List #21

Things I Love About Fall

In Los Angeles

  • Rain.  We don’t get much, so it’s precious when it does happen.
  • The way people bundle up when it’s only 50 degrees out.  As if they even KNOW what cold is…HA!
  • Drinking warm drinks.  I almost never want to drink warm drinks.  Something about it does not agree with my (Pitta) body, so I generally opt for my froo-froo drinks over ice and then I actually drink them!  It’s also difficult to drink a hot drink in very cold climates (like Chicago) because it’s too cold to even take your hand out of the glove to hold the cup!  Here in LA, it’s not too cold, and drinking warm drinks actually feels good.
  • Wearing puffy vests.  I had always wanted a puffy vest, but in Chicago, it seemed ridiculous to wear one!  If I needed to be warm, I needed ALL of me to be warm- even my arms.  But here in LA, it usually perfect vest weather, so I bought one and love it!  It’s white, so I look like a marshmallow, but I don’t care.
  • Thanksgiving at Annie’s.  Annie hosts Orphan Thanksgiving and has about 20 people over to celebrate.  We are all out of towners and come together to create family.  It’s nice.  We all bring a dish and play ladder ball, and then a few rounds of Mafia in which there is too much yelling, but it’s fun all the same.  We all take turns talking or skyping with our families back home and then go around the table to say what we are grateful for.  Here are two recipes I like a lot:  Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry Sauce
  • Knowing that Christmas is coming and I’ll get to see my real family soon!  Being back in my beloved home state, seeing snow and hugging my family is so fantastic.  The fall weather lets my body know that those hugs are coming soon…soon.

In Chicago

  • The Smell!  There is just something so amazing about the way the air smells in the fall in Chicago.  Sometimes it’s leaves burning and I almost hyperventilate trying to take it all in because I love it so much.  Sometimes it’s just crisp air.  Whatever it is, it makes me feel so good inside.
  • The feeling of ducking into a warm bar when you’ve been in the chilly air. Followed by a cider or a beer- can’t beat it!
  • Watching holiday decorations go up on Michigan Ave.  Nuff said.
  • Crunching on leaves. The trees on Paulina Ave would turn amazing colors.  One tree I loved looked like it was set on fire- the bottom would be orange and it the top was red.
  • Cooking with squash. There is an abundance of squash in the Midwest this time of year, and I used to be annoyed that it was all we could get, but being in LA, it’s hard to find good squash!  They are so tiny here…
  • The fall progressive dinner.  When I first moved to the city, I got a job at a study abroad organization called IES.  I made some amazing friends there and after a time, many of us ended up living within a mile of one another (except Joe who is a Northist).  I came up with the idea of doing a Progressive Dinner whereby we each picked a course and we’d move from apartment to apartment eating and drinking.  Ryan would carry a boom box (aka: bucket) and we usually ended up at Dan and Daniella’s for dessert by the fire pit.  We eventually had so many people on the route that every other stop was a “drink” stop.  The fall progressive was my favorite because it was fun to bundle up, tromp through streets with travel cups filled with Peppermint Paddies, and arrive at the next house where we would peel off our jackets, scarves and hats to enjoy another amazing, warm dish.  I treasure those times and feel so grateful to those buddies.

November 12, 2011. 52 lists, 52 weeks, family, Food, LA, Recipes. 1 comment.

List #7

This weeks list is “Things To Do On A Rainy Day.”

Being in SoCal means that rain storms rarely happen and become a treat when they do.  People from home think I am crazy, and I thought the same of SoCal friends before I moved here, but I truly do miss them.  We don’t get big lightening or thunder here, and that is sad.  Some of my favorite days in Chicago were waking up, realizing it’s raining, cracking the window, and grabbing my book.  Buck and I would read, doze, get up for food, bring it back to bed and continue reading and dozing through the day.  When we were in college and a good storm would come our way, we’d jump in the car and drive out to the cornfields to watch it roll in.  The lightening scared me, but it was so beautiful to watch.

So, this list topic is a fun one for me, although I kept it short because there really are limited things I do when it’s rainy- mostly because I cherish it so much and try not to fill up my day DOING things.  It’s an excuse to NOT do, and I love that.

Read in bed.  A novel is great, but anything will do.

Catch up on podcasts.  My favorites are: This American Life, The Story, Radio Lab, and The Moth.

Sew.   Sew Mama Sew usually has fun, easy patterns in a pinch!

Take Multiple Mid Day Naps.  There is nothing as nice as being under a down comforter with the windows cracked, a slight chill coming through, and the sound and smell of rain taking over your sense.  Bliss.

Snuggle.  A loved one is great to snuggle with, but I also hear babies and dogs are fun.  I’ve even snuggled a pillow and been pretty happy.

Storm Chase. Only really fun if you are in a rural area and are safe.  Getting picked up by a tornado is not something I am endorsing.

Bake.  Here are some of my faves:  Vegan Chocolate Fudge Muffins, Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache, Peanut Butter Cups.  I bake and cook vegan and these recipes are awesome!  The PB cupcakes are best if you keep them in the freezer!

Lament not buying cute rain boots.  In December, SoCal got something like 10 inches of rain and it was BRUTAL.  I was doing work at a theatre at the time and on the 4th day of constant rain, I HAD to leave the house to go to the theatre and thought my tennis shoes would be fine.  No.  Wrong.  BAD choice.  I was SOAKED within 2 minutes of being outside, with no time to turn around to change- not that I had anything to change into because I never think I will need rain boots, so I never buy any!  Having sopping wet feet is a terrible feeling, and I will not turn away from rain boots next time I see them.  But seriously, why are cute ones so expensive?

Get a hot coffee treat.  Coffee treat to me means something with chocolate and whip cream and maybe chocolate sprinkles on top.  Rainy days are the very best time to get those.

Next week I will be a guest blogger over at Get the Words Out for list #8!

List #7

July 17, 2011. 52 lists, 52 weeks, Baking, Crafts, Food, Recipes. Leave a comment.

Food I Do

One of the things I really love to do is cook. My favorite section in the bookstore (RIP Borders) is the cookbook section and although I am selective about the ones I actually buy, I have a deep affection for all 14 of them. The one I am lovin’ on lately is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberk and Zoe Francois.

I got this book for my dear friend, MPM, because he bakes bread multiple times a week. MPM is an amazing guy. He is one of those dudes that decides he wants to try something new, and then does it to the MAX! In college he became a killer bartender, but doesn’t drink a drip of alcohol himself. He became a ninja and a dad and is a truly great friend.

So, I gave this book to MPM and then forgot about it and when I was back in Chicago over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husby and I went to MPM’s house for dinner. I was experimenting with the Vegan diet at the time and MPM, being the aforementioned great friend, made a vegan bread from the book and it was DELISH!

I picked up a copy for myself recently and can’t stop making the following recipe:
Rustic Wild Mushroom and Potato Pizza Provencal

I make it on the Whole Wheat (Light) crust and it comes out awesome every time!

Whole Wheat Bread
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoon granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 cup Whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

If you have a stand mixer, mix the yeast, salt and water. Attach the dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just mix this all together in a glass or metal bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour. Once sifted, add flower to the wet ingredients. Again, stand mixer with dough hook is easiest (on speed 2), but a spoon works just fine too. Once combined, put a towel over the top of the bowl and place it in the oven, but don’t turn the oven on. It’s a great place to let dough rise because it isn’t bothered by the elements. Let dough rise for 2 hours. Once risen, sprinkle with flour and transfer to a storage dish. I like to use a Corningware dish I have because it has a glass lid to let the dough breathe, and because it’s the perfect size. Place in the fridge for up to 14 days. If you want to use it that day, leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes- it’s easier to use when the dough is cold.

A grapefruit size portion of dough
2 small red new potatoes, skin on and thinly sliced (or any small potato is fine)
6 large wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, shiitakes, porcini, portobellos, or oyster (I use baby bellas and lots of them- certainly more than six)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (if you don’t have this, GO GET IT! It is totally worth it!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (omit this if you are Vegan)
Cornmeal for covering pizza peel (I don’t actually have a pizza peel. I use a pizza stone and it works great!)

Pizza Stone

Preheat oven to 550 degrees, or 500 if that is as high as your oven goes (like mine). Prep the toppings while the oven preheats, and wait until you are done with the toppings to roll out your dough.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan and saute the potatoes first for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the mushrooms and season with the herbes de Provance, salt and pepper (making sure to say “herbes de Provance” in an exaggerated French accent). Grab the dough, dusting it and the surface you plan to roll it out on, with flour. Shape into a ball and using a rolling pin, start to roll it out. Mine always ends up some strange shape and I don’t get ruffled by it because it’s pizza and as long as it tastes good, I don’t care what shape it is! Make the crust as thin as you like. I recently made it a little thicker than normal, and it wasn’t as great. A thin 1/8″ thick crust is best.

Cover your pizza stone with a solid layer of cornmeal to prevent sticking. Now, transferring from the rolling surface to the pizza stone is fun…just do whatever you need to do to get it there without tearing it. Distribute the toppings. I like to put the sun-dried tomatoes down first because when they are on top, they tend to burn.
Bake the pizza for 8-10 minutes and check for doneness. If the crust is not golden brown, turn it a little and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting.

Here is what mine looked like pre-baking:

Delicious Mushroom Pizza!

Feel free to add what you like to the toppings.  I often add lots of garlic and red pepper flakes because I like it spicy!  I know this all sounded like a lot of work, but it really isn’t.  Make your bread early, or the day before you need it, and the rest is pretty speedy.

April 15, 2011. Tags: , , , . Baking, Food, Recipes. 2 comments.