Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stop What You're Doing

That's it. No preamble. No long-winded story about my childhood. No self-reflection.

Just stop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and make these Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats from Smitten Kitchen.

They are the lazy person's version of The Best Thing I Ever Made. Only 4 ingredients. And they are extremely delicious.

Not pictured: butter.
That is all.

P.S. This recipe easily doubles which is good because God help you if you only make a single 8x8 pan of this goodness. I could eat an 8x8 pan of them all my myself. Which I may or may not have done for dinner last night.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Since August

It's not that I haven't been doing bloggable things. It's that I haven't sat down to write about them.'s kind of both.

To be honest, the blog slowdown began during glutenfest. Yep, I'm blaming the grain. Man, that sucked. Imagine how you feel when you get the flu. There's always one day that is the worst. And then, the day after that, you feel a little better...but still not good. That's how I felt. Like it was the day after the worst day of the flu. Every day for 10 weeks.  It was not a happy place to be.

The thing about having no energy and just wanting to lay your achy joints down and take a nap (God, how old do I sound?! But really, that's how I felt! Instantly OLD.) is that it's hard to be motivated to cook, or make crafty things, or take photographs of any of it. And then, when the horror of glutenfest ended and I was able to start eating normally and began to feel better, I had a lot to do. A backlog of tasks. And not much time for blogging.

Here we go...and apologies in advance if you follow me on instagram because there are going to be a lot of familiar photographs here.

I made a bunch of meals. 

 And I baked a bunch of treats.

I made a new Valentine's wreath, constructed entirely from scrap materials I had laying around my craft room/office/pantry/chaos closet.

I preserved some things in the refrigerator because the prospect of actually "canning" anything freaks me out. Some jalapenos (not pictured). Some meyer lemons.(Ok, a LOT of meyer lemons.)

Some kumquat marmalade.

Oh, and hey, I got a new job! IN WHICH I ALMOST NEVER TRAVEL FOR WORK.

I know.

It's amazing. Revolutionary. I hardly know what to do with myself. But one thing I am doing is decorating my (shared) office, now that I spend so much time here. Luckily, my officemate is a dude who cares not at ALL what the space looks like. Which is excellent because you know I love free rein when it comes to these sorts of things.

The monkey lamp from CB2 is my FAVORITE. As are the drawings from Penelope - "You're the best Kate ever." How cute is that? 

In more recent office decor developments, I am super excited about the window seat, which fits so perfectly it almost looks custom. (It's not.) I absolutely love sitting here and working. The current pillows are no-longer-used leftovers from home for now but I'm pinning more pillow fabrics and other items for the office so you can probably expect an office decorating blog post from me in the future.

And yeah...that's about it. Kind of a sorry showing for an entire half a year.
Will try to do better between now and this August!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's the Little Things

I know I've been away for a really long time. I feel so guilty. What I want to do is prostrate myself in front of you and beg forgiveness while you read this post on whatever screen you're looking at.

But that would be awkward. And I try not to be awkward on purpose.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

But I have the most amazing little thing to share with you. I just read about it on The Kitchn.

Are you ready?

Take the stupid ring off your measuring spoons and keep them out on the counter in their own little jar by your other most-used utensils.

I love this. This has changed my life. Not in a big way, but in a nice, little way.

Now I don't have to go digging in my utensil drawer for my measuring spoons (which are the most often used item in my drawer save for the citrus reamer, and also the smallest item in the drawer, inevitably buried under the garlic press, the can opener, the measuring cups, two thermometers, an ice cream scoop, two cookie get the picture).

The small jar hardly takes up any counter space. Now my measuring spoons will not ever accidentally nest in the dishwasher, preventing all of them from getting clean, because they're all being washed individually, no longer tethered to each other by that pesky ring.

And if I need one of the regular round measuring spoons and one of the rectangular "spice jar" spoons for the same recipe, I don't have to wash every single measuring spoon I own. It's so easy to just grab the one or two measures I need for a recipe. The efficiency is mind-boggling.

I am so happy every time I look at this little jar of spoons.You should try it!

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The other day I had my first ever meeting with a financial planner. He asked why I had contacted him. My response was a verbal outpouring along these lines:

"I'm 34 and I am totally incompetent with respect to my finances. I have no budget. I don't even know where to start. I am terrible at saving, and great at spending. I definitely don't have enough retirement savings. I pay bills on time but feel totally clueless. I make far, far too much money to feel like I live paycheck-to-paycheck. I have no "emergency fund." I have school debt to pay off. Plus credit card debt from being in school. Someday, maybe in the next 10 years, I'd like to buy a house, I think. On top of all that, I have a major cashflow issue because I travel a lot for work and have to front the expenses - to the tune of eight to ten thousand dollars a month. I really just don't know what I'm doing and feel like an idiot about all of it. When I think about it all I get really overwhelmed and I need help. A lot of help. Like, really, a LOT of help."

His response to me was sort of like a gentle but serious verbal slap in the face:

"The first thing you need to do is stop beating yourself up about this." 


(Why do I get the feeling that's going to be the hardest part of this whole process?)

It made me think... We all tell ourselves stories about what we're good at and what we're bad at. Often those stories started in childhood - sometimes memorably, and sometimes not. A lot of the time, they make no sense. (I'm smart and I can do basic math so why should I be utterly unraveled by basic budgeting? And yet, I am.)

I have definitely been telling myself this story that I'm "incompetent at money" for probably my whole life. Or at least since I knew "incompetent at money" was something I could "be."

In fact, this is about the only area in life in which I feel incompetent. Why? I can successfully create and manage clients' budgets. I understand how to prioritize their funds given their goals and objectives. But once we turn the tables back to my own personal life...the wheels come off and the feeling of paralyzing incompetence takes over.

I should stop that. Why choose incompetence if competence is possible?

While I'm on the sofa having this little therapy session, here's another one:

I have been led to believe I am terrible at making salad dressing.
Indeed, I believe I am terrible - a genuine abomination - at making salad dressing.

How is that possible, you ask? (Yes, I realize you probably did not ask that but if you stuck with me through that whole money bit, this is the part where I start talking about food again, so hang in there for a little more, ok?)

It used to be my responsibility, as part of contributing to the family via chores and whatnot, to make our green salad every night for dinner. We always had a green salad. Every night. Typically it was comprised of romaine, carrots, tomatoes, and celery. Sometimes it would also have cucumber, or some green or red pepper. Very rarely, watercress or endive. Maybe alfalfa sprouts.

This was back in the dark days before salad greens came in a bag and some people in the household were VERY picky about the lettuce being hand-torn, not cut with a knife. And everything in appropriately-sized pieces that required only a fork, not a knife. This is just how it was done.

As you might have surmised, I'm at least partly a creative soul and "just how it was done" often didn't fly with me. Making this same salad every night practically bored me to tears. Around this time - I was about 10 years old or so - I also began reading cookbooks. For fun. You know, like a normal kid. [Snort.] I discovered a whole tab in my Mom's Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook dedicated to salad dressings. And I started to add a little creativity to my nightly salad chore.

The real problem was not that I couldn't make salad dressing by following a simple recipe. It was that we didn't have a lot of the ingredients the recipes called for on hand and I had to improvise quite a bit as our local grocery store was more of a walk than a drive. There were a couple of successful blue cheese dressings. Some terrible Catalina dressing (like a cross between Italian and French dressings). Some chokingly acidic vinaigrettes. And so on.

With those recipes, I learned the hard way that composing salad dressing is sort of like baking. It's about proportions and is therefore rather scientific. You can't just substitute ingredients and quantities and hope that things will turn out edibly. Indeed, they rarely did. And I quickly developed a reputation as being "terrible at making salad dressing."

So I stopped. Who wants to do something at which they're judged to be "terrible"? Not this girl. Not anyone, really. To this day - a quarter of a century later - I still feel a little anxiety swirl around in my stomach at the thought of having to make a dinner salad.

The other day a funny thing happened. I got brave.
I don't know where it came from. But there it was.

I was having the girls over for Ladies' Night Dinner. I wanted to make our family lasagna recipe and decided what would be just perfect with it would be a nice, big green salad.

Coincidentally, as I was thinking about the menu, I happened upon a recipe in a new cookbook I just acquired (thanks, Mom!) from Omnivore Books: Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 6: The Grocery Store.

Specifically, page 49: "Escarole Salad with Lemon & Parmesan"

I kicked aside my fear of possibly serving guests inedibly dressed greens and went for it. Worst case, they could just eat lasagna and dessert. Have a little more wine, nothing to see here.

It's a pretty simple recipe.

First, some garlic and salt gets mashed together in a big wooden salad bowl, with a wooden spoon. Diced up preserved lemon and some fresh lemon juice get stirred in.

Extra virgin olive oil gets added to the mix, and clean, dry greens get plopped on top.

Either escarole isn't in season or it was just out of stock at my Whole Foods, but I used a combination of arugula, kale, and romaine which worked great and had enough bite to stand up to the dressing.

Once that all gets tossed together, shavings of parmesan (via the vegetable peeler) get piled on top. A little freshly ground black pepper and that's it.

I love this salad bowl - a Christmas present from Mom & Doug.
So easy, and rave reviews.

See that, salad dressing? That's me OWNING you.

What are the stories you tell yourself?
Let's get brave and kick those stories to the curb. We are all better than that.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Salads on a Plane!

I'm on a plane right now. It's a bit bumpy. It's hard to tell if it's bumpy because of turbulence or if it's because the guy in the aisle seat of my row has an aggressive leg shake. Actually, not a single leg shake. He alternates legs.

There's also a cat on the plane, two rows behind me. The cat is not very happy about flying.

This is an understatement.

In fact, said cat might be the least happy about flying of all the sentient beings onboard, except for all the people on the plane who have to listen to the cat screech and whine. 

Cat's got some pipes, man.

Anyhow,  I brought my lunch with me on the plane today because on Sunday I had the foresight to pull together this summery salad which I am having a minor love affair with this month.

Please note the gigantic bottle of water. I get two of these now before every flight. You really don't realize how dehydrating planes are until you start to fly so often that it practically hurts to blink.

This is barely a recipe. But here are the component parts.
Quantities are approximate (at best).

Kate's Summer Travel Salad

Serves 4 as a side or 2 for full meals


Half a sack of roasted baby potatoes. I think that's about 3 cups. I'm talking about the ones the size of large marbles because I love miniature food but of course you could just chop up and roast a regular Yukon Gold or two. (Toss with olive oil and salt and roast for 20-30 mins at 425 degrees until they are a bit browned in spots.)

A pint of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes. (Cut in half and toss with olive oil and kosher salt; roast at 325 for 40 minutes to an hour, until they get caramel-y. Yes, that's a word.)

2 large handfuls of steamed green beans, trimmed, and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces

Sauteed chunks of summer squash, from about 2 squashes, any shape. I like mine sauteed to the point of being practically charred. It tastes delicious like that. 

One-third of a bunch or so of flat-leaf parsley. Pick the leaves off the stems but leave the leaves whole. Or just very coarsely chop the parsley if you are lazy or pressed for time, or both.

1/2 of a preserved lemon rind. This is the magic ingredient. Chop up the rind (after removing the pulp and rinsing) into 1/4-inch bits. 

Pitted, oil cured black olives, halved. If you don't like oil-cured olives, used pitted green olives that aren't too briny. Do not use Kalamata, they are far too briny and puckery and will make the whole salad taste sour.

Extra virgin olive oil, kosher or sea salt, and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the vegetables and lemon in a bowl and toss until everything is well-distributed.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss, and taste. 

Add more salt and pepper as needed. 

Look at that nice fat square of preserved lemon on top, mugging for the camera.

This recipe is hard to screw up so feel free to play around with it. Basil would be a great addition. So would corn.

I like adding a poached egg or two to turn this into "dinner," when not on a plane. Some grilled chicken would be great, too, and travel-hardy.

This salad is awesome because it can sit in your bag unrefrigerated for a few hours during the whole TSA-frisking-through-harrowing-boarding-process, through takeoff, and even several hours into your flight and stay perfectly fresh. There's no lettuce to wilt - the parsley stays really perky. You can also make this the night before or even two days in advance with no compromise to taste or texture. (I think the flavor actually improves when it's been mixed at least a day ahead of eating.)

Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Consider the Dishtowel

Because a lot of the people I work with are in other non-San-Francisco offices, in future time zones, I spend a lot of time on early morning phone calls, which sometimes turn into all-day phone calls, which often means I work from home.

Here's a shot of my at-home "office." (It's really the breakfast room.) I try to keep the table relatively clean (doesn't always work, but I try).

The gorgeous orchids are courtesy of my buddy Sherwin. Thanks Sherwin! My kitchen-office suddenly feels so posh. It's amazing what flowers can do for the spirit.

And this, dear friends, is my office's view.

Yes, I could sit on the other side of the table, and have a view out my kitchen window. But for some reason I prefer sitting this direction. I really don't know why. It makes no sense.

I am weird.

But you already knew that and that's also really not why we're here today.

See those posters on my wall of my at-home office space?
They aren't posters. They are dishtowels.

Proof I am not a perfectionist - the canvas is definitely not stretched evenly!

If you've been with this blog since the beginning, you will see other examples of my love of using dishtowels for tasks beyond dish-drying. This is another sneaky use for them.

I ran across these two towels at Sur La Table a couple of months ago. Turning them into fun, cheap wall art is easy; here's how.

A piece of fabric. See below for tips. 
A staple gun and plenty of staples. Just your basic one will do. I have one like this.
4 canvas stretcher bars that are an appropriate size for your fabric/desired finished piece. You can find these at art supply stores. They will have two kinds, the cheap ones and the expensive heavy duty ones. If your piece of fabric is less than 4' square, get the cheap ones.
Two picture hanger screws and picture wire
A tape measure or ruler

Bonus Equipment: DIY frame from the art supply store. These come in metal and wood. If you get the wood kind, you will also need a touch of super glue to join the pieces. You don't need glass for this project.

1. I was going to type out instructions but then I found that the internet had already solved this problem for me. Instead, please enjoy this video.

2. Try not to get too annoyed as this lady is super nice but oddly bouncy.
3. Frame if you wish, then add the hanging hardware and hang your art.

So easy!

Tips for choosing fabric for this project:
Think outside the bolt on this - you can use dishtowels, napkins, old tablecloths, pillowcovers (taken apart at the seams), even old favorite pieces of clothing. Thicker and woven fabrics are easier to use; but super-thick and very thin fabrics can be challenging. Stretchy fabric is practically impossible; don't use it if you've never done this before.

A note: if you are framing something that you need to protect because it's an heirloom or whatever, take it to the professionals to get it framed. This project is more about doing a quick change on what's on your walls and creating some "cheap art" for yourself. Otherwise, if your fabric is iron-able, iron it as best you can.

Some other examples from around my home:

My motto. In the kitchen, of course. This piece also began life as a dishtowel.
A Marimekko "Lokki" panel atop a bookcase.
More Marimekko panels. Previously in my office, now adding some color to a quiet corner of the living room.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Since Last Year: A Summary

This morning I am going to WOW you with my breakfast.


Your jaw dropped, right? Almond butter and homemade blackberry jam AND peaches on a RICE CAKE?! STOP IT! KATE, YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR.

Ok, let's get real for a second. I've been away for awhile.  Babies have been conceived and born in the time I’ve been away from this blog.

Just to be clear: Exactly NONE of these babies were mine.

Everybody got that?

It’s not that I haven’t been making things. I have been. I just haven’t been writing about them. For some reason life just felt too busy.

And then, just like that, it didn’t.

Now here I am with three posts on three consecutive days like I've never even been gone. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it’s summer daylight lasting until 9pm.
Maybe it’s something else.

Whatever it is, herewith, some things I did when I wasn’t here.*

*Not in chronological order.

I gold leafed a bunny.

Isn't he cute? Also, I learned that gold leaf is messy. It is definitely a cousin of glitter, "the herpes of craft supplies."

I had an Oscars party.

We had a red carpet, too. Natch. The tape adhering the red carpet stuck to my floor. Still can't really get it off. Yes, I've tried Goo-Gone and scraping. Good thing this is a rental.

I made some necklaces.

And some bacon candy.

I bought some art and hung it up.

I made brownie sundaes.

Make your own hot fudge sauce and brownies; buy the ice cream.

And stuffed escarole.

This looks like a mess, but it's incredibly delicious. Lidia Bastianach is a genius.

And gluten-free, grain-free meyer lemon mug cakes.

Just replaced the weird sweetener with 1T +1t of granulated sugar. These make an amazing breakfast treat, too.
Ok, I made those a couple of times.

I made some ridiculously tasty Banana Bread with Coconut and Rum. Oh, and browned butter. Thank you, Joy the Baker, for that one.

And thank you, Blake, for your hunting skills.

This went into a "Goose Bourguignon" recipe. Which turned out gamy, but edible. I count it as a win.

Turns out making a wild goose edible requires a LOT of ingredients.

Britta was an amazing co-chef on this one. Turns out butchering a goose is a fairly nasty process.

On the lighter side, I made some appetizers.

These are purple rice crackers with avocado, a little greek yogurt mixed with a little lime juice, and garnished with my new favorite seasoning, shichimi togarashi. Virtuous, yet delicious.

And roasted some rhubarb.

Delicious over vanilla ice cream although also pretty good on its own or with yogurt.

And then there was this ham. This eight pound, big ass country Easter ham.

Three pounds of which is hacked up into large chunks in my freezer.
Where it will probably stay for a year until I no longer feel guilty about composting it because what am I going to do with huge chunks of frozen ham?

Any suggestions?