in taste. Of course, with the white chocolate I made the Ole' standby peppermint bark. The most crunchy and seasonal of them all. All chocolates were Calebout. I layered them from dark to light and wrapped them in cellophane with a bow. Simple and decadent, just how it should be.

19 December 2008

December 19

Today is my birthday.

I walked in the snow.

And am going to dinner soon.

09 December 2008

Just Some Mid-Week Inspiration...

...Too keep your wheels turning.

07 December 2008

My Fairy Tales

I just finished this book. Unfortunately, it is not yet available in stores. See, in my line of business, I get to read books before they are published in order to: a) promote them, b) sell them well, and c) support my claim of being "bookish." Granted, I haven't been in this line of business for too long, but even so, I've already started adapting to the determination it requires to reading books before anyone else can.

It might seem unfair to bring up a book that you can't rush out and buy after you read my rave review on it, but don't worry. My plan is to hype it up so much that on January 8th local independent bookstores will be flooded with people pushing each other over as if it were December 24th at 4:00pm and they only have an hour to buy their most beloved that special last minute ill-conceived gift. The fiction buyer won't know what hit her when the ten books she ordered of Tiffany Baker's The Little Giant of Aberdeen County sells out by noon on the 8th of January. Who knew that this first novelist would garner so much regard before anyone in the general population read the book? Who knew?

Well, maybe things wont happen exactly that way. This blog might not have the readership I indulge myself in believing it could have. And, most honestly, I don't think this book is for everyone. It is, however, a great book. I loved it for it's fairy tale aspects. Almost magical realism, without the cultural underpinnings. Mainly, it is a story of a small town with an out-of-place main character. It tackles life and death,self-esteem and self-conception. The biggest reason I attached to the novel was because the last half of the book was centered around herbal remedies and gardening. I loved the reverence Tiffany Baker paid to the beauty of the plant world. For an escape from our high-tech, global age, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is a beautiful folk tale.

If, indeed, I did sell you on this book, please go here or here. Or, to show that there are many independent, non-Amazon/Barnes&Nobles bookstores, which allow you to support your local economy and reward bookstores with dignity*, please stroll by here. Let me know what you think!

*There are many more independent bookstores than you think and most of them can get any book that you want. If you have questions about finding the right place to shop or the benefits of supporting indies, please let me know.

04 December 2008

The Coldest of Winter Nights

My good friend made me stuffed squash. I went to see her new home after work and I came into a warm, softly lit house with food on the stove. As I sat at her cozy counter, we jabbered and she stirred vegetables in the pan. Some time later -after what seemed like no effort on her part- she served me a delicious and filling dinner. She boiled brown rice, caramelized finely chopped onions, celery and carrots, then added mushrooms to that, then sage leaves (which she grew), brown sugar and raisins. It was so simple.

When the rice was done, she poured a portion of it in the pan. When the acorn squash was done, she dolloped the rice stuffing into the bed of the squash. We ate it with some steamed green beans I brought. The sage in the stuffing was potent and nostalgic of traditional Thanksgiving stuffing and the brown sugar added a beautiful sweet taste which went well with the sweet flesh of the squash. The sauteed raisins became plump and they absorbed the oils and salt of the cooked vegetables while holding their sweet raisin taste. We split half of the acorn because it was so filling!

Since then, I've recreated this dish several times. As a variation, I made it into a casserole with feta cheese. I learned later that the recipe came from our good friend's mom, Katy, who recently passed away. That makes the dish even more warm and nurturing. It is hard to put a recipe with this Stuffed Squash because it is so much about instinct and intuition, and I think Katy would have liked it that way. So instead, I'll just give it a name.

Marianna's Mamma's Stuffed Squash
to be eaten on the coldest of winter nights
serves 2-4 depending on appetite

Bake acorn squash. Cook rice. Saute onions, celery, mushrooms. Throw in raisins, sage and brown sugar. Mix in rice and spoon into squash. Eat, listen to Lucinda Williams' Jackson, read a book and warm up.