Hey It's Christmas!

I stumbled upon this great Christmas album at Rockstar Diaries. It has the classics in a new twist.

Also, Unabashedly Prep gives out an amazing collection of new music every month. Just click on the screen shot to download the zip file. This month's features new Adele, Matt & Kim and Jimmy Eat World.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

CJ challenged me to try making some pumpkin recipes from fresh sugar pumpkins we picked up at the store this week, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. So tonight I made Curried Pumpkin Soup. This dish was so rich, with that perfect Indian hint of spice. I added some hot chicken sausage and it just took it over the top. The best part was blending it all up in the food processor (a kitchen nemesis of mine, but we are working on our relationship after one too many pulverized salsas). You can also substitute butternut squash for pumpkin if you have a ton left over (like me). 

I placed the whole pumpkins in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour and the shells were perfectly hard and deep orange. I took a serrated knife to the tops and scooped out the seeds for roasting. After that I was able to scoop out all the orange pumpkin goodness, two pumpkins made about five cups of filling! Bargain considering what a can of pumpkin is going for in the stores. Next time, I will lop off the tops and scoop out the seeds before cooking, because it got messy, I am not going to lie to you. But the shells were hard and perfect for serving the soup.

Here is the finished product with recipe below:

From Epicurious.com, modified by me.

  • 2 hot chicken sausage links
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 (15-oz) cans solid-pack pumpkin (3 1/2 cups; not pie filling)
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk

Cook sausage and onions in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), transferring to a large bowl, and return soup to pot. Keep soup warm over low heat.

Crispy Honey Chicken (or How I Exploded Our Microwave)

Last night I made Crispy Honey Chicken by How Sweet It Is.

This is what it should have looked like:

Instead, mine turned into a stage 5 DISASTER.

First off, I am not so skilled in dredging. By the time I was done dunking the chicken in egg white and dredging the pieces through the cornstarch, the kitchen looked like a crime scene involving paper mache.

Second, when a recipe calls for honey in the title, make sure you have enough. I was trying to stretch a my meager honey supply into 1/3 cup and needed every last drop from the bottle, so I did what my mom always did when she needed to liquefy honey, in put the bottle in the microwave. I pressed start just as CJ was walking through the front door, so I ran downstairs to say hi, completely forgetting the honey.

While we were downstairs we heard this giant "BOOM!" so loud that we both jumped. We ran to upstairs to check out the noise and before I even reached the kitchen, I knew what had happened. I had exploded the bottle of honey all over the inside of the microwave! Apparently, I accidentally pressed "add minute" on the control pad! I opened the microwave door, gasped and shut the door. The mess was unbelievable. Honey dripped in strings from globs all over the ceiling of the microwave and oozed into the corners.CJ asked if he could see the disaster and I said, "No way, you'll make me buy a new microwave. Some things are best left unseen."

CJ nodded, calmly walked to the pantry, reached in and pulled out a big vat of honey. Then he said, "This is almost as much fun as that time you and your mom nearly burnt my house down using pork chops."


I was cleaning honey out of that microwave for an hour.

Am I the only one with dinner disasters like this?

Squash Challenge

I have news.
Ever since I was a kid, I had a deep, unabiding loathing for squash of the orange ilk. 

Maybe because of the color or smell, but most definitely the taste. Sweet vegetables are not my thing. Sweet potatoes? Kill me now, just don't place them in front of me at Thanksgiving. 

But this season, I have been seeing all these great savory butternut squash recipes popping up on my favorite food blogs (especially Mrs. Sweet) and I decided maybe squashes won't be my culinary Achilles Heel (Flaked coconut and eel still bring me to my knees, no budging there). I decided to give non-sweet squash a go.

And with that, you will be shocked! Amazed! Flabbergasted!
I actually took on a squash challenge!
That is right!



And I make a different dish every night. The results are exceptional. I am a new woman, and it's easy to prep on Sunday night in addition to all the veggies I cut up for the week.

This year has seen some development in not only my palate, but also my diet. I learned to cook Indian and Thai recipes and to be a lot more conscious about what I put in my body. I learn the most from my friends. Hally Cooper taught me fish, Laurie taught me pizza, Malissa taught me guacamole, Emily taught me veggies, Cassie taught me passion, my Mom taught me timing and the Pioneer Woman and Jamie Oliver taught me everything else.

What are your new cooking challenges?


“Lately I feel like somebody made a big mess and I’ve got my mop and I’m mopping the floor and the folks who made the mess are there (saying) ‘You’re not mopping fast enough. You’re not mopping the right way. It’s a socialist mop.’”


Barack Obama

San Francisco and Napa Trip - October 2010

We had an amazing whirlwind trip to San Francisco and Napa last weekend.
Here are the photo highlights!
Driving into San Fran over the bay bridge, massive double-decker monstrosity that goes through Treasure Island.

We drove a very winding way through San Fran to make it out to the Golden Gate bridge an onto Muir Woods to visit the redwoods.

I couldn't get over how great the branding and typography were!

The redwood trees were unbelievably giant. I wish the photos did it justice.

Every limb was covered in this great moss.

Below: one of the best photos I have ever taken.

The crack in the bottom of the redwoods were so large that CJ fit in them!

To give you a better idea of how huge these trees were, I was zoomed all the way in for this shot!

Then after buying a mandatory shot glass made out of redwood, we headed back over the golden gate and onto the embarcadero for our Alcatraz tour.

A wonderful view from our ferry looking back at the bay bridge, do you see the pirate ship!?
CJ took all these boat photos, because, well you know me and boats, I didn't want to risk the sea sickness, I am so glad he did though! He has the best eye.

Right on!

The marina district coast line

And San Fran with the piers

Uber creepy Alcatraz

After it closed in 1964, Alcatraz was used as a native american hold out protest spot for 19 months. When restored, the national parks decided to keep the "Indians Welcome" and "Indianland" graffiti as it was an integral part of this islands history that dates back to the civil war. (maybe I took a tour?!)

After a fire in the 1970's, many of the buildings were hollowed out by the elements. Like the officer's hall below.

And the New Industries plant home of a grizzly prison break out attempt.

Corner of the Warden's mansion

Parade yard and former home of now torn down guard homes. All the guard's families lived on the island, many children used this parade yard as a playground and were ferried to school each day.

Huge sign leading into the prison:

Now it's about to get creepy: the jail house.

Maybe CJ wouldn't fit in the cells...


Here is a photo of what they were working with.
3 prisoners escaped in 1963 through that bottom vent under the sink, up the walls between the blocks, onto the roof and out to the bay on raincoat rafts, never to be heard from again. (dun dun dun!)

Now only the really dangerous guys got to go to the "hole" below. Total seclusion and no light unless you open the door.

The library

Administrative offices

Guard uniforms

The Alcatraz garden (former lots for the officers homes that burned down)

Navy lighthouse

Good shot of San Fran's super steep streets!

Interior of the warden's mansion

And back on the ferry!

Did I mention that I twisted my ankle in Muir Woods? I did. So after Alcatraz I was hobbling like a gimp!
Thank goodness for cable cars! CJ was super excited!

And almost getting killed by another! Don't hang out!

We ended up catching some dim sum in China Town and headed back to Oakland for the night.

Next! Napa!
Here are the gardens at Chateau Montelena

Oh, they make wine there too! In fact, they have a movie made about them! Bottle Shock!
They beat the French in the 1975 wine superbowl!

Moving on....tree lined streets!

Gorgeous houses! 

I want to go to there...

Just across the road...the original Robert Mondavi vineyards

And the new hub.

As you can tell, it was RAINING. So we decided to kill some rain time and take a 30 minute tour. Well, on the tour we ran into all the winemakers who were FREAKING OUT about mold and rot. So instead of pacing the day away, they decided to take us on an extended tour through the vineyards.

This summer was cool, rainy and the grapes are still on the vines. They tasted delicious, very sweet!
The view. 

Then they took us into the room where all the magic happens! The smell in here? I can't even describe.
It's magic, grapes, oak, sugar.
Every 10 minutes humidifiers shoot out of the ceiling dousing you with mist.
It's pretty high tech.

 And they just happened to be changing over some wine

And aerating it

The barrels were humongous!

After they are barreled for a bit, they are pressed.

And then individually barreled in French oak barrels.

And the cold cellar for whites!

More Mondavi goodness!
I bought CJ a "cellaring" wine. Basically he can only drink it on special occasions, like engagements.
I am nice and offer incentives like that.

All in all, our tour lasted 2 hours instead of 30 minutes!
Now onto Sequoia Grove, they had a really juicy Syrah, so I bought it.

Then Opus One. $210 a bottle, NO THANK YOU SIR.

CJ laughing over the price.

It was so unbelievable with the architecture and the olive trees!

After that we trudged to our hotel, the Avia!

Hotel room tour!

Basically super uber cool. CJ surprised me with a massage package, so after those, we grabbed some dinner at a local pizzeria and the next day we headed out to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma.
Martin Ray! My favorite! We picked up a Pinot and a really unique Cab here.

Also, how great is their bathroom!?

Next, we drove to Kunde Estates

Hello gorgeous!

They gave me quadruple aged goat cheese, espresso crusted lavender infused Parmesan and triple cream Brie. I died. Also we bought some Zinfandel Port from them. Delightful! Did you know port is made when the grapes get mold on the vine? Well they let them raisin up on the vine, then start the wine process. Very sweet and yummy stuff.

Speaking of desert wine, we went to Hess. Which is know for its wine and art collection.
They had a knockout desert wine. CANDY I tell you! But at $50 a bottle, uh, no.
To get there, we had to cross mountains and drive on some amazing winding roads.
CJ definitely got some driving practice!

After Hess, we packed it in and drove back to Oakland for our flight.
I would highly recommend the trip! The thing that surprised me the most were the caliber of wines tasted.
I was under the impression I would taste some $20 bottles you find at the wine store, but when you pay $20 a taste session, you are actually paying to taste the $35-$200 bottles. And look for coupons on tasting! We got a ton of 1/2 off tasting fee coupons at winecountry.com. So you get to taste wines you would NEVER taste unless you went to the winery.