Valentine’s Day Cupcakes

15 Feb

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a darling daughter who is 7 and 5/6ths old (do the math). She’s in the second grade. One of the wonderful upsides to being unemployed at the moment is that I’m able to shower her with attention on days like this. Valentine’s Day. Second Graders – still not stigmatized by all of the V Day bs. So nice. Oh, to be able to eat  like they can… sigh.

Anyway, I got an email from one of the other parents in her class asking for things for the class party for today – cups, plates, decorations, CUPCAKES…

Like a beacon shining from above, I had just come upon this recipe featured by Saveur – Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I MUST MAKE THIS!! And, make them I did.

This is what they are supposed to look like:

I then came across this this picture on Pinterest for rainbow frosting:


So, anyway, The cupcakes came out amazing:

As you can see, I made minis (48) and had enough left over for a small (and very flat) cake. I cooked them for 10 minutes, rotated them and cooked them for another 8 minutes.

Then came the frosting attempt:

As you can see, I tried. Thankfully, the color combos didn’t end up looking like vomit frosting, but I’m sure at least half of 2nd graders everywhere might enjoy that.

Here is the presentation plate:

(yes, I wrapped one of my sheet trays in wrapping paper praying they wouldn’t think to unwrap it).

After I delivered these to a giddy & giggly second grade class right before lunch time, I went off to a V Day lunch of my own at Bottega with two very lovely lady friends… Let’s just say, it’s good to be the queen… and the SUPER MOM!!



Ahhhh Valentine’s Day

11 Feb

Love it? Hate it? I’m sort of meh about it after all these years… Every day is Valentine’s day (Xmas, my birthday, etc).

But I do fondly remember my very first Valentine’s day with my husband (it was so good, we were engaged 4 days later). We had started dating a little over month earlier and me being the control / planning freak that I am, I made reservations at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco immediately. Three little words lead to the best Valentine’s day meal ever – Chicken for Two. This chicken and accompanying bread salad are so delicious and made for sharing with your loved one and the restaurant is so cozy that romance is sure to be piqued. Dan & I would go to Zuni every year on or around V Day and something tells me we need to make a special trip down from Wine Country to enjoy a meal there soon.

Here’s the pic from the Zuni Cafe website:

I was reminded of this when trying to think of ideas to blog about for V day, I queried my FB friends as to what they thought were romantic foods & drinks. There were of course the obligatory Champagne! Oysters! Chocolate! And then there were the oddball ones – Meatball Subs! Edible Marshmallow Flavored Body Glitter! Beer! (haha I have some pretty goofy friends).

Then there was this one “Whole roasted chix, french fries, Burgundy. Decent glasses but no silverware. Al fresco.” Hubba Hubba. Yes Please.

It brought me right back to a very lovely evening with my husband, so thank you.

To all you lovers and haters of this impending non holiday, share something good with someone you love. XO. And, sorry about the pic at the top… pretty obnoxious, huh.

The Ultimate Cooks Tool – The Food Lover’s Companion

10 Feb

Remember in my post about Redd Wood when I gave that handy description about Montasio? It was on the clam pizza. I had no idea what it was either other than I knew it was a type of cheese. Enter stage just behind me (where my bookcase is behind me when I’m typing up theses missives) my handy dandy Food Lover’s Companion.

If you don’t own this book, stop right now and order it here Food Lover’s Companion from Amazon. I have 2 copies of this addition (Third), so if you’re short on cash, and you can give me a good reason to send you my other one, I will.

Just look what the critics have to say (from Wikipedia):

Bon Appetit hailed the book as “one of the best reference books we’ve seen, a must for every cook’s library”, and the New York Times described it “As thick and as satisfying as a well-stuffed sandwich”.

Think of any unfamiliar food term, like say, Montasio. Flip this handy book open and THERE IS YOUR ANSWER!! Montasio  – [mohn-TAH-zee-yoh] Hailing from Italy’s Fruili-Venezia Giulia region, montasio is a cow’s milk cheese with a flavor that can range from extremely mild (almost nondescript) when young to sharp when aged.

Look up Russian tea cake and it says see Mexican Wedding Cake – who knew!!

Seriously, this book is a must for anyone and also anyone who loves to cook. GET ONE!!

Quick Dinner ~ Ma-Po Tofu

8 Feb

So, I think I may have nailed this. At least for the home cook with limited resources…

My recipe is loosely based on this recipe:

Ma-Po Tofu

For the sauce, I use

3/4 cup chicken broth/stock (all the comments on epicurious say the 1/4 cup is too little)

1 heaping TBS Lee Kum Kee Black Bean Garlic Sauce

1 heaping TBS Sambal Oelek

1 heaping TBS Oyster Sauce

dash of kosher salt

For the “stir fry” I used ground turkey this time.

On the side, I used my mini prep grinder to process 4 cloves of garlic and 2in of peeled ginger. I processed it w/ a teaspoon of sesame oil.

I did not simmer the tofu. I instead added it when needed and also added 1 can of chopped water chestnuts. The corn starch slurry is essential. Don’t leave it out.

I finished with 5 green onions chopped and a drizzle of sesame oil.


It’s super easy, inexpensive and tasty.

I eat this straight up as after the debauchery (wow, I just spelled that without spell correct) of this weekend, I’m back on no bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. BUT, I would grab yourself some iceberg lettuce wraps with this. Or some rice. That would work too.


Redd Wood ~ Yountville, CA ~ 2/6/12

7 Feb

Redd Wood, the second restaurant in Yountville by Michelin-Starred Chef Richard Reddington (see also Redd), opened a little over two weeks ago in the space once housed by Cantinetta Piero. Today was it’s first day open for lunch, and by the butts in the seats, I’d say that this NoYo (uuugh North Yountville) spot is destined to be the place to hang in the Valley for lunch and beyond (they’re open continuously from 11:00am – close) from here on out.

The cocktail list features some pretty cutsey (albeit delicious sounding) drinks, such as the Napa~cano (209 Gin, pomegranate, prosecco, meyer lemon) and the NoYo Manhattan (Makers Mark, punt e mes, dried Tuscan cherries). All cocktails are $9.50 (or as they are listed 9 1/2). A shot of Fernet will run you $9.00 (but I’m pretty sure the ginger back is free).

I didn’t see the full wine list, but did really, really enjoy the Three Clicks Petite Sirah BTG (by the glass)(pictured above) for $9.00 and the Miner Family Sangiovese BTG $11.00.

They also have a pretty extensive beer list for those of you looking to take a break from all things wine in the wine country.

This was lunch, so we didn’t go nuts food wise.  The menu is divided by Appetizers (salads, arancini, fried salt cod, pork skin sausage) ($10.00-$14.00), Meats And Cheeses featuring house cured meats of all kinds (3pc for $9.00, 5pc for $15.00), Pastas (pumpkin tortelini w/ sage & brown butter, potato gnocchi w/ duck leg, rosemary, olives & pancetta) ($14.00 – $16.00), Pizzas & Sandwiches (Tomato Pies, Meat Pies, mmmmm Meatball Sub w/ Fries <HELLO>) ($10.00-$16.00) and finally Sweets – I will be back for the Malt Ice Cream Sundae with Candied Sunflower Seeds ($8.00). Oh, and there had best be Italian Ices to go when the temps get crazy hot this summer!!

We had the Redd Wood Cured Meats 3 plate. I wished the runner who dropped the food had let us know what was on the plate, but they’re new… we’ll let that pass for now. We know we enjoyed some killer mortadella, prosciutto, and a salami of some sort. On the plate were great pickled beets & baby crazy cauliflower, stone ground mustard, hot honey mustard, a pear (?) chutney and some pretty great bread sticks.

And now for the real reason why we were here, THE PIZZAS!! We tried 2.

First up was the Clams, Pork Jowl, Potato, Garlic, Oregano, Montasio (Italian cows milk cheese) ($15.00)

LOOK AT THAT CRUST!! This was really good. The clams were tender, the pork jowl was deliciously salty and the crust was glistening with olive oil. My only complaint (and this was just me) is that I thought it could have used some heat (red pepper flakes?).

Next up, we had the Prosciutto Cotto, Brussel Sprouts, Taleggio, Red Onion pizza ($14.00).

Again, LOOK AT THAT CRUST!! This pizza was delicious! Perfect combo of ingredients. I will be back again and again and again for this pizza.

This is a total welcome addition to Yountville. The room is stylish, the noise level is manageable and the bar is great.

Congrats Richard on a great addition to our hometown!!


NO. (707) 299 5030

Snacks for the Patriots Game this Sunday

4 Feb

Oh, right, it’s the SUPER BOWL!! GO PATS!!

So, I promised I would rustle up a selection of tried and true snacks that you still have time to make for your own party or bring to a friends house. These are all easy, tasty and all the ingredients are readily available. They’ve also been made by yours truly many times over and are delicioso!

Parmesan Dip  – I first made this dip when I was pregnant with my daughter. I tripled the recipe and ate the whole thing myself (no wonder I gained 50 pounds for an 8 pound baby).

Spicy Nuts with Sugared Bacon – BACON!! NUTS!! I’m always asked to bring this recipe to parties. Always tasty and always a hit.

Velveeta Queso Dip – Feelin’ lazy? Hankering for something tasty? This disgusting sounding concoction is just the opposite. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

White Bean Dip – This dip is another one where I get asked for the recipe all the time. Super easy and pleases vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Artichoke Dip – I love, love, love this dip. I use full fat mayo and sour cream, skip the marjoram, use my favorite Italian 3 cheese blend in place of the romano and usually double or triple the recipe. I have never had leftovers.

Simple Beef Chili – Yet another recipe I have made more times than I can count. EASY PEASY! I prep by mixing all the spices together in a ramekin first so I can just dump them in all at once when necessary. I also use 2 cans of diced tomatoes instead of the puree. Very good the first day and great the second (and third and fourth…).

Beef Bourguignon – It’s gonna be cold and snowy somewhere this weekend, right? Just not here in Yountville as it will be 70 degrees and sunny. Moving on. This recipe is unctuous and belly satisfying. Serve it with buttered noodles and curl up and watch the PATS WIN!!

Momofuko Bo Ssam – Allow me to refer you back to this post. This dish and all the accompaniments are perfect Super Bowl (GO PATS) fodder. I am still dreaming about this meal and if a friend weren’t bringing ribs on Sunday, I’d be making this. FO SHIZZLE.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies – Follow this recipe, add chopped up crispy bacon. BOOM! BACON!!

Caramel Pretzel Bars – I will be making this for the first time tomorrow. I think I’m going to throw some chocolate chips in the mix and drizzle the top with chocolate. I will let you know how it turns out, but this looks to be perfect sop up the junk food and beer dessert fodder. Pics to follow.

So, there you have it folks. Glad I could (hopefully) help make your planning for this Sunday’s game a bit easier. And, lastly, one more time for Greg Hugunin:

GO PATS!!!!!

Let me tell you why you should use a guard with a mandolin…

3 Feb

About a year & a half ago, Dan & I (in our flusher times) went off to Shackford’s (an amazing and cool local kitchen supply store here in Napa) and bought ourselves a mandolin. For those of you who think this is a musical instrument, it is not. It is a device used for slicing all things culinary that can be sliced (veggies, frozen meat, fruit, what have you).


Just like the Brother P.

It looks like this:

Anywhoo, we used it once in the past year and a half, for what I cannot remember.

Then, I stumbled upon this recipe for Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin. I made this about a month ago and I was able to use the precious mandolin again!! And, use the butternut squash and frozen spinach I had wallowing in the fridge/freezer. More on the recipe in a bit.

Just try to slice butternut squash without this handy tool. I dare you. Or not, you would probably fare worse than I did not using the guard. It slices like a dream and super fast too. Just remember, USE THE GUARD!! BTW, the guard is the spaceship looking tool at the lower left. It has spikes underneath that grabs onto whatever you are slicing and keeps you from slicing off your fingers.

So, as I said, I made this again last night. While I can’t remember if I was smart enough to use the guard the first time, I was not last night. Skip the following picture, if much like the pigs head pic from the last post you can get a bit queasy…






Just kidding. I’m not going to post a picture of my wounded finger, but suffice it to say that it bled like I’d hit a major vein. And, it was my middle finger on my right hand. And, all I had in the house were Hello Kitty Bandaids (Yes, I have a lovely almost 8 year old daughter). And, I had 3 interviews today with a Hello Kitty Bandaid on my middle finger. Good times. USE THE GUARD FOLKS!!

Now, on to the recipe – Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin. As I stated earlier, this is the second time I’ve made this. It fits into my low carb thing and let me tell you, RUN. DON’T WALK. Make this tomorrow. Or, this weekend. For Super Bowl Sunday even. It is delicious and even Dan AND Marco (good neighborhood friend) approved. My only change to the recipe was to add about a cup of Italian 3 cheese blend to the layers. Delicioso. Please try this soon. You will thank me for this one.

Please enjoy this one soon friends. XO

Super Bowl menu picks tomorrow. 🙂