Road Trip Napa/Mendocino

We finally took our long overdue second anniversary trip up to Mendocino last weekend. Since I had Friday off, we decided to leave a day early and visit an old friend up in Napa. We hit the road around 10am and arrived in Napa around one. Headed to St. Helena for lunch, a great place called La Condesa. I had the “El Cubico” – Tobacco infused Cazadores Reposado, Vanilla infused Brandy, grilled pineapple juice, Mezcal essence with a saffron infused volcanic salt rim. Boom. Flight of Guac and a couple other items off the menu and we were ready to start the trip back to Napa.

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El Cubico.

Stopped to visit another old friend, Dan Blach, at Hopper Creek Winery. We’ve had so many fun times here over the years, it was nice to be back and Tommy got to experience his first trip to Hopper Creek.

http://www.hoppercreek.com/

IMG_5306Headed back to Nicks house to BBQ, just like old times, famous ribs, Padrone Peppers, and a dip in the pool for Tommy! It was only 112 degrees.

The next morning we headed North to Mendocino, a gorgeous drive on a really hot day. Stopped at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s market to pick up some fruit, change a diaper and get mommy a ginger/lemon/kale concoction that was deelish. Headed out highway 101 to 128 west, passing a ton of wineries and cute little pit stops including Lemon’s Philo Market, your home for everything pickled (YUM!!!). A little on the pricey side but super worth it. Picked up a jar of pickled asparagus for the next bloody mary bar and and a can of caramel sea salt peanuts.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/lemons-philo-market-philo-2

Finally arrived in Mendocino. Cutest town ever, checked into the Mendocino Inn and Garden Suites. Dermot had reserved us a garden suite with a fireplace, such a cute hotel. It was a gorgeous day, we dumped our things in the room and headed out for a stroll. Tommy was on fire (as usual) and mom and dad were craving lunch a great bloody mary. Luckily, we met a cute couple who directed us to Flow restaurant, great view and home of the monster bloody. We shared a crab chowder, enjoyed the view and our little family ūüôā

Headed back to the room for a nap then out to MacCallum House Inn – home of the best Fried Chicken ever. This is a nice four star restaurant and we were planning on having a romantic dinner until Thomas had a level 10 epic melt down. Luckily, he simmered and we were able to keep our reservation in the dining room and celebrate our anniversary in style. They make a great old fashioned and if you don’t find the fried chicken on the menu just ask, they will still make it. At $24 it’s a little pricey, but worth it. The atmosphere is so great and the chicken is to die for – boneless, served with mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, and sweet chili cornbread.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/maccallum-house-inn-mendocino?osq=mccallam+house

Headed back to the hotel room on a cold foggy evening, lit a fire in the fireplace and snuggled up in bed, just the three of us. Perfect, perfect night.

 

The next morning Tommy woke up early so mom let dad sleep in a little (he was up most of the night letting mom sleep while Tommy was fussing in his unfamiliar surroundings). We got dressed and headed out at about 6:45am. The fog was thick – pea soup, the town was so cute and we headed to Moody’s Organic Coffee Bar. What a cute place. Picked up some coffee and AMAZING huckleberry pastries and headed back to the room.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/moodys-organic-coffee-bar-mendocino?osq=coffee+shop

Packed up the car and headed out to walk around the town one more time. We passed the Village Toy Store and since mom is such a giant sucker, Tommy brought home a few souvenirs from the coast, a crab and an otter. Stopped at Tote Fete bakery to grab a bite – mango/chicken quesadilla and “the best” deviled eggs. We got them just to see if they were the “best.” Tote Fete, meet Dutch Goose, Dutch Goose, meet Tote Fete. Tote Fete, go home, you’re drunk.

On to glass beach. This was awesome. I’m glad we went, it was awesome to see, but not really as fabulous as I expected. Still, Tommy loved it. We picked some blackberries and he clung close to daddy because it was a little chilly.¬†

I wanted to stop for seafood in Fort Bragg, but nothing really stood out. Suddenly it hit me, we would be passing Santa Rosa on the way home. Santa Rosa =Russian River Brewery. Russian River Brewery = Pliney the Elder. Pliney the Elder= The best double IPA of ALL TIME. Mommy like. So little did we know that everyone had the same idea. The line was out the door and halfway around the block. Well worth the wait. We put our name in and was told the wait was 35 minutes. We hung out in the bar and 15 minutes later we had a table and we were told that they had the best pizza. Solution. Large pizza = Lunch now, dinner later. DONE and DONE. Pliney the Elder is my favorite double IPA and is sold at about 6 different places on the peninsula. When a case comes in, it lasts about 10 minutes. 4 or 5 Peninsula bars can stock it and the kegs last about 2 hours. Each person can take home 6/20 ounce bottles per visit. Since we had Tommy, we were able to escape with a case and a half. $63 a 12/pk. Needless to say, I was super excited to clear out my refrigerator when we got home! 

 

Aaaaaand I’m back.

Sorry for being MIA, I had a baby, and although I know that’s no excuse for taking a break from my 1950’s housewife obsession, I somehow managed to put myself on bed rest and this little fellow apparently needs a lot of attention. Then, of course, I had my job to tend to…..and my house to clean (remember ladies, no man will marry a woman with dirty baseboards!!!).¬† Anyway, here I am. In a nutshell, I popped out this cute little bean – Thomas Donal Cronin – born 11/11/13 weighing 3lbs, 10 ounces. He was born two months early and spent 9 weeks in the NICU with a few ups and downs. He came home on December 28th and he is the sweetest thing EVER. I¬† am probably going to start transferring his cute photos and videos to my blog…. I can only imagine they are saying on Facebook “if I see one more photo of that kid.. I swear I’m going to punch my computer..” He is our little miracle though and I can’t get enough of him. He is Mr. Personality, and the prefect combo of his mom and dad.

Big chair small man

Anyway, he is eight months old now and sleeping through the night, which means mom is back to cooking real dinners after 7:00pm. Last weekend, I had sweet Chimichurri for the first time. I researched the ingredients, the history, and came up with my own spin on it that was amazing. Some use too much garlic, too much parsley.. and cumin (which I hate). Here is what I came up with:

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1 1/2 bunches of parsley
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of mayo
1/ cup white wine
1/2 lemon wedge (juice of)
2 tablespoon diced red onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tbs of honey
I marinated my chicken in it and steak tonight. It is soo good! Enjoy.

Sunday Morning Strada

ImageI’ve been eating this as long as I can remember and it’s the best.

 

6 slices of sourdough bread

8 eggs

1/2 cup of cream sherry

3 smoked chicken apple sausages

8 slices of American Cheese

Yellow Mustard

1/4 c Butter

Salt & Pepper

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Slice Chicken apple Sausage into small pieces and toss generously in mustard, set aside. Slice bread into cubes and toss in 1/4 cup of melted butter. Spread the bread evenly on the bottom of a buttered/sprayed casserole dish. ( Medium size) 9 x 13 is too big. Spread sausage and mustard mixture over the bread evenly.

Whip eggs with cream sherry and add a few tablespoons of milk is necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture over bread and sausage. Once everything is evenly covered and soaked spread cheese slices evenly over casserole.

ImageCover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover until cheese turns brown and bubbles. Let sit for about 10-20 minutes.

Slow Cooked Pork Chops with Fuji Apples and Red Cabbage

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    • small head red cabbage, core removed and shredded (about 8 cups)
    • 4 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and diced
    • ¬†1/2¬† cup red wine vinegar
    • 2 1/2¬† tablespoons brown sugar
    • ¬†2¬† teaspoons fennel or caraway seeds
    • 1/2¬† teaspoon salt
    • 1/2¬† teaspoon pepper
    • 4 bone-in pork loin chops
    • 2¬† tablespoons cornstarch
Place cabbage and apples in slow cooker. Stir in vinegar, sugar, fennel or caraway seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
 
Place pork chops in slow cooker over cabbage and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 hours or until cabbage is softened.
 
Remove pork from slow cooker and keep warm. Using a ladle, remove 2 tablespoons liquid from slow cooker and place in a small bowl. Whisk cornstarch into liquid in bowl. Clear cabbage aside in slow cooker and whisk cornstarch mixture back into slow cooker. Using tongs, toss thickened liquid with cabbage and stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve with pork immediately.

Hot & Sour Soup

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It took me a while to nail this. . . Most of these items are available at an Asian market – it you don’t have one close to you they might be at Safeway – and I also include substitutions. For veggie/vegan option you can loose the meat, add more tofu and mushrooms and use veggie broth.

Don’t try to double the recipe, it never turns out right…..

5 ounces boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips (2/3 cup)(at Trader Joe’s – you can also use chicken or omit for lowfat)
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce*
4 small Chinese dried black mushrooms* (Shitake’s – you can use fresh)
12 small dried tree ear mushrooms* (Also called Cloud ear’s – only at Asian markets. If you don’t have these sub regular buttons or oysters.)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
12 dried lily buds* (sometimes called golden needles) (only at Asian markets- if you can’t find them use a half handful of Bean sprouts)
1/2 cup canned sliced bamboo shoots*, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-wide strips (from an 8-oz can) (they have these at Safeway)
2 tablespoons red-vinegar )NOT RED WINE
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce*
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 to 4 oz firm tofu (about a quarter of a block), rinsed and drained, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil*
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens
2 tablespoons fresh whole cilantro leaves ( I never use these)Many of my friends don’t like cilantro.

Sometimes I add 2 shredded carrots. Whatever works.

Toss pork with dark soy sauce in a bowl until pork is well coated.

Soak black and tree ear mushrooms in 3 cups boiling-hot water in another bowl (water should cover mushrooms), turning over black mushrooms occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes. (Tree ears will expand significantly.) Cut out and discard stems from black mushrooms, then squeeze excess liquid from caps into bowl and thinly slice caps. Remove tree ears from bowl, reserving liquid, and trim off any hard nubs. If large, cut tree ears into bite-size pieces. Stir together 1/4 cup mushroom-soaking liquid (discard remainder) with cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, soak lily buds in about 1 cup warm water until softened, about 20 minutes, then drain. Trim off tough tips of lily buds. Cut lily buds in half crosswise, then tear each half lengthwise into 2 or 3 shreds.

Cover bamboo shoots with cold water by 2 inches in a small saucepan, then bring just to a boil (to remove bitterness) and drain in a sieve.

Stir together vinegars, light soy sauce, sugar, and salt in another small bowl.

Heat a wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Pour peanut oil down side of wok, then swirl oil, tilting wok to coat sides. Add pork and stir-fry until meat just changes color, about 1 minute, then add black mushrooms, tree ears, lily buds, and bamboo shoots and stir-fry 1 minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil, then add tofu. Return to a boil and add vinegar mixture. Stir cornstarch mixture, then add to broth and return to a boil, stirring. (Liquid will thicken.) Reduce heat to moderate and simmer 1 minute.

Beat eggs with a fork and add a few drops of sesame oil. Add eggs to soup in a thin stream, stirring slowly in one direction with a spoon. Stir in white pepper, then drizzle in remaining sesame oil and divide among 6 to 8 bowls. Sprinkle with scallions and cilantro before serving.

Comfort Food = Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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These stuffed cabbage rolls are my great grandmother’s recipe passed down from my mom but I’ve made a couple adjustments. They are a little labor intensive, however,¬† what I love about them is you can alter the recipe to make them semi sweet or¬† semi savory. I love trying to find the perfect balance, sometimes I toss in some spice. I usually increase the vinegar and substitute whole grain mustard for yellow.

Makes 24 Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 pound of ground pork
  • 1/4 pound of ground veal
  • 3/4 cup cooked long grain rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning
  • 1 large green cabbage, core removed
  • 1/2 cup of apple juice
  • 3 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large (29 oz) can of Tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbs whole grain mustard
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar

Preparation:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef,  pork, cooked rice, egg, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix very well with your hands, or a wooden spoon, until completely combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. My mom taught me to steam the cabbage but I found that a quick boil is so much easier.¬† Carefully lower the head of cabbage into the water. As the cabbage simmers, the leaves will start to loosen and can be pulled off with a pair of tongs. As each cabbage leaf comes loose, remove them one by one from the simmering water, and into a bowl of cold water. Transfer to a layer of paper towels. Alternate 3-4 cabbage leaves with 3-4 paper towels to soak up all the moisture. They will cool while you are working on the meat and the sauce.¬† You’ll need about 16-20 large leaves. Reserve the rest of the cabbage to fill in layers.

When the cabbage leaves are ready, divide the beef and rice mixture into logs. Place the meat at the bottom of the cabbage leaf (where the stem is the thickest) and roll up, folding in the sides as you roll. The rice will expand, so don’t roll too tightly. In saucepan, stir together apple juice, butter, vinegar, Worcestershire, sugars, tomato sauce, mustard and cool.

In a covered dish, cover the bottom with some of the cooled red sauce and any leftover cabbage leaves. Place in 6-10 of the cabbage rolls and 1/2 of the hot tomato mixture. Top this layer and the last 6 rolls, and the rest of the tomato mixture. Cover with any remaining leftover cabbage leaves. If needed, add water or chicken broth so that the cabbage rolls are covered by about an inch of liquid.

Cover and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and use a fork to test one of the rolls to see if the rice is cooked. If it needs more time, add more water, cover, and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. When done, remove, and let rest covered for 30 minutes before serving.

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The Cake Whisperer

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Need a wedding cake? Birthday cake? Cupcake? Cake pop? Greg is Menlo Park’s best kept secret. My wedding cake was insane – Fast forward a year later and Sally is tying the knot.¬† Greg Strikes back with some crazy new flavors for the official wedding cake tasting.

  • Chocolate speckled cake¬† (chocolate shavings) with orange pastry cream filling and mocha butter cream
  • Lemon cake with fresh strawberry filling and¬† a lavender & honey butter cream
  • orange cake with pistachio butter cream
  • Red Velvet cake with cream cheese butter cream

Four rounds of tasting later…. it’s between the last three. We still can’t decide.

Need a cake for your wedding? Contact me for his info.

Bass Lake. Home of the 96’er.

If I can get him to eat the fat and gristle can you throw in some Paul Bunyan hats for the kiddos?

Amazing road trip to Bass Lake this weekend. Who knew this hidden gem was where this epic movie was filmed. I have a new favorite spot. Thirty minutes outside of Yosemite, 1/2 the size of Donner Lake. I want to buy a house here.