Santorini

Santorini

Part two of our mediterranean journey takes us to Santorini. Thus far, our big plan is to rent a Vespa and scoot from one glass of wine to the next while wearing a giant sun hat.

That last part might just be me.

Advice?

Viva Italia!

Italy

I almost can’t believe it, but our 1-year anniversary is just around the corner in September. To celebrate – and because we never took a proper Honeymoon, unless you count that overnight at ye most glamorous Westin in Park City on our drive back to SF – we are taking two weeks off and spending them in the Mediterranean. First stop, ITALY.

Recommendations? Places to stay, eat, and see? If you were landing in Naples and had absolutely nothing else planned yet (ahem) for seven days…what would you do?

Thanks a million

xo

Cutting Board Pesto

Pesto on a crackerHey! Did you know you can make pesto without the food processor? Are you like, “Um, duh, of course you can!” Yeah, that’s what I thought, too! But then you think about it for just one second, and then you’re like, “WAIT. How DO you make pesto without a food processor?” EXACTLY. This, this right here, is how the jarred pesto people get you.

I could go on, and on, and on, about my mini food processor. And then I can think about how my pioneer ancestors would be so, so disappointed in me. At least, they would be if they knew what pesto was. Being Irish immigrants (or ex-pats, as it is apparently more PC  to say?) my guess is that they weren’t exactly one with the pesto. Or with the bathing. Or with the food in general, what with the famine and all. Aaaaand this just took a turn for the super depressing.

Either way, these were badass women who cooked with little more than two potatoes, a cauldron and a stick. Or so I tell myself while I whirred things away in the mini-chop. I simply should not be so attached to my food processor.

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Then, we took a professional knife skills class a few months ago and at the end of the class, our instructor taught us how to make a gorgeous pesto with just the ingredients + a kitchen knife. No food processor in sight. And I was prepared to be skeptical, until I tasted it.

And after that, I just feel bad for my immigrant ancestors, who WISH they could’ve gotten down with some cutting board pesto. They probably also wish they hadn’t gotten cholera and died while fording the rivers, but we can’t have it all.

What I’m really saying is, life’s short. Make this pesto immediately.

CUTTING BOARD PESTO

Ingredients:

. Healthy bunch of basil, aka, large

. 2-3 large garlic cloves.

. Sea salt

. Nuts – walnuts or pine nuts are a great choice

. Wedge of hard parmesan, to be hand grated into your pesto (the processed Kraft kind simply will not do. Also, it’s 2015, so I’m guessing the Kraft train has left the station, Godspeed and good luck to it.)

. Bottle of EVOO. You won’t use the whole thing, but the amount you use is an individual preference. Don’t limit yourself!

Instructions:

1. Wash and spin dry the basil, set it aside to air dry for a few minutes. Once dry, remove the stems.

2. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife, and add a healthy pinch of salt. Continue to mash and combine until you have a little dollop of garlic paste. Scrape it to the center of your board using the top of the knife (in other words, don’t scrape the bottom of your knife or it will dull faster.)

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3. Place the basil and nuts in the center of the board, grate a healthy dose of park over the top, and start chopping! While I absolutely am not qualified to give anyone pro knife skills tips (heh, see what I did there?) what I can tell you is that you want the sharpest knife possible, and to cut into the smallest pieces you can. Just. Keep. Chopping. Until it looks about like this:

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4. Scrape everything into a bowl and add as much EVOO as you’d like. The consistency will range from a thick paste to a swirly sauce, pending how much you add. We like it right in the middle.

5. Try really hard not to eat it with a spoon, but it’s okay if you do. Bonus points if you can put it on a little cracker action before shoving it in your mouth. It also tastes amazing swirled into minestrone soup, on top of pasta, or as the shining star of your charcuterie platter.

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ENJOY, MY LITTLE EX-PATS

Cinderella Inspired

Cinderella

{Cinderella for Grown-ups by gourmetstylegirl

 I’ll be the first to admit it: Cinderella never really did it for me. Not only was she way too passive, but I never bought into the idea that one so confined and brutalized could also remain so charming and positive. On my one free night out, instead of hitting up the ball, I’d have hit up the local constabulary – dress and all! – to see just what could be done about my living situation. Down with stepmothers! Up with minimum wage and keys to my own bedroom!

Plus, as all brunette girls of the late ’90s will attest, Belle is where it’s at. The reading? The sassy attitude? The bravery? YES. Plus, Gaston. Ick. Way to be a model for not succumbing to peer pressure, B.

All that said… and I do totally mean what I said…I’m still utterly, completely swept up in the Cinderella madness that’s everywhere right now. Oh to have worked on that marketing and PR campaign! Swoon. From  Lily James’ premiere dress to the many designer interpretations of the glass slipper, I am like a small child on Christmas waiting for this film to come out. Kudos, Disney PR, because heads up: I’M 30. And I’m STILL REALLY EXCITED.

Have courage

{Cindy’s new motto – I love it!}

There are also ways to embed a little Cindy flair into your daily life, whether you’re 3 or 30 – from a floaty tulle skirt that adds whimsy, to a little sparkle on your nails, to those sunglasses that are just the right amount of retro, in a nod to the original animated feature’s 1950 release date. I’m also swooning over that ear cuff. I’d like to think this updated Cindy might just have enough sass to rock an ear cuff…and if she won’t, then we know Belle definitely would!

Are you going to see the movie?

PS – more Cinderella-inspired looks – and other fun! – on Pinterest!

Scotch Cocktails

sour

 

{The Selkirk Sparkler}

Some say that a Scotsman is only a good as his whiskey. Being a Scottish lady, there are some things I still can’t get behind, and drinking Scotch neat is one of them. It must be the intermingled Irish, but I’d rather a glass of champagne or a Guinness any day!

As part of our Burns Night celebration, we wanted to appeal to all tastebuds. Ergo, two cocktails in celebration of all things Scotchy.

The Bobby Burns is a strong, medicinal drink. As the boys said, it’s a drink to put hair on your chest. For those who’d rather a fizz in the mouth than hair on the chests (like we lassies), the Selkirk Sparkler proved to be the perfect party drink. My goal was to take a classic whiskey sour and liven it up a little bit, and boy did we! Though for a lively night of any variety, either of these drinks will do just dandily.

The Bobby Burns

2 ounces Scotch

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 dash Angostura bitters

2 dashes Benedictine or brandy

 

The Selkirk Sparkler

2 ounces whiskey

3 ounces sour mix

Ice

Champagne

 

 

Burns Night 2015

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I’m about to out myself as big nerd. Which is probably too not much of a secret anyway, but I think publicizing your themed dinner party in honor of a long-dead Scottish poet is right up there with wearing a Boy Scout uniform as an adult (DAD!) or admitting that you still read Anne of Green Gables every now and again. Ahem. But we’re fine with that. And we’re fine with it – nay, we celebrate this weirdness! – because people all over the world celebrate Burns Night every year. And this year, we did, too.

For the uninitiated, Burns Night is a big ol’ Scottish dinner party celebrated on or ’round about every January 25th in honor of Robert Burns’s birthday. Burns was a poet, scholar, soldier, true Scotsman and all around good guy – except when he was being lascivious and womanizing. But let’s leave that part out for now.

A true Burns Night must consist of just a very few things, namely, haggis, whiskey and readings by the Scotch Bard himself. However, when you read about what Haggis entails, you are far, FAR less likely to want to eat or cook it. Enter, the vegetarian version, which is basically a tasty stuffing that is reminiscent of Thanksgiving. We also added some kale. We need greens, people!

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In addition to haggis, there are a few other must-haves for any good Burns Night:

Bangers – sweet Scottish sausages

Clapshot – mixture of mashed potatoes and turnips

Cranachan – a raspberry, cream and granola parfait

Millionaire’s Shortbread – caramel, chocolate, shortbread goodness!

We asked our guests to wear their traditional family tartans, if they were able. The Davis Clan tartan is a gorgeous red plaid shot through with gold, while Nathan’s family is French-Canadian, so he decided his clan tartan would be from the noble house of J. Crew. My sweet friend of Chinese descent didn’t have a clan tartan either, so she wore her best Burberry plaid! From bow ties to scarves, it was hilarious to see what everyone deemed worthy of a clan tartan.

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After a first round of whiskey cocktails, the running order begins!

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First, you must process in the haggis. Yes, you read that correctly – process. As in, parade it around the house.  We did it to the tunes of the Red Hot Chili Pipers ( and yes, you also read that correctly…) Then, someone is supposed to slash it open with a saber. Since we, uh, didn’t have any spare sabers lying around, we settled on a nice big kitchen knife.

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While the slashing happens, someone must address the haggis with the classic reading called, rather uncreatively, the “Address to a Haggis.” My gorgeous friend Joya performed admirably, even reading it in Scotch Gaelic!

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After the address and the chairwoman’s welcome, the night descends into readings of Burns’ poetry, prayers and songs. We also played cards (spoons!), drank whiskey cocktails and sang Auld Lang Syne to cap off the night. It was a strange, historical and hilarious night for everyone whether we are Scottish or not.

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Three cheers for Robert Burns!

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Have you ever celebrated Burns Night? Would you be into it? Tell me, tell me!

Kitchen Smackdown: real cooking vs. Blue Apron

retro cook

Something insidious has started creeping its way through San Francisco lately. It’s like a zombie that is one part Sanda Lee and two parts millennial entitlement, and WORSE, it just keeps coming back.

Whenever I mention cooking or a recipe (which I do often) people get this weird look in their eyes and say, “Hey, you like cooking – have you tried Blue Apron?”

And then I slap myself in the forehead and look for something to stab myself in the eye with. The more simultaneous I can do these things, the better.

Here’s what I say inside my head: WHY. Oh why!! Would I ever pay exorbitant prices AND punch Mother Earth in the face by having boxes and plastic and crap shipped to my house every week, just so I can have my hand held while I cook a medium-to-ick looking recipe OR a recipe so easy that absolutely anyone could make it? Yes, you’re correct, I DO love cooking. So why would I outsource it?

Here’s what I say out loud: Yeah, I think I’ve heard of Blue Apron. What is it again?

I keep looking for a reason, any reason at all, that someone might think Blue Apron is better than cooking at home. And what I’ve realized is that people fall somewhere in the range between uninformed to lazy, with pit stops to confused, overwhelmed and under-confident in between. So once and for all, I’d like to publicly declare that yes, of course I’ve heard of Blue Apron, and no I do not use it. Because there is no earthly reason for me to or you to buy into the myths that Blue Apron is perpetuating on us all.apron

Myth #1 – Blue Apron is inexpensive. While it may be cheaper than going out to dinner, it’s definitely not cheaper than cooking for yourself. We spend about $120 per week on groceries, which results in an average of 17 meals for two people every week. We shave a few off to account  for the periodic catered lunch, a dinner date night out, and the days I prioritize sleep over food and content myself with office snacks. Trail mix for breakfast, anyone?

That’s 32 meals total, bringing our average price per meal per person to $3.75. That price is pretty spendy when you think about one slice of avocado toast, my preferred breakfast, but it’s downright miraculous when you think about how much you’d pay for thai peanut noodles, roast chicken for two, or a slice of chocolate espresso pie at a restaurant. Blue Apron costs $10 per person per meal. That’s an extra $6.25 per person over cooking for yourself. If you added up that $6.25 and applied it to 32 meals per week, the average amount we cook, you are either saving or spending an extra $200 every week. That means that if you use it every week, Blue Apron costs you $10,400 every year. So you could use Blue Apron for two years, or in the same span of time buy a new car or have a down payment on a house.  When you look at it that way, the choice seems like…well, not much of a choice.

Home cooking 1, Blue Apron, 0.

Myth #2 – Blue Apron isn’t wasteful because you have the exact right amount of ingredients. I hear you. It’s annoying to see lemons wasting away at the bottom of a fridge, or those herbs rotting in the corner because you only needed a little snippet. Composting what should have been eaten makes me cringe. Except the one thing that makes me cringe more – trash. While I have to applaud Blue Apron for making their packaging recyclable and compostable, how many people are actually recycling properly? How many people just trash everything? How many people even know that a plastic ziploc bag has a half life of 4,000 years? Better to buy in bulk, fill up those reusable containers, and shop the local farmers markets.

The other thing that can prevent food waste is planning ahead! Like this week’s menu, full of overlaps and ingredient crossover. If you group foods together in your menu plan, you’ll have just enough and no extra. And if you do have extra, see if you can get creative and make a meal out of what you have on hand. That’s how we learn. My best friend’s mom calls this buffalo cooking. As the Native Americans used the whole buffalo, use all of what you have. It’s better for the earth and better for your wallet.

Home cooking 2, Blue Apron 0.

Myth #3 – Blue Apron is so fast and easy! I don’t know how to cook without them. Okay, I just plain call bullshit on this one. With Blue Apron, you still have to cook. It still takes about 30-35 minutes. And you still have to know the basics: boiling, chopping, searing, broiling. You know what else only takes 35 minutes and is pretty easy? Shakshuka, Apple Dijon Grilled Cheese, Lemon Ricotta Pasta, and Tuscan Stuffed Chicken. And with an abundance of amazing food bloggers out there helping to make cooking easy and fun, there is no reason why cooking with Blue Apron is easier than cooking with Deb from Smitten Kitchen or cooking with Lindsay from Pinch of Yum.

Home cooking 3, Blue Apron 0.

Myth #4 – I don’t have time to go to the grocery store! I’m so busy! Here in San Francisco, we live in an economy of self. An econoME, if you will. You can have your groceries delivered, your laundry picked up, your car driven for you and hell, someone will even PARK for you. We have become disconnected from those everyday things that make us human. Not that parking makes you human. In fact, looking for parking in this town makes you less human and more animal. Angry, angry beast.

But to wash your own clothes helps you understand how much water you use. To bike around town makes you appreciate where you live because you’ll really see it. Also, it saves you from becoming a savage parking beast. To buy your own food means you’re connecting with local farmers at a farmers’ market, appreciating vegetables and what it takes to grow them. Washing the dirt off a carrot instead of ripping it out of a plastic package connects you to something deeply real.

Also, you probably need to read this.

Home cooking 4, Blue Apron 0.

I know this is getting very on the verge of food pretentiousness, which we don’t like (I really don’t!) but I also know that every single one of us deserves great food, without paying an extra $10k every year for it.

We also deserve to make the best, most informed choices we can. If every once of us said no to packaging and plastic, and yes to reduce, reuse, recycle, the world would be better off.

We also deserve the chance to cook and eat real food, and to experience the full cycle of cooking and eating and how it connects us to our humanity.

And there is no delivery service for that.

Disappointed Julia

Julia is disappointed in you! Don’t make her stick you with that thermometer!