Monday, January 26, 2009

Roasted pepper and goat cheese appetizer

Twice in the past week I've made a roasted pepper appetizer. It's really quite simple, I got the basic recipe from my Williams Sonoma Entertaining book. You either buy roasted peppers, or roast and peel them yourself (quite easy to do).

The filling is essentially herbed goat cheese. The recipe calls for mixing in fresh herbs yourself, but I just bought herbed goat cheese. The first time, I used the cheese straight from the package, but it was pretty hard to spread, and the peppers can be kind of delicate. So the second time, I mixed in a little cream cheese and then enough milk to soften the mixture and make it spreadable.

Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture on the peppers, and roll them up into logs. Refrigerate for about 4 hours (or however long you have), then slice them into bite-sized pieces.

Loris personalized them by adding a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh-cracked pepper, which was divine. I just ate the leftovers for lunch =)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

VERY late Christmas presents

I have so much to write about and never enough time or motivation to do it.

But I wanted to write a quick note about the Christmas gift I finished for my husband last night. I know, I know, it's a bit late but hey! It's not a MONTH late. Barely.

Anyway, I wanted to make him a tray because in the summer we eat outside and it takes forever to carry everything in and out of the house before and after meals. I saw a beautiful sunflower tile tray, but it was expensive, and I thought, I can make something as cool as that! No problem!

Well, I did get knocked down off my high horse by this project - it was tough. The first problem was to actually construct the tray. I decided to tile it using tile samples from my sister's office which would otherwise be thrown away (hooray for reusing perfectly good materials!). So I would need a solid base able to withstand some heavy tile and grout, and I would have to figure out a way to frame it and add handles.

I figured out my tile design, laid it out, and measured, so I knew how big the decorative surface had to be. Then I had to figure out the frame. This was hard. I wanted not only for the sides to be high enough to frame the tile, but also to form a bit of a lip to keep errant dishes and such from sliding off while being carried. A simple corner molding wasn’t tall enough – after tiling and grouting it would be flush with the tile rather than forming a lip. I ended up deciding on a bigger corner molding that would create a lip, and bought a long, skinny piece of wood and cut it down to act as a filler between the base and the molding, to create the height for the lip. That took some serious calculations, especially as my sister and I were deciding how to construct this “on the fly” at the hardware store.

Since my dad’s tools are rusty and under mounds of crap in my mom’s garage, I had to cut the molding with my trusty hand saw and miter box. THAT was a royal pain – I’ve never used it to cut molding, which I wanted to line up perfectly at the corners to form a frame. Luckily, everything fit beautifully, and in a relatively short time, I had glued the filler and the frame together around my base. Whew!

Next, I had to attach some handles. I bought some cabinet handles that I really liked, only to realize that they were a bit small to comfortably carry a heavy tray with a heavy load – and that was for my hands. It would probably be even harder for a man. Finding large enough, stylish handles was a neat trick, and it was expensive. Drilling holes through my frame in exactly the right spot was an even harder trick, which took me several days of attempts, several moments of almost-swearing, and one episode of me nearly crying. I won’t go into details. Let’s just say it was really difficult.

Finally, I glued down the tile. I didn’t actually mosaic it – just picked a random pattern of colored tile with two large terra cotta stripes, and I also didn’t realize that it would be so hard to line up the square tiles so that they were all even. I didn’t worry about it too much, and in fact you can see that they’re not in perfectly straight lines, but I think that just adds to the charm. It looks handmade.

Last night I grouted it. I got some grout on the frame, so I’ll have to lightly sand it, but it’s DONE. HOLY COW!

Pictures to come. I hope.

Whoops, did I say "quick note?"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beautiful San Diego Sunshine

I just got back from a conference in San Diego, where I had to present a session in front of about 120 people. I did a great job of not stressing, and everything went really well. The best part about the conference was a few nights of good sleep (sorry to my kitty, but sleeping on me is going to have to stop!) and a few mornings of running in fantastic weather along the San Diego Bay.

All the running was inspiring me to start getting in shape for 2009. I may start riding my bike to work again, once a week or so. I hope to make a running date with a friend once or twice a week in the evenings after work. My husband and I will (hopefully) start rock climbing once or twice a week again, and running stairs once a week. And on the weekends, we’ll continue to go ski mountaineering.

My hope for this year is to do at least one of the following (if not more – listed mostly in order of likelihood) : 1) run a half-marathon; 2) compete in at least one Olympic distance triathlon ; 3) compete and place in a sprint distance triathlon; 4) run a marathon – probably the California International Marathon in December; 5) consider a Half Ironman.

In the meantime, I also want to improve my health by eating more nutritiously. After 4 days of eating out, conference food, and heavy hotel breakfasts, I’m really appreciating coming home to my organic vegetable garden. We’ve been feasting on broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, and turnips. The lettuce has gone into hibernation, but already I can see promise for fava beans, spring peas, onions, and carrots.

After a fall and winter of slacking off and eating a lot of junk food, it’s time to get serious about being healthy. I’m looking forward to it.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Finally! Pictures of my mosaic.

After the first phase - the tree is finished, and I've started on the background:

In this one, the tiling is done, and I only have to grout it. I'll have a picture with the grout soon.

And here is the awesome mosaic bowl I made for my sister for Christmas. The moon is a large bead made of - mother of pearl? The stars are small, clear beads. The mountains are grey and pale purple, with snowy caps.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Went to the garden today for the first time in a while. The poor peppers that are left are looking pretty sad, but overall the garden looks good. I picked a head of broccoli and a head of cauliflower, both of which had been out there too long, a fennel bulb, and 5 or 6 huge turnips. I'm going to make cauliflower soup tonight. Yum!

My sweetheart husband bought me a composter for Christmas. We set it up in the house, and the cat quickly decided it was her new home. I think she was pretty disappointed when I moved it outside, and I've already started filling it up with onion skins, cauliflower and turnip leaves.