Girls weekend on the Central Coast

_MG_2585 _MG_2587 _MG_2613_MG_261520131124 _MG_262520131124_MG_259320131124

The Central Coast of California is big-time dreamy. A group of 13 girls piled in a few cars and airplanes to spend a weekend celebrating our friend and bride-to-be Edyta in Carpinteria. We were so excited, I miiiiight have gotten pulled over for speeding on the way there (thank you nice police officer who gave me a ticket for tinted windows instead). The house we rented ended up being more like a sprawling estate. I kept saying “jeez, it takes sooooo long to walk across this house” as if that were a problem. The weekend was exactly what I needed – we laughed a lot, drank a few too many cocktails, lounged in the front yard that over-looked the Pacific Ocean (seriously? seriously.) and danced our faces off. There also might have been a stripper involved. We spent a lot time in our pajamas. It was perfect.

If you’re feeling stressed or in a rut, I highly recommend a girls weekend away. Bonus points if you’re lucky enough to live close to the little paradise also known as California.

Rosemary & chocolate granola

_MG_2654_MMvsco20131124_MG_2635_MMvsco2013112420131124 _MG_2641_MMvsco2013112420131124 _MG_2647_MMvsco2013112420131124 _MG_2653_MMvsco2013112420131124

I think someone said once that chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food. Or, I’m making it up now. Either way, it’s true, and this granola recipe is evidence – alongside the pain au chocolat at Tartine.

I’ve been making this recipe for a few years after finding it on my favorite food blog Orangette. One year, Jason and I were scheming a homemade gift we could create for our friends, and we thought of this – but to make it special and, I don’t know – more seasonal – we added rosemary and sea salt. My mom’s restaurant makes this amazing nut mix with pecans, rosemary, and chocolate, so I thought the combination would work. Friends, I was right. We’re basically addicted to this recipe and it has become a holiday tradition of sorts.

Spoiler alert: many of our nearest and dearest will receive our granola as a gift this year. I love it because it’s homemade and it’s a little unexpected – the perfect thank-you gift for a friend who did me a huge favor recently, as well as for some friends who are hosting us up in wine country next weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rosemary & Chocolate Granola
We go ahead and make the double batch because it goes fast. I suggest you do the same – or halve this recipe if you’d rather start small. It’s adapted from Molly’s recipe here. My adaptation fills about 3 quart-sized Ball jars.

6 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw nuts, chopped. I like pecans and almonds.
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and finely chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp of kosher salt
9 Tbsp. mild honey
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup, or more, chopped dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. You will need 2 large rimmed baking sheets, like these. Do not grease the sheets.

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut, rosemary, sugar, and salt. I use my hands to sift until all the ingredients are well-combined.

In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisk together the honey, brown sugar, and oil until the sugar dissolves. Pour the liquid over the oat mixture and stir well until the oats are lightly moistened. Spread the mixture out evenly over both baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, stopping halfway to stir the granola.

Let granola cool for about 15 minutes then sprinkle with chopped dark chocolate. The chocolate may melt slightly, so resist the urge to stir the granola.

After chocolate has set up, scrape granola from pans into an airtight container. It will keep for up to 2 weeks.

The best Autumn day

_MG_2489

Last Sunday, we went apple-picking in the North Bay. After some quick research I found Chileno Valley Ranch (just West of Petaluma) and it looked like exactly what I wanted – a little bit of country, a little bit of fall.

The ranch didn’t disappoint; we picked apples right off the trees and got up close and personal with some friendly cows. Sometimes this Missouri girl just needs a taste of home.

_MG_2492 _MG_2501 _MG_2502 _MG_2507 _MG_2536 _MG_2552 _MG_2556 _MG_2565 _MG_2573_MG_2575vsco

On our way home, we drove out to the coast through Tomales Bay & Point Reyes. That area has amazing views and misty fog – a lot like Mendocino. We had lunch right on the water at cozy Nick’s Cove which Jason called “the original Red Lobster”. I told him he was my red lobster. Awww.

I’ll take a Sunday like that every weekend.

Snickerdoodles

_MG_2483

It has taken two-and-a-half years of living in coastal California to realize that I miss seasons. I even miss winter a little bit. I can’t believe I just said that. But in a way, it’s true. I miss the sense of impending change, of time passing in increments. Living in a place with no seasons starts to feel a bit like Groundhog Day sometimes. It’s predictable.

_MG_2461 _MG_2482_MMvsco20131022 _MG_2486 _MG_2488

We’ve gotten some unseasonably cool weather for October lately (our Octobers are supposed to be our summer) but I’ve really enjoyed it. It feels like fall. I’ve been listening to a lot of Louis Armstrong and Etta James and thinking about cinnamon and pumpkin-flavored things.

So I made snickerdoodle cookies for the first time. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long; they are incredibly easy to make and so (I mean SO) delicious. Still warm from the oven, they’re like a piece of cinnamon sugar toast. I highly recommend them eaten while cozied up on the couch, watching a movie.

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Recipe adapted from this one. Makes about 3 dozen medium-sized cookies. The secret ingredient is the extra sprinkle of coarse salt. Don’t forget it; it really makes these cookies spectacular.

1/4 cup granulated sugar (for cinnamon-sugar topping)

1 1/2 T cinnamon

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt plus some extra for sprinkling

Coarse sea salt (kosher or fleur de sel)

In a shallow bowl, whisk 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon together. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Add in vanilla and beat until well-mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, just until combined.

Using your hands, divide the dough into small balls (about the size of golf balls) and roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until fully covered. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place balls on a cookie sheet and top each cookie with a healthy pinch of coarse salt. Bake each batch for about 10 minutes or until the tops have cracked but are not overly golden brown. Do not over-bake. Store all remaining dough in a resealable container; sprinkle with salt right before you bake. You can keep the raw dough refrigerated for up to one week.

 

Home again

_MG_1231 _MG_1234_MG_1240_MG_1233

I came across a bunch of photos from my last trip home in July and I wanted to share them. I spent time at my mom’s adorable restaurant that she has spent 12 years perfecting; her cozy bungalow that reminds me of the giant house we could buy for the cost of a down payment here (San Francisco real estate, I shake BOTH of my fists at you!); my oldest, best friend Emily’s parents’ house where I practically grew up. My sister and I a memorable day at the lake with my dad, which sadly I didn’t take any photos of for fear of ruining my camera. You’ll just have to take me word that it was a great day.

Also, my friends have gorgeous children. I love seeing them grow up, although I hate how much of their lives I miss.

_MG_1243_MG_1245_MG_1251_MG_1260_MG_1268_MG_1274_MG_1280_MG_1282_MG_1331

I love California, but Missouri will always feel like home.

The view from our roof (and thoughts on happiness)

_MG_2309_MMvsco20130926 _MG_2314_MMvsco20130926 _MG_2315_MMvsco20130926 _MG_2325_MMvsco20130926 _MG_2326_MMvsco20130926

The fog has finally lifted from our neighborhood, so I ran up to our roof before work to catch the view in the morning light. The beauty of this city still takes my breath away.

Happiness has been a bit elusive for me during the past year. Just when I think I have it, it slips away again. A wise person told me recently that you can hold two things at once: happiness, disappointment; thankfulness for what you have, sadness for what you lost. I like this concept a lot, and sitting up on our roof felt like yet another example of it. This city is hard to live in sometimes – it’s stupid-expensive and it takes forever to get anywhere – but daaaaamn. It’s gorgeous.

Photos taken in the Inner Sunset, San Francisco.

Otis Redding and Ricotta Crostini

_MG_2238_MG_2245_MMvsco20130926

There are small moments in life you hope you’ll always remember. These are a few of mine lately:

Sitting around our living room with my favorite red head, my brother, and his little family, bellies full, drinking wine, laughing and singing along to Otis Redding and the Righteous Brothers.

My godson on the phone, telling me in his tiny three-year-old voice that he misses me from 2,000 miles away.

Getting a surprise package in the mail from my mom with a ring she picked up for me on a recent trip to Greece.

I am truly thankful.

_MG_2244_MMvsco20130926_MG_2251
_MG_2279_MMvsco20130926 _MG_2296_MMvsco20130926 _MG_2294_MMvsco20130926_MG_2299_MMvsco20130926

Ricotta, Pistachio and Honey Crostini (makes about 15 pieces)

1T olive oil

1/2 french or sourdough baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

2-3 T raw honey

1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped

salt & pepper

Heat oven to broil. Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1T olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toast for about 90 seconds or until bread is golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread each baguette slice with 1 small spoonful of ricotta cheese. Drizzle with honey and top with pistachios. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on top. Serve immediately.

Banshee Wines

_MG_2184_MG_2162_MMvsco20130915 _MG_2161_MMvsco20130915_MG_2157_MG_2175_MMvsco20130915 _MG_2178_MMvsco20130915 _MG_2182 _MG_2187 _MG_2192_MMvsco20130915 _MG_2196 _MG_2201_MMvsco20130915 _MG_2207a _MG_2209 _MG_2217_MMvsco20130915 _MG_2224

A strange thing happens when you move across the country: inevitably, you’re drawn to people who came from the same place as you – people who were raised the same way. Our friends Noah and Kelly fall into this category. They moved to San Francisco long before we did, but grew up in the same part of Missouri and went to college in our hometown.

A few years ago, they opened a small wine company with a few friends. Not surprisingly, it took off, and we were invited up to the opening of their new tasting room on the square in Healdsburg. It’s actually tough to find well-designed (modern) spaces in wine country, although that is changing. Banshee’s tasting room is already getting impressive accolades (here and here). Again, no surprises there – Kelly is a designer and has an aesthetic that is the perfect mix of old and new.

I was so proud to see our friends in action, celebrating a lot of hard work. Congrats to Kelly + Noah and the whole Banshee team. We’ve always been rooting for you guys! And we love drinking your wine.

p.s. I love all Banshee wines, but their pinot is my favorite and it’s very reasonably-priced compared to other Russian River bottles of the same quality. You can order some for yourself here.

Photos taken at Banshee Wines, 325 Center Street, Healdsburg.

Saturday in the Mission

_MG_2056_JMvsco20130909_MG_2060_JMvsco20130909_MG_2055_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2067_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2072_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2092_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2102_JMvsco20130909_MG_2114_JMvsco20130909_MG_2118_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2111_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2116_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2121_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2124_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2125_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2131_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2139_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2142_JMvsco20130909 _MG_2148_JMvsco20130909

If you don’t live in San Francisco, you might now know that we have the best French bakery in the country, Tartine. I challenge anyone to argue with me on this fact.

It’s funny; just when you start thinking maybe you could live somewhere else, you have a magical day in which the city totally redeems itself. 80 degrees, incredible food, and the pretty streets of the Mission neighborhood. I’ll take it.

Photos taken at Tartine Bakery, The Mission neighborhood, San Francisco.