Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Project Food Blog

I'm supposed to write a blog entry about why I should be the next food blog star. To be honest, I've been slacking pretty hard on food blogging over the past year, and I'm hoping that entering this contest will be a good way for me to get back into the swing of things.

Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada CasseroleWhen I first started this blog, it was way back in early 2007, and I was a single mom of an extremely picky eight-year-old son. My sister and her family had come to visit, and for dinner we ended up throwing together a bunch of stuff and calling it "Yum Yum Chicken Enchilada Casserole." I figured I'd create an online cookbook of sorts, chronicling my recipe successes and Table for Two was born. About a month later I started dating the man who would later become my husband, and I finally had an appreciative audience for my gastronomical experiments. Once my boyfriend/future husband and his daughter moved in, Table for Two actually became a table for four.

Over time, I started to get frustrated with meal planning - I'd try a new recipe from a cookbook, or come up with something original, and the kids grumbled. If it wasn't pizza or chicken nuggets, they didn't want to have anything to do with it. We decided to have the kids pitch in by making them each cook one dinner per month. We bought a couple of kid-friendly cookbooks, and at first they jumped in wholeheartedly. After cooking once or twice, though, they lost interest and it became just another chore.

The whole familyFor this FoodBuzz-sponsored contest, I plan on getting the kids excited again about cooking by making them the stars of my food blog. I'll chronicle their cooking successes and failures, and by extension, my successes and failures as a teacher. And maybe along the way I'll be able to recapture my enthusiasm for creative cooking, too.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Hubby took a rare Saturday night off, and we headed up to Napa for a mini-getaway. A concert at the newly-refurbished Uptown Theater (Toad the Wet Sprocket, one of our mutual faves), a night at a lovely B&B, and dinner at Michelin-starred Ubuntu restaurant!

If you've never eaten at Ubuntu, let me tell you, it's quite an experience. The dishes are all around $15-20 each, and they're kind of small, but the restaurant encourages sharing. So you end up ordering 4-6 dishes for two people and sharing everything. And believe me, you WILL want to order that much - the food is amazing. Just put yourself in your server's capable hands and order pretty much anything he/she recommends. It's ALL good.

Our dinner began with an amuse-bouche of compressed watermelon with some powdered something on top and (I think) an avocado mousse underneath. I forgot to get a picture of this, but it was...interesting. Loved the watermelon, but the powder on top (kind of curry-ish?) was a little distracting.

First course:

Dinner at Ubuntu
Traditional steamed buns, stuffed w/ burrata and coated with crunchy corn
‘bianco di maggio’ ONIONS, WILD PLUMS, HONG VIT

(No, I don't know why the description of the dishes on their website seems to be randomly capitalized.) This was delicious, if a wee bit bland. I think it could have used a little more texture. Most of it was very soft and pillowy.

Next up:

Dinner at Ubuntu
SAVORY lemon financier, almond, estrella family ‘unnamed cow’
‘rossa Bianca’ eggplant mosaic, SUCCULENTS, BLACKBERRIES, ras el hanout

This was the very best dish of the night, in my opinion. That cheese was fantastic. If you were to eat just one thing on the plate, then something else, it might seem odd, but when you got a little bit of everything in one bite, it was like heaven. And the greens on each dish were absolutely integral. Make sure you eat the greens!

Dinner at Ubuntu
rustic rancho gordo ‘yellow eye’ bean stew (v)
ROSEMARY, CHILI, smoked ‘red russian’ KALE

This was a delicious cassoulet-like stew. It doesn't photograph well, but there were some crunchy crouton-type things on the top and it offered an excellent textural counterpoint to the smoky bean stew (seriously, how did they get that flavor without bacon??).

Dinner at Ubuntu
‘riverdog farms’ potatoes, CUCUMBERS, roasted/raw/emulsion/ash
“ticklish” CUCUMBER, horseradish, FICOIDE GLACIALE

Ash? Yeah, that's what I thought too. But this didn't taste ashy at all - it was very fresh and delicious. Those light green things are the little cucumbers. The glaciale was a succulent plant that had purple, ruffly edges and looked almost as if it had been crystallized. It was crisp and fresh and yummy.

Our final dish was:

charred ‘purplette’ ONIONS and TOP condimento, brioche, burnt with love
roast ‘turkey’ FIGS, their pulp, crudo and kimchi, garnet ‘AMARANTH’

I'm so sorry I forgot to take a picture of this one, but it was scrumptious. I'm not usually a fig person, but hubby is, and the server highly recommended it, so I was willing to give it a try. I'm so glad I did, because the savory-sweet-salty balance was perfect.

Overall, it was an amazing dinner, and I'm so glad that we were able to have that experience. I'd highly recommend it to anyone - vegetarian or meat eaters.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cinnamon Pain Perdu

I made this for my in-laws for brunch this morning, and it was a big hit. Could easily pass for a dessert, also.

Cinnamon Pain Perdu
1 loaf Greenlee's Best Cinnamon Bread
6 eggs
1 c 1% milk*
½ c half and half*
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
Nonstick cooking spray

For serving:

2 ½ c sliced strawberries
¼ c powdered sugar

* Or just use 1 ½ cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray one large baking dish (or two small/medium baking dishes) with cooking spray. Layer in the slices of bread, overlapping slightly. In a bowl or very large measuring cup, combine the eggs, milk, half and half, salt, vanilla and Grand Marnier. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and let it soak up for about 5-10 minutes (press down on the bread a little to make sure every bit of it soaks up some of the custard). Top with sliced almonds, and bake for 40 minutes, or until the pain perdu is slightly puffed and golden brown, and there are no soggy bits.

Cut into 10 pieces, and serve each slice with a little sifted powdered sugar and some sliced strawberries.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sweet Relief

I've been having tooth pain for a while now (a few months, at least). My dentist put a crown on a cracked molar few weeks ago, and we hoped that it would solve the problem, but unfortunately, it didn't. So I finally went in to see a specialist yesterday to determine if I was going to need the dreaded root canal...and, surprise! The problem is not in the cracked-and-crowned molar, it's in the tooth right next to it. I'm clenching & grinding my teeth at night, which is causing that last molar to be very sensitive. He said there's no cracks or other problems that he could see, and that if I faithfully wear my recently-purchased night guard, and avoid chewing on that side, it should go away on its own in about two weeks.

I was sure I was headed for a root canal, so this is a WONDERFUL (and blessedly cheap) reprieve.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I hate Botox

What the heck is it with all the over-30 actresses? Why do they ALL get Botox? It just makes them look angry and mean. I can tell immediately when someone's had too much Botox because their eyebrows get that very distinctive look - way too widespread, and pointy and evil. Ugh. STOP IT.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Substitute

Last night's episode of LOST totally made up for last week's horrible waste-of-time Kate-centric episode. The Substitute was full of awesome Locke stuff, and Flocke, or Un-Locke, or the Locke-ness Monster, or whatever you want to call him. And LOTS of answers!

But some serious questions cropped up for me too, like: why isn't Kate's name on the ceiling list of "candidates"? She was touched by Jacob at a young age, and certainly was brought to the island for some purpose. Loads of other people were up there, including [Danielle or Alex] Rousseau, [Boone] Carlyle, [Shannon] Rutherford, [Claire or Aaron] Littleton, etc, etc. Why not Kate? Or if Kate is up there, what's her number? And which Kwon was listed? Sun or Jin?

Who the heck was that crazy blond kid? Some theories: young Jacob, young Sawyer, future Aaron -- or someone completely different? And why could Sawyer see the boy but not Richard Alpert? (Maybe because Sawyer is a "candidate"?) Still dying to know what Richard's role is in all this -- apparently he's never been a "candidate" either. Maybe Kate will be the new Richard; never aging, always bringing instructions but never knowing what the hell is actually going on.

Anyway. Lots to chew on...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Easy Chilaquiles

This couldn't be quicker or tastier! Great for a chilly night when you're craving some Mexican flavors, because this is even faster than takeout.

Easy Chilaquiles
2 Tbsp EVOO
3 minced cloves garlic
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes with puree
2 minced chipotle chiles in adobo, plus 1 Tbsp of the adobo
1 cup water
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 cooked boneless/skinless chicken breasts, shredded*
4 cups tortilla chips
salt & pepper
fresh cilantro leaves, sour cream, and/or cheese, for serving (all optional)

Add the olive oil and minced garlic to a 3-4 qt pot and cook over medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle a little and becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes, chipotles, adobo, water, cumin and coriander. Season well with salt & pepper. Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer and let it cook for 6-8 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened and the flavors have all combined. Add in the shredded chicken and heat through.

In each of four bowls, put a handful of tortilla chips, then ladle the sauce and chicken on top. Top with cilantro leaves, sour cream, and cheese if desired (I used queso fresco, a mild Mexican cheese, but you could just use shredded cheddar or jack cheese).

* If I'm really in a rush, I'll just grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and shred the meat off of it, but this time I made chicken stock with a six-pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (they were on sale!). This way I have cooked, shredded meat for easy meals throughout the week, and homemade low-sodium chicken stock.

Chicken Stock
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 carrots, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, scrubbed & cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 sprigs of thyme leaves
3-4 sprigs of fresh parsley
3 quarts of cold water
1 Tbsp salt

Put everything into a big ol' stockpot and bring to a full boil. Turn the heat down a bit and cook at a low boil, uncovered, for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Remove the chicken breasts and shred them for future use. Strain the rest of the stock through a colander into a large bowl, and then put in plastic containers to store in the freezer. Makes about 6 cups of stock. (Yes, you read that right -- you lose half the volume of your liquid during the process!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spring already?

I had my first allergy attack of the season today. It's only the first week in February, can't we at least wait a few more weeks? And it was a baaaaad attack, it was a Benadryl + 3 ibuprofen + 3 hour nap attack.

Guess it's time to start up the allergy medication. It's going to be a long, bad hay fever season.

Oh, and also? I have a cracked tooth and I need a crown. Turns out all those silver fillings our dentists gave us for years eventually expand and crack your teeth. So in another couple of weeks I get to go back in to the dentist (ack!) and get a crown to hold my poor tooth from splitting any further. And if that doesn't solve the pain I've been having (because the tooth may have cracked all the way to the root), I will have to have oral surgery to remove the nerve! Ouch!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


If you haven't heard about the Sleep Talkin' Man blog, you must be living in a cave somewhere. It was even on the Today Show last week! Seriously, go check it out, the guy is absolutely insane when he's asleep.

"Butt cheeks ahoy!"

I don't get it

What is the big deal with the Apple iPad? It just seems to be a bigger iTouch. It doesn't even seem to run regular programs (you know, desktop applications, like MS Office or whatever the Mac equivalent is), so why would you get this to replace your laptop? I can see buying it for the color e-book factor, if that's your thing, but otherwise I don't see the point.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The beginning of the year is a time of renewal for me - even more than the start of the school year. Fall is great because the "normal" routine resumes, but you're heading into the holiday season soon, and the start of the school year is always a busy time. So when the new year rolls around and the holidays are over, I start thinking about household projects.

This year, we are redecorating Rugrat's room and re-landscaping the front yard. Those things were actually planned several months ago, and we are plugging along at that.

We're moving the old furniture out of Rugrat's room (a very nice bunk bed/desk/dresser combination that I bought when he turned two) and replacing it with a drawing/drafting table, a new bed, and a bedside table. He decided that since he hangs up most of his clothing, he'd prefer a drawing table to a new dresser, and he's using the elfa drawer system and some underbed storage for the remainder of his clothes (pajamas, shorts, underwear & socks). We're planning to stain the new IKEA bed frame black, and paint his walls in two shades of slate blue. The curtains will also be replaced, with new black & white curtains. I bought him a new duvet cover & sham set at IKEA as well - a very Nightmare Before Christmas-ish black and white print. He's got new lamps and a task chair too (all in black).

The front yard is Mr Wonderful's big project, and I know he's looking forward to some warmer weather so he can start on the changes.

This year we also decided to upgrade our living room a bit, as an early anniversary present. It started with a new big screen tv, and progressed on to an upgraded sound system, since the old one wasn't compatible. Then we decided we needed a new entertainment center, because the old one is far too tall, but the TV won't fit inside it - so we ordered a new tv stand that will be the perfect size, and looks a bit more modern, with a nice dark stain on the wood. Now we just need a great storage ottoman for the living room, and we'll be all set. (Well, that and a universal remote, because four remotes is just way too many to have to wrangle.)

Pictures will be up once we get the projects finished! What are your big projects going to be this year?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Birthday Risotto

I made this a few weeks ago, and Rugrat liked it so much he asked for seconds! And when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner this year, this is what he chose. :) Risotto only seems difficult if you've never made it before. And this version is fancy enough to serve at a dinner party (although maybe I'd use fresh asparagus instead of frozen peas, in that case).

Birthday Risotto
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 c arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine
4-5 c chicken stock
1 c tiny bay shrimp
3/4 c frozen peas
1 c shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp white truffle oil
salt & pepper

Put the chicken stock in a pot over medium-high heat until it's simmering, then reduce temperature to maintain a simmer. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion, season with salt & pepper, and saute for about 7-8 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the rice, stirring to coat all the grains in the oil/butter, and turn the heat down just a smidge, to medium-low. After a minute or so, add the wine. When the wine is nearly all absorbed, add 1/2 - 1 cup of the simmering chicken stock. Stir frequently, until the chicken stock is nearly all absorbed. You'll know it's time to add more stock when you run your spoon along the bottom of the pan and you can see the bottom of the pan for a split second before the liquid rolls back over it. Keep adding stock, about a cup at a time, stirring frequently, until you've got about a cup of stock left in your pot. Taste the rice, and if it is still very raw, you'll want to add a bit more chicken stock to your simmering pot, because one more cup won't be enough. It takes me about 25-30 minutes to cook the rice. (One more way to tell if your rice is almost done: it starts absorbing the liquid MUCH slower -- your last addition of stock seems to take forever to absorb.) When the rice is al dente, throw in the shrimp & frozen peas. Let the risotto get hot again, turn off the heat, and then add your parmesan cheese. Finish with a drizzle of the white truffle oil.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prop 8 Trial

While I am disappointed that the Supreme Court refused to allow the Prop 8 trial in SF to be videotaped and uploaded to YouTube, I am able to keep updated by checking in on the Prop8trial Twitter feed list. There are several people who are live-tweeting the trial and anniekate76 has made a list of some of them.

Best Gmail tip ever

I generally import all of my Gmail into my Outlook and read it there, but doing that leaves the messages "unread" on the Gmail server (which is especially annoying when I check mail on my iPhone). So, I periodically go into Gmail and clean it all up - labeling various messages, deleting junk, and marking messages "read". But it means that I have to scroll through pages and pages of mail, since some of it is already marked "read" due to various filters I've set up. I finally found a great trick to use to pull up just those messages that I need to address: in the text field above the mailbox, enter "is:unread" and click the Search Mail button. This will bring up only those "unread" emails.