Giant Squashagne

Once, at the market, there was a stand that sold giant squash.

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They were the most giant squash in all the land. Or maybe not, but they were ridiculously huge. And there was one girl who couldn’t resist buying one of the giant squashes just to dream up something fun to do with them.

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So she went home. She pondered over it for a few days. She displayed the squash in a fruit bowl that was about 5 gallons too small for the it to actually fit in. And then, after having it catch her eye and make her laugh on the third day, she decided to do something magnificent with that squash.

But first, she wanted to make sure everyone realized how big this squash really was. And that it totally matched her new favorite nail polish. Super cool.

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The girl broke out her very dangerous mandolin and carefully sliced that giant squash into something that resembled lasagna noodles. She had recently been making zucchini into noodles (we call those “zoodles” around here, and – yes – they are delicious), and figured lasagne with squash may be just as delicious.

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She sliced and sliced until she had piles of beautiful zucchini noodles (zoodles!!).

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She piled on ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. She browned her favorite local sausage and threw it into the tomato sauce she had made with early girls from her favorite tomato stand (the recipe is here!). She layered and layered, and then she baked that lasagne just like it was a regular, delicious pasta lasagne.

(this is where she forgot to take any pictures…)

She peaked in at her masterpiece as the timer went off. It was perfect!

But… then her phone rang!  Friends were gathering with wine by a fire! They would probably be hungry, too!

She quickly wrapped up the masterpiece and headed out with giant squash, local pork sausage, homemade tomato sauce lasagne in tow. (because this is a totally normal thing to do when invited to a campfire. just bring lasagne.)

The girl and her friends laughed and drank wine and ate grapes off of vines and listened to music by the fire late into the night. And everyone was happy that she made squash lasagne (squashagne?) and just happened to bring it to the party.

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No one even missed the noodles.

Moral of the story? If you are ever invited to a last minute campfire with wine, bring a squashagne. No one will be mad at you, I promise.

xoxo

Kels Birthday Dinner

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I’ve mentioned a few times recently how packed our schedules have been the past six weeks and so many of the weeks coming up.

I should mention that so many of these events taking up our extra time are awesome events.  Parents in town, birthdays, trips to New York City, cooking a lunch on a farm, business lunches about potential new and exciting projects…

I am definitely not complaining.

But I’m a little behind on telling you all about it, so bear with me.  I’ll get to it all eventually.

We will start here:  I don’t know if you heard, but a couple of weeks ago I turned 30.  And so far, I think it’s fair to say that I’m killing it in this decade.

I kicked off this new age with a dinner to top all dinners.  I told Brad I just wanted to have some friends over for a pot luck style meal.  We have some super talented friends who know how to throw down in the kitchen, so I wanted all of those people to come together for a feast.

And feast we did.

In our living room.  With maybe sixteen of our closest friends?

It was crowded.  It was loud.  It was awesome.

kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinnerOur living room has never looked so good.  (Brad did it all!)

I baked a cake

kels bakes birthday cake floured pans floured panskels birthday dinner

And Brad made a menu…kels birthday dinnerYes, there were snapper HEADS on that menu…

…And then we had a grand old time.

kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinner kels birthday dinnerA wonderful night with amazing farmers, potters, musicians, artists, and friends.  I was so happy to ring in a new year with such inspiring people, and there is nothing better than bringing together all the great people in your life to meet each other.

Wish you were there.

xoxo

 

Arugula and Tomato Pizza with the Parents

selfie w mom in aprons

I guess I’ll start calling this Tasty Tuesday?  Let’s see if it sticks…

Last week my incredible parents were in town, and I was lucky enough to get four whole days to hang out with them and cruise around Los Angeles.  Needless to say, we ate some pretty amazing food.

But one of the things my mom wanted to do while she was out here visiting was to make mozzarella and then make a homemade pizza with it!

Guess she reads my blog 😉

So we poured a couple of glasses of wine, threw on some aprons, and got to work.

Oh yea, and we took a few sunset pictures and selfies first.  To document it all.

IMG_1668 IMG_1670Then we really got to work…

IMG_1678But then my Dad woke up from his nap, so we poured a third glass of wine.IMG_1681Then this happened…IMG_1677Ok, then we really got serious.IMG_1688 IMG_1684 IMG_1690 IMG_1696I’d say we did pretty well. Even with the rental house’s exploding burners and unreliable oven temperatures, it was a pizza that Brad would be proud of (he was at work during all of this debauchery).

Not that we saved him any…  Oops.

If you want to try your hand at homemade mozzarella, this is the recipe I use that I think works best.  And if you want to make a delicious arugula and tomato pizza like ours, follow the recipe below.  And maybe make two pizza doughs, because you’re going to want a second pizza.

Arugula and Tomato Pizza

Smitten Kitchen’s Pizza Dough
deb over at SK has quite a few pizza dough recipes.  There are even two more in her cookbook that I recently had to buy.  This is my favorite, probably because it has wine in it…
6 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons white wine
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups flour We use a combination of “00” flour (pizza dough flour, available at Whole Foods, 1 cup) and semolina flour (pasta dough flour, available at most grocery stores, 1/2 cup).

Whisk wine, water and yeast in a medium bowl until yeast has dissolved. Add honey, salt and olive oil and stir. Add flour work it with a spoon and your hands until it comes together as a dough. (she says here that you may need more water, but i have never needed to add any)  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and knead the dough for a minute or two.  Coat the bowl you just used with olive oil and let the dough rest in it for an hour or two, until it doubles in size.  Once ready, roll out on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thin.

Toppings
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili flakes
10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 balls homemade mozzarella, torn
sea salt & ground pepper
1 handful torn arugula
1 tablespoon balsamic reduction
shaved parmesan

Before getting all crazy with toppings, I like to par-bake my pizza dough a little to ensure it is nice and crispy.  With your oven preheated to 500 degrees (or a low broil setting), bake the dough on your preheated pizza stone (or cookie sheet) that has been sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal.  Let the dough cook for about 5 minutes, watching it carefully.  You want to just barely see a golden brown color forming.

Then on to the toppings.  Drizzle the dough with olive oil before adding garlic, chili flakes, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella.  Season with s&p to taste.  Place pizza back on the preheated pizza stone.  Bake for about 10 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Top with torn basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.  I like to shave parmesan over the whole thing to finish it.

arugula tomato pizzaMmmm… Enjoy!

xoxo

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Tasty Tuesday: Homemade Mozzarella

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I woke up last week and had the urge to make something crazy.

For some reason, I thought that cheese would be crazy enough to satisfy my craving.

Nursing our hangovers on New Years Day, Sarah found a recipe for sheep’s milk ricotta in a copy of Modern Farmer Magazine I had laying around (yep…).  Once we were ready to get off the couch, we made a New Years Day attempt at cheese making, which actually had turned out really, really well.

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Maybe we didn’t drink enough champagne on New Year’s Eve?  (Or maybe we drank just enough…)

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We made ricotta and butternut squash ravioli and then I used the rest of the leftover cheese on salads for the next week.

DSC_0115 IMG_1189(had to throw this guy in there… hahahaha)DSC_0107 IMG_1217

But this time, I was going to try something different…

Burrata!  I thought.  Since I love to eat burrata so much, I must be good at making it, too!  So I googled and researched and tried to find a good recipe to try.  I found a million recipes from bloggers and Martha Stewart alike…

But all of them used a freaking microwave.

Sure, our apartment came with a microwave.  It was attached to a weird slip-on shelf thing that didn’t match anything else in the kitchen, but slipped right over our stove.  Literally right over, like maybe 12 inches right above the flame.

So we took that baby right off.  It’s probably in the garage somewhere.

Anyway, I couldn’t help but get frustrated with all of the microwaves.  I placed immediate blame on Pinterst.  To make burrata, you basically have to make mozzarella, and then wrap the finished mozzarella around some of the saved curds.  And I’m sure hundreds of years ago in Italy, no one was making mozzarella with microwaves.

There had to be a way.

I finally found a couple of YouTube videos and just dove right in.  Everything I found said that mozzarella was the easiest cheese to make!  I would be great!

I poured myself a glass of Italian wine (to go with the Italian cheese, of course), and got to work.

My first attempt was… alright?

IMG_1423The flavor was there, but the texture was a big old mess.

So day two, with two glasses of Valpolicella left, I bought a second gallon of whole raw milk and dove in.  Except this time I had done a little more research, and I was just going to attempt mozzarella.

Because in the words of Kanye, “you gotta crawl before you ball.”

I think he was definitely talking about balls of mozzarella.  Crawler=Mozzarella.  Baller=Burrata.

Yes, I just somehow linked cheese making to Kanye West.

IMG_1378 IMG_1381 IMG_1386 IMG_1390 IMG_1439 IMG_1440Oh – this second attempt was legit.

My mozzarella was so good that Brad started talking about how I would make all of the mozzarella for our restaurant one day.  He even said that I’d be a bigger asset in the kitchen than running the front of the house between my desserts and my cheese.

Why, thank you chef!!

After I got over that ginormous compliment, I ate my mozzarella like this:

IMG_1490Olive oil, salt, and a sprig of basil.  Simplicity.  Perfection.

The next day I made pizza dough and we ate my mozzarella like this:

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam IMG_1464Maggie’s Farm Arugula, McGrath Farm Cherry tomatoes, homemade mozzarella and pizza dough, topped with a sweet balsamic glaze and grated parm.

Seriously?  I’m going to make this again for dinner tonight.

If you want to make your own, check out this amazing YouTube tutorial by Make Cheese Inc. and use their recipe here.

Dang.  I could never be vegan.

xoxo

Affordable Wine Review Returns! Chateau de Campuget Rose

chateau de Campuget

I spent the first half of this month recovering from the holidays.  Alcohol didn’t interest me in the least.  I was/am working out daily.  I was eating healthy and I even juiced a day or two.

But, you know, that gets really old fast.  And this girl likes to have fun.

I’m still working out at least 4 times a week.  I’m still on track to be in great shape by the time I hit the big 30.  But – man – I just really love a glass of wine every now and then.  You know, with dinner.  Or after work.  Or while making pies…

I really like wine.

After I caved on my no wine January plans, WordPress sent me my “Year in Review” for 2013.  I realized that more than half of my top ten posts of ALL TIME were my series on Affordable Wines or tips for tending bar.

You all like to drink, too!

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what direction to take this blog in, since right now I feel like it’s going in just about any direction I want it to that day, and it seemed obvious.  Believe me, this is a going to be a good thing for me and my drinking habits as well as for you and yours…

More Affordable Wine Reviews!

Yay!!

So here is how it works.  I choose a wine under $15 (preferably under $10).  No Two buck Chuck.  No Beringer.  No crap.  I drink it.  I dig up a little research on the juice, and then I share it with you.

You read my review, save it to your phone however you’d like, and head out to the closest wine store that sells cheap – ahem, inexpensive – wine.  Then, you can either go home and pour yourself a glass – savoring every sip even more because you still have cash in your wallet – or you bring said bottle to impress your wino friend who’s having you over for dinner.

You look awesome.  You drink delicious wine.  You still have cash in your pocket for In N Out later if your friend isn’t such a great cook.

We are all winning here.

So let’s get started!  The first wine back seems like a strange one for the middle of January, but bear with me.  January is not typically Rosé weather.  It is usually big, spicy Zins or an earthy, tart Chianti weather.

But it’s been in the 80s in Los Angeles.  It feels like summer.  People are at the beach. (Not me)  People are tan. (Definitely not me) I am sweating. I am hot.  I want to eat seafood.  I want to drink Rosé.

And since the Rosé selection is limited this time of year, I tried one I found that looked reasonable at the Pavilions down the road.  Here is where it comes from:

chateau de Campuget

Nice digs.  I would like to introduce, the Chateau de Campuget 2012 Rosé.

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First of all, let me tell you about rosé.  No, this is not white zinfandel.  Rosé (or rosato, rosado, blush) just refers to the color of the wine.  They can be made in dry or sweet styles, but most European rosés are dry.

There are two main ways of creating a rosé wine.  Usually, a red grape varietal is pressed with the skins still on.  The red skins are left to sit in the juice for some small amount of time, which gives the otherwise white juice a little bit of color, body, and flavor.

In the second method of making rosé, a bit of red wine is added at some point in the process to a white wine.  And if you know anything about colors (or Valentine’s Day), red and white make pink!!  This method is mostly used for sparkling wines (think Pinot Noir/Meunier + Chardonnay = Champagne) and does not apply to when you’ve just switched back to drinking white in the same glass you were just drinking red in.  Rinse that glass out.

Personally, I just love rosé.  I am a red wine drinker through and through, but when its crazy hot outside and you’re enjoying a nice piece of fish by the ocean, you simply shouldn’t be drinking red.  Rosés are wonderful because they have some of the body and the big flavors of red wines, but they are served chilled and are easy drinking and much lighter than most reds.  I have a friend who is known to bring two bottles of rose to any party, and I think that is brilliant.  No matter what is being served, what people like to drink, or what the occasion, rosés are appropriate and delicious.

So, to the matter at hand.  Chateau de Campuget’s Rosé is sold at my local Pavilion’s for $9.99.  Pavilions is open until 1:30AM.  Therefore, this has become my most purchased Rosé of the past year based on availability after work hours alone.  It’s alright, though, because it’s an easy drinking wine that can also pair nicely with whatever Brad is cooking up at 2 in the morning.  Last week, it went wonderfully with a whole Striped Bass we had at a more appropriate dinner hour.

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This is a more full rose, with an almost creamy mouthfeel and really intense berry notes.  I was being professional and writing down notes – in case I drank the whole bottle – and all I wanted to write was STRAWBERRY!!!  You’ll also get some tart raspberry on there, but watch out.  It’s a definite strawberry bomb.  Although, I was not surprised when I read about the soil in Nimes, where these grapes are grown (70% Syrah, 30% Grenache).  There is minerality and almost stoney-ness that really reflects the clay and pebbles found in the area.

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I also read that the property is managed by a man named Franck-Lin Dalle, who is named after one of his dad’s heroes, Benjamin Franklin.  If that’s not an awesome wine fact, I don’t know what is.

Yep, I’m sure that’ll sell a bottle or two…

Anyway, who knows if this will turn into a Wine Wednesday thing or what, but I love to drink wine, I love to learn about wine, and I love to help people get out of their comfort zones and find something new to drink.

So, until next time, cheers!

xoxo

Weiserpalooza

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Almost two months ago now, Weiser Farms held a dinner for Alex’s Lemonade Stand – a charity benefiting children’s cancer research.

Some of the biggest restaurant names around LA (MB Post/FWD, Alma, Rustic Canyon/Huckleberry, Alma, Hart & The Hunter) participated in an amazing night of food, wine and music up in Tehatchapi.

To say it was fun would be an understatement.  I have since dubbed it “Weiserpalooza”.

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And then the next day, we nursed our hangovers by picking fruits and vegetables on the farm.IMG_0092 IMG_0094 IMG_0097 IMG_0105If this is how the farmers live (it is absolutely not), then sign me up.

xoxo

 

Santa Monica Farmer’s Market

market eggs

Ok so I was bad.

I skipped yesterday.  (hangs head in shame)

But I had a really great day yesterday with my wonderful husband! I thought about writing about a million times, but not one of those times did I actually sat down and type something out.

Oh well.

So instead, today I will share with you what I did yesterday.  It was a Wednesday, which means it was Farmer’s Market day!

Woohoo!

Brad and I are back to going to the market every Wednesday morning.  Its a tradition that went by the wayside earlier in the year because of job conflicts (once again, the nice way to say it…), but came back with a vengeance.  We buy our eggs, our produce, our nuts and raisins on Wednesday mornings.  We plan a wonderful feast for the evening.  We visit with farmer friends and hear about new restaurants, new bands, or new projects.

Brad said it yesterday and I’ll say it again.  I love our market family.

I sort of stopped taking pictures at the market over the last few months.  It’s not that there isn’t gorgeous fruit or crazy looking vegetables.  It’s usually that my hands are full or I’m chomping on an apple or something instead.

But yesterday, I had my phone handy and snapped a few shots of our amazing market.  I say this every time I talk about it:

We are so lucky that this is practically in our backyards.

fall squash persimmons green chili farmers market market eggs tomatillos thai chili ChargerAnother successful Market Day.  And now, off to make a pear tart for this amazing dinner that awaits me tonight!

xoxo