Sites I love: Food 52 where foodies rule

Food 52 Sweet Potato Quesadilla & Egg

Sweet Potato and Cilantro Quesadilla with Fried Egg + Cumin Oil

Maybe I’m just hungry but when my Food 52  RSS feed posted with this featured recipe, I started salivating big time.

There’s a zillion food blogs out there (I’m addicted to many) but  Amanda & Merrill’s blog Food 52 is different. It’s a user-generated website where readers post and vote on recipes in an array of categories.  If you’re looking for a great quinoa salad or a gorgeous asparagus dish, roasted chicken variations or ideas for  Sunday dinners or vegan visitors, you’ll find loads of recipes tasted, tested and voted by hordes of hungry readers.

But back to this  quesadilla recipe. It’s just everything I want in a dish: healthy, tasty, easy to make and brilliant to serve guests. The photo itself is worth a thousand words so kudos to Carolyn Wright for devising & shooting this recipe.

Does this dish make your tummy growl? Is there another recipe that stops you in your tracks?  If so, please share!


New Year’s Resolutions 2013- A status update

The Class of Dance by Edgar Degas (1874)
The Class of Dance by Edgar Degas (1874) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I made four resolutions this year and so far, I’m making good on two of them. Well, sorta.

1.Give up cookies and ice cream.
As my loyal readers already know, these are two of my basic food groups so this resolution was clearly too ambitious. I am back on ice cream after 4 days. However, no cookies have crossed my lips (brownies are not cookies so don’t even go there. And if you eat the chips out of a chocolate chip cookie—then that’s chocolate, not cookie). I’m now following the Tiny Habits principle—small changes, made smaller.

2.Take a dance class.
Took my first Zumba class on Sunday. Went to a  fitness club where I wouldn’t know anyone and stood in the back. Some gorgeous fit young woman walks up to me and goes “Mimi.” I say “who are you and how do I know you?.” It was a former colleague I haven’t seen in 10 years. There goes my anonymity. However, she stayed in the front row where I could watch her bust her well-toned moves while I busted my ass trying to keep up.  It was actually quite fun. My dancing is like Lucille Ball crushing grapes—pathetically klutzy but I got the job done. I was coated in sweat by the end.

3. Take  art and writing classes
A friend asked me to join her on a Groupon offering a stained class class in Half Moon Bay. I said sure. We haven’t scheduled yet….but my intention is there. That’s a start. And I really would like to take a scriptwriting class this year. “Really.”  “Really.” And scene.

4. Learn how to bake bread
I’m talking about bread that inflates. Not sissy “quick” breads that are more cake than crust. I want to make my own crackly Poilane loaf, my own Tartine peasant round. The problem is I’m scared of yeast. What if the dough doesn’t rise? My grandmother made braided challah every week. I remember the loaves sitting in a bowl under a cloth. A few hours later, it doubled. She beat it up with her amazing upper arm strength and repeated the process.

There definitely was some magic involved in my grandmother’s golden loaves. I think that the magic is hidden in every conglomeration of flour, water & yeast if you know the secret incantation. It’s scary playing with magic and I am humbled by those who regularly make bread rise from the dead.  It’s very resurrection-y. I will do it. This year. It’s only January.

That’s my resolutions status. How are yours going?

Wheat Belly Diet? Flat Belly Diet? Blubber Management 101

Bagel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While searching for a new novel to download, I came across a best-selling diet book that was news to me: The Wheat Belly Diet. With a stack of beautiful bountiful bagels on the cover, it got my attention. Apparently, it’s my craving for plain and whole grain carbs that’s causing my  blubber belly. At least that’s Dr. Davis’ theory and he’s sticking with it all the way to the bank. Drop the wheat and the pounds will follow.

Of course, like the Flat Belly Diet before that and the Caveman (Paleo) Diet before that, I am sucker for stomach shrinking schemes.  But why do these best-selling diet books always pick on my beloved carbs?

I simply can’t exist on protein alone. I don’t eat red meat and my appetite for chicken/turkey is quite limited. I’m not bean counter or a tofu taker so that leaves fish and eggs…and hey…how many eggs and salmon filets can you eat before you sprout fins and wings?

Where’s the damn chocolate chip cookie diet? How about the Hagen Dazs Diet? Or the Bread Basket Diet?  Surely some cardiologist or nutritionist can doctor up some studies to show that carb loading IS good for you. That bagels are belly blasters not belly bloaters. You will make a fortune if you do, I promise.

I suppose I could give up bread for a week if I could still have chocolate and ice cream…but that’s not the deal. It’s not just bread that’s on the Belly Fat hit list…it’s sugar treats, too.

Blubber management isn’t easy. As they say in the Bible, I am not my blubber’s keeper. But my blubber is keeping me.

Desperately seeking pistachio gelato? Talenti to the rescue.

It’s a known fact that I’m a chocoholic. But that’s a craving  easily sated with candy, cookies, cakes and more. But I’m also a pistachio dessert freak and that’s a more serious problem.  Because once you’ve tasted pistachio gelato and pistachio-filled pastry in Italy, you are spoiled for life. Let me tell you my pistachio story (and then I promise a reward)

Desperately Seeking Pistachio Gelato

Baskin Robins makes a pistachio ice cream with almonds. No pistachio there. Others use cherry or almond syrup or synthetic flavorings to simulate pistachio taste. Hagen Daz pistachio ice cream is white. What’s wrong with this picture?  The perfect pistachio ice cream requires the simplest of ingredients—pistachios. Green pistachios.

But ahh Italy. They understand pistachio. Four years ago, we visited Italy. Each day , we bought our requisite gelato cone from a street vendor. We always ordered pistachio though the second flavor could vary from chocolate to coffee or even cherry. From Rome to Siena, from Pienza to Florence to Venice, we sated our pistachio craving daily with gelato redolent of the green goodness of pistachio, the elixir of pistachio, the essence of pistachio. We ate wonderful pasta everywhere we went but what I will remember most of Italy was the perfect creamy pistachio infusion we ate each day.

But, I am holding back. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you about the most insane pistachio treat we had. It was in Venice. I dream of it, I am sick to tears that we did not discover it until our last day in Venice. In a bakery window we randomly passed along the Grand Canal,  row upon row of fragrant canolli urgently beckoned us. We stopped our wandering, stepped inside the shop and asked for the cannolli that had the tease of green filling peeking out from the chocolate-coated edges of a fat and crusty, crumbly roll. We bought only one pastry to share as we’d already had our gelato fix barely an hour earlier. We walked along the canals, heading for our last supper at a waterside café across yet another scenic bridge and through a labyrinth of streets leading toward the Academie Museum.
Along the way, we stopped to taste a morsel of our pistachio cannoli. It was a revelation. It was a symphony. It was decadence. It was sex. It was better than sex. And there was only the one. And we could not go back. We could only remember forever that aahhh, that’s pistachio!

End of story.
Until now.

With the Bay Area’s profusion of artisan foodistes, we’ve continued our search  for a pistachio dessert substitute…a sweet facsimile of our Italian experience. It’s been a sad journey, forcing ourselves to taste so much green mediocrity. But we are nothing if not stoic.

And then, one day, in the freezer aisle of Whole Foods Market, I spotted  these sexy, see through glass jars of Talenti Gelato. And they had pistachio. Sicilian Pistachio. And it was good. No, it was excellent. No, it was a taste of Italy.

I have never “liked” a product before. But I am a Talenti Facebook fan…because they get me. And I get them. And when they go on sale… I stock up. And just to be perfectly clear, their other flavors are gelato genius as well (esp. the double dark chocolate!).

So, my reward to you for reading all the way through is to urge you to get thee to a Whole Foods or find a local Talenti distributor. Pistachio gelato perfection awaits. And…it’s made in America!

Corporate Coffee: The trials of getting a good cup of joe at work

I am not a coffee snob or a cafe curmudgeon. Not a Blue Bottle devotee or a Nespresso Nexpert. I’m just a working class gal who needs a strong cup of coffee to start her day & kick the ol noggin into gear. And lately, I’ve been getting a bad start.

Having worked at the same nonprofit for years, I’ve developed a routine. Come in, turn on computer and carry my cup to the coffee room where a rich cup of coffee awaited. I made sure of that by buying good coffee (Peets, Illy or Starbucks) and writing precise instructions on how to brew a perfect pot with our little cheapo coffee maker.  Use three  1/4 cup scoops to 9 cups of water. The result was a biological/chemical marvel– the seratonin rushes in, the cerebral spark plugs start firing and I am good to go. A few of my colleagues adopted this formula and we strong coffee lovers were set for great mornings.

Then, the nonprofit, in its infinite wisdom, decided to buy a professional coffee maker. No more amateur hour. No more pouring of water, the coffee maker is self-watering. All that’s needed is to dump the right amount of coffee into the filter. And there’s the rub. Nobody seems to know the precise quantity of coffee needed for this uber carafe. The result is weak, watery coffee. One person called it brown tea…but that’s insulting to tea.

It’s Tuesday and the second day of watery coffee this week. And I can’t cope. I may need to bring in & hook up my old Krups or buy a french press and make my own. I don’t like being a whining, complaining grump in the morning. But I can’t deal with this drecky coffee (if you know yiddish, you’ll know that’s not good).

Today’s noir-ish cartoon video by Gary Lieb in the New York Times captured my noir-ish mood. It’s called “Coffee Nerves NY.”  I guess you can call me Coffee Nerves SF.  And I’ve got it bad.

Maybe tomorrow will be a good coffee day. I’m willing to hope. At heart, I am a wide-eyed optimist. But it’s strong coffee that helps make me that way!

Can you survive bad corporate coffee?
Coffee Nerves New York  Video

12 Hours in Paris: Get your French Fix here

Cover of "Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily A...
Cover via Amazon

It’s spring and a woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of Paris! Hopscotching through a couple of my favorite French blogs, Provence Post and  Haven in Paris, I came across a mention of Chocolate & Zucchini, one of my top French foodie blogs that I haven’t visited in a while.

And zut alors, I came upon a post on the ideal way to spend 12 Hours in Paris. What could be better than a day of exploring hidden corners of Montmartre, buying pastry or bread at Poilaine, eating a satisfying veggie stew at Bob’s Kitchen or spending an evening in the trendy Marais shopping, eating and drinking. Absolument rien! Sounds like 12 hours of heaven.

And while I was perusing the post, I noted that Clotilde Dusoulier is currently reading School of Essential Ingredients which sounds like a perfect book club pick for a chick lit food fiction month so I’m adding that to my list.

I may not be in Paris…but  with a few clicks I can escape with my blogeurs francaise.

Live long. Live happy. Eat Chocolate.

Chocolates (Photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes)

As my readers know, I am a diehard chocoholic. Or rather a die later chocoholic since it’s now shown that chocolate aids longevity, weight loss and mental health.

The latest research is summed up in this article “Ten health benefits of chocolate” from Huffington Post so I won’t repeat them here. But if you are now pumped to consume this gift of the gods, you might enjoy some of my previous posts on chocolate, including the series “Great Chocolates I have known and loved” as well as my post about my dismal failure at the Paleo Caveman Diet because real cavemen didn’t eat chocolate. And–ahem– they are extinct and I’m not.

So, eat (chocolate), drink (cocoa) and be merry. If it doesn’t make you live longer, weigh less or smile more, it’s still the best (legal) high money can buy.

Chocolate (Photo credit: EuroMagic)