Sweet potato hash

There is this really great breakfast place near us called Sam’s Log Cabin that serves the most delicious vegan hash with sweet potatoes, carrots and greens. I tried it on a whim one time and was pleasantly surprised by how rich and filling it was. So, I really wanted to try making it at home. The other day I saw someone making sweet potato hash on a cooking show and I was like, OK, I’m doin’ it!

I, of course, thought it would be better with bacon. Similar to Smitten Kitchen’s bacon corn hash, I thought the bacon fat could be used instead of butter to cook the vegetables. So here is what I came up with:

Sweet potato hash
Serves 4
Top with an egg for the perfect breakfast or brunch meal.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  2. 2 large yams, peeled and chopped
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  5. 2 handfuls arugula or other fresh greens
  6. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  7. 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until it is starting to get crispy but not completely done.
  2. Add the yams, carrots, and onions and cover the pan with a lid. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the vegetables aren't sticking to the pan.
  3. Season with paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. When the sweet potatoes and carrots are nice and soft, add the arugula and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
  4. If you like, top with a fried egg and serve.
Notes
  1. *To make the hash vegetarian or vegan, substitute 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil for the bacon.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
I like to put a runny fried egg (or eggs) on top of my hash. I just think it’s the perfect combination. I’ve also seen a recipe where you spread the hash out in a 9×13 pan, crack a few eggs on top and then bake them. That sounds pretty great, too.

Holy crap, tomatoes

Last time I wrote about the garden I was impressed by how much the tomatoes had grown. Well, now they are like some kind of mutant tomatoes that have grown so much they don’t even begin to be contained by the cages we bought. One of them is getting tangled up in the orange tree and another one is so thick I don’t think I am going to be able to reach the tomatoes when they ripen. 

But considering we’ve only ever produced a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes since we moved to California, I’ll take these crazy plants. We’re starting to get lots of red and orange cherry tomatoes and they’re really good. 

One of the first plants to start producing a lot was the cucumber. It’s huge now, and the little cukes become big ones in only a day or two. I’m making pickles now, so I’ll write about that soon.

We planted a few green beans along our fence. Some of them are happier than others, but I can see a few beans. 

Mike and I were surprised that the tomatillos we bought don’t look anything like tomato plants, but they do have tons of blossoms on them. We’ll see. They’re supposed to be purple!

Some oranges finally ripened on the big orange tree, and they are so juicy and good.

They’re basically like naval oranges with a thick skin. Great for juice or snacking (Harper loves them). 

The mandarin tree is looking great, too. We’ve never had an orange on there bigger than about a centimeter. Now there are a few that are an inch or bigger. Come on little oranges!

The blueberries seem to be done for now, but I think they will blossom again this summer. The strawberry patch produces a few every day, but still not as many as I would like. I think I need to plants some more plants in the bare places. 

I’m not sure why, but all the sudden the mint started growing like normal mint does. Actually, I did put some compost in there, so maybe it was just hungry!

I’m so excited about the first raspberry blossoms. I know those plants are just babies, but I would love to have a few berries to pick.

The flowers in the yard are kind of a mixed bag. Some are flourishing while others are drying out. I think they will be the first to suffer from the lack of rain. The calla lilies are way bushier than last year with a lot of blooms (pink and yellow). 

This flowering bush, which as been just a few sticks since last summer, is finally coming back. 

But the hydrangeas look like they have a fungus and have turned some strange colors. They seem extra prone to it.

I should mention that the little garden my mom planted out front looks amazing. She dug out this little triangular patch, which has a rock border around it, and planted some drought-resistant flowers. Then, a bunch of California poppies sprouted right in the middle, so I think it looks just right now. The gnome thinks so too. 

And finally, the grass we planted for the dog area is growing pretty well. It needs a lot of watering to get going, but hopefully that can taper off once it’s established. There are a few dry patches, but those are easy to fill in.

The best summer dessert

I couldn’t let June go by without mentioning my favorite summer dessert. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here many times, but oh man do I love a strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

It’s sweet, tart, crunchy, and even better warm with vanilla ice cream melting on top.

You can vary the strawberry to rhubarb ratio as much as you want. You can change up the nuts or leave them out. You could do fresh whipped cream instead of ice cream. Just … yum.

Montreal-Vermont-Pittsburgh

As usual, I’m a little behind in posting here, but I wanted to share some photos of our cross-country trip (without a kid!). We decided that if we were going to fly all the way to Vermont for our friends’ wedding in May, we might as well make a bigger vacation out of it. Mom agreed to watch Harper for a full week, so we went for it.

We started by flying to Montreal and staying at a super hip Airbnb apartment in the Mount Royal neighborhood. It turned out to be a great decision to stay there. We walked all over, shopping and trying out restaurants. Even though we had a rental car, we didn’t need it in that area.

I loved all the street art. It really reflects the city’s artsy personality.

Architecturally, it felt very European, with lots of brick row houses and wrought iron railings. The neighborhood was crawling with hipsters wearing man buns. Coming from San Francisco, it was oddly comforting.

For once we didn’t really have an agenda other than to explore the city. We did a lot of eating and a lot of relaxing. It was nice.

But let’s talk about the food. It was wonderful. We started out with poutine, of course. A friend recommended La Banquise, which is pretty casual and affordable. We ordered a classic poutine with cheese curds and gravy, and a giant one with beef, hot peppers and guacamole. They were both amazing and we pretty much stuffed ourselves way past full.

For breakfast we knew we wanted to try bagels. I didn’t realize Montreal was so famous for them, but they are definitely in the do-not-miss category. They’re thinner and crispier on the outside than New York bagels. We had some at a little cafe where you could watch them slide the bagels into a brick oven with a super long and skinny peel.

For lunch we had to try Schwartz’s. It’s a trip. You walk in and there are just tons of people squeezed into these long tables, so you are bunched up against strangers while you eat. It was actually kind of cool. We talked to the people next to us (and by the way, not knowing French well didn’t seem to be a problem at all). On the menu is “smoked meat.” Apparently that is a thing in that region. It’s basically brisket, and you get to choose your level of fattiness. We had sandwiches with mustard and pickles, and they were super good and filling. Don’t ask questions, just order the smoked meat!

For another meal we tried a Tibetan restaurant, which was also very good. Probably the best mango lassi I’ve ever had. And we got to try this Tibetan bread, that is basically wrapped up like a cinnamon roll.

On our last day there, we walked around Old Montreal, which feels much more like historical areas in Europe. But very touristy! We picked up some souvenirs and had crepes.

Overall, I really liked Montreal and it made me wonder why I have not traveled more in Canada. Especially after crossing both the US and Canadian borders twice, I really felt like Canada is so much more laid back. They just don’t get as worked up about things as Americans do. For example, when we went to rent a car we just gave them our reservation and they gave us the keys. No trying to convince us to buy insurance or inspect the car for 15 minutes or whatever else they do. Little things like that happened over and over. Plus, it’s like getting to Europe for half the price, and your money goes farther in Canada. So yeah, I’m definitely putting more Canadian cities on my to-do list.

After Montreal, we drove across the border to Vermont. We stayed at an adorable inn near Waitsfield, where they told us not to worry about coming in late because they literally never lock the door. Sigh. I loved Vermont so much. It is my kind of place. Laid back, outdoorsy, full of hippies. Into pickling and homebrew.

We went to the Waitsfield farmers market, which is surprisingly big and great for such a small area. We kind of went nuts and bought jam, cheese, soap and a tie dye T-shirt for Harper. We even bought whiskey from a local distillery to gift to our friends. Afterward we found the best baby/kids store and talked to the owner for a while. Everyone was so friendly!

Then of course we had to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory. The tour was super cheesy, but at least there was ice cream at the end. That evening we went to the wedding, which was just beautiful and perfect. Congrats Torey and Chase! I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, I just ate delicious barbecue and ice cream sandwiches.

The last leg of our trip was to Pittsburgh to visit our friends Jennie and Patrick. They traveled all over the country looking for a new city and ended up picking Pittsburgh. So I was anxious to see what it was like, since it sounded like a city going through a lot of changes. Plus, Mike lived there briefly before we started dating and he wanted to see how much it had changed.

It really did seem like the whole city was under construction and a lot of cool things were happening. As Patrick says, it’s got good bones. The infrastructure is there (and affordable), so people are converting old buildings into new bars, restaurants, and other cool spots. But it still has a lot of history and plenty of old-school joints. Like Primanti Brothers! That restaurant has been on my wish list for a long time. It’s the one where they put fries and cole slaw on the sandwiches and mash it all together. I could only manage to eat half a sandwich (they are huge!). And honestly, I thought each part would have been better separately. But I’m still glad I got to try it.

One thing I thought was really cool were the inclines. In order to get up or down these super steep bluffs that look out over the city, you can ride on little cable cars. I’m not the best with heights, so it was a little scary. But the views at the top are amazing. And I’m glad they preserved the cars — it’s a really unique thing.

So that was our trip. It was kind of crazy, but all the parts came together and we really enjoyed some time to relax and do adult things, for once.

Garden success

I can’t believe how much the garden has changed since the last time I posted about it. Mike and I keep joking about how we’ll never get anything else done because every weekend we end up at the garden store adding 3 new projects to our plates. But it is really making us happy, and it’s one of the things that’s been so rewarding about buying a house. If we don’t like something, we can change it!


Three cheers for colorful tomato cages!

When we first moved in, I thought it was a little strange that we had this huge yard with plants only around the perimeter. But now I think it’s awesome that we can just put a fence around all the edible plants to keep Harper and the dogs out, and have all the rest of the space for her to play (or for eating outside or using the fire pit, etc.). The tomatoes we planted a few weeks ago have gotten huge and started sprouting little green tomatoes. I decided to add two pepper plants, too. And then on the other side of the fence we dug out a huge ugly bush and planted more tomatoes and tomatillos, plus beans running up the side of the fence. In the past when I’ve tried to grow tomatoes they never did much. So I’m really excited that these seem much happier and might actually produce quite a bit.

The strawberry patch is doing really well. We get a few every day now. I’d still like to plant a few more, and I think with every year it will produce more.

The blueberry plants we bought this year seem to be doing a lot better than the one we bought last year. I’ve picked and eaten a few and they are yummy! Again, I think in another year they will be even better. I just saw the first raspberry flower, but they have a ways to go.


A teeny harvest.

The hydrangeas have finally started opening. I’m excited for the smaller plant, which has more violet colored flowers, to open soon.

I think the prettiest flowers in the yard have to be the calla lilies. These bright pink ones opened, and I think we will have more in different colors too.

Some other leafy plant has shot up all around the lilies, but I can’t tell if it’s going to have flowers or not. This being our first full year here, the yard has constant surprises!

Shopgirl

The last couple months, business has been sloooowww. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the changes Etsy has made (allowing bigger sellers to dominate) or the warmer weather, which always slows my sales of cozy items. But it has left me bored, restless and broke. So it was kind of serendipity that I learned that the shop in Sausalito that has been selling my hats and cowls like crazy over the last year needed some help. I had spoken to the manager before about starting some DIY classes at the gallery they also own, so it seemed like a good fit for me to come onboard.

I’ve been learning the ropes and just started working two days a week at their boutique. Almost everything there is handmade by local artists, so it’s fun to talk them up. I even get to sell some of my own stuff! The location in downtown Sausalito is gorgeous. It’s just across the street from a huge marina full of sailboats. And due to the proximity to the ferry and docked cruise ships, there is a constant stream of tourists from all over the world.

The owner also brings his dog in sometimes. Marley is just the sweetest, laziest yellow lab.

I think I didn’t realize how much I needed this. It’s probably been 5 years since I got up and went to a regular job. Certainly I enjoy the fact that most days I can work in my pjs if I want to. But it’s kind of nice to put some effort into my clothes and jewelry again. I’m dusting off a lot of things I haven’t worn in quite a while. And I’m definitely eyeing some accessories in the store.

I’m sure any crafty business owner can tell you that it’s extremely hard to live with the stress of never knowing how much your income will be. So it’s nice to have another more reliable source. And I feel like if I’m going to take time away from my business and work for someone else, I want it to be a job that I truly enjoy. This one feels like a great fit. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s in one of the most beautiful vacation destinations out there. Every time I drive to work I cross the Richmond bridge and get that gorgeous bay view with Mount Tamalpais straight ahead. Sausalito, while humming with tourists downtown, is kind of a sleepy place once you get out of that area. It feels more my speed, and it’s nice to have those getaways. A little toddler-free time works wonders, too.

Toddler team pom poms

A while back I tried making Harper some pom poms in Packers colors, and they turned out as adorably as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, though, they did not hold up to being flung around by a toddler. The strings started falling out pretty much immediately. I had made them with a traditional pom pom technique (wrap the yarn around and around something, tie it off, then snip through both ends). And as with pretty much every other pom pom I’ve ever made that way, it didn’t last. So, back to the drawing board.

I figured that the problem was that the strings needed to be reinforced so that you couldn’t just pull one out. They had to be strung together. So I gathered up all the loose pieces and very carefully wove a string through the middle of all of them. It took a while, but it totally worked! Harper has been playing with her pom poms ever since. We occasionally lose a string, but it’s rare.

We cheer for a lot of teams in this house, so I’ve been making her more in some other colors. I found that this Hometown USA yarn in team colors actually works for quite a few teams with the same color combinations. But you could also just buy a skein of each of your team’s colors and mix them together.

This pattern is for teeny toddler-sized pom poms and only takes one skein of yarn. If you want them bigger, use a full skein for each pom pom.

Toddler team pom poms

Materials:
• 1 skein Lion Brand Hometown USA yarn in your team’s colors (or 2 skeins, one of each color)
• ruler
• sturdy string or embroidery floss
• needle big enough to thread the string
• scissors

Instructions:

Start by cutting your whole skein of yarn into 12-inch pieces. You can just stretch the yarn out next to a ruler to get the size right. Then once you have a few cut you can use one of the pieces as your guide.

Divide the pieces into 2 even piles. Start with the first pile.

Thread the string through your needle and start piercing it though the middle of each piece of string. One way to make sure you get it through the exact middle is to fold the string in half first.

As you work, the pieces will start forming a line. Every now and then you might need to cinch them up a little bit so you have room to add more.

When you’re finished, it should look like this.

Now bring both ends of the string together and pull to cinch up the pom pom. Keep pulling until it’s really tight, then tie a knot.

Just to get the pom pom nice and secure, wrap the string around the outside of the bundle of yarn one or two times and tie another knot. Now you can snip off the remaining string.

If you need to you can also snip off any pieces of yarn that are sticking out too much. Repeat this process with the second pom pom.

All done! It takes a while to thread all those strings, but trust me, it’s worth it to have the pom pom hold up over time. Harper loves hers. Go Royals!

Grandma’s sour cream lemon pie

My grandma loved to make this sour cream lemon pie — it is such a perfect spring dessert. Mom made one for us last weekend with some lemons a co-worker had brought from home and we ate it up!

Grandma’s other tradition was to make my mom a little pie of her own in this sweet mini pie dish. So mom saved the dish and now she can make Harper a little pie to go with the big one. So cute.

Here’s the full recipe.

Grandma's sour cream lemon pie
Serves 8
A tart and creamy dessert for spring.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  3. 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  4. 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  5. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  6. 1 cup milk
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  9. 9-inch pie shell, baked (if you have a scratch recipe, all the better!)
  10. 1 cup whipped cream for topping (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add butter, lemon zest and juice, milk and egg yolks. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil and thicken.
  2. Remove from heat and fold in sour cream. Pour the mixture into your cooled pie shell.
  3. Refrigerate until the pie is nice and firm. Top with lemon slices and serve with whipped cream.
Notes
  1. Meyer lemons work great, too!
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Bay Area fun for kids

I realized that my Bay Area travel guide really needed an update, so I added a whole bunch more restaurants and things to do and took off some that either closed or aren’t really hot spots for us. And because I know it’s a huge list, I still have my top 10 list so you can cut to the chase.


Mike and Harper at Codornices Park in Berkeley. This one has a cool hill slide and a tunnel to the Rose Garden. 

Now that we’re parents, though, we have a whole new perspective on travel and dining out. Most touristy places — well, let’s be honest, most everywhere in the Bay Area — can be crowded with long lines and inadequate parking. When you’re hauling around small children and all the stuff that goes with them, you want to make sure you’re going to be able to keep them entertained while finding things like clean bathrooms and high chairs. So, I wanted to put together a list of our favorite places to hang out with kids. When I first moved here I thought this wasn’t a particularly kid friendly place (more like dog friendly!) but now I realize that there are plenty of super fun places that cater to kids. You just have to find them. *When in doubt, search Red Tricycle.

Here are a few that are definitely worth checking out:

Steam trains and Little Farm. It’s a nice drive through the eucalyptus trees to reach Tilden Regional Park, which is up in the Berkeley hills. You can stop at one of the overlooks for a view of the whole bay. Then continue on to one of our favorite stops, the steam trains. It’s about a 10-minute ride through the woods in a cute little train. There’s a spot nearby where you can have a picnic in the grass.

You can also drive to the carousel and the Little Farm, where kids can feed farm animals. And there are some great hiking trails in the area. 

Children’s Fairyland. They call this Oakland’s storybook theme park, and I’d say that’s a perfect description. It’s full of tiny houses to explore, plus a train ride, puppet show and other performances. Bigger kids can go down slides and ride the carousel. 


Harper inside one of the little houses in Fairyland.

Lake Merritt. Fairyland is right next to gorgeous Lake Merritt, which has a great playground and nature center. Harper likes to watch the ducks and geese. There’s a huge lawn where you can have a picnic. 


Running near the playground at Lake Merritt.

Bay Area Discovery Museum. This place is much more than a museum. It’s like a theme park without all the schmaltz. Kids can explore different areas, inside and out, with climbing obstacles, water to splash in, musical instruments and a lot more.

It’s a little pricey, but the first Wednesday of the month is free! Plus, you can’t beat the Golden Gate Bridge view and the proximity to Sausalito and other fun things in Marin. 


The view from the parking lot at the discovery museum.

Treasure Island Flea. The last weekend of every month there’s a huge flea market on Treasure Island. It’s only $3 admission and kids under 12 are free. They have activities set up for kids and food trucks, where you can get a really yummy lunch. The market’s great, but it’s also just a fun place to hang out. 


Food trucks at the Treasure Island Flea.

Crissy Field and East Beach. Harper loves the water, so even if it’s freezing cold, we still have fun taking her to the beach. The one near Crissy Field is right in San Francisco and has great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge. It has a nice walking/bike trail and bathrooms nearby. 

She also loved the beach in Pescadero, which is a bit of a drive but a nice getaway. 

Lafayette Park playground. If you’re looking for a playground in the city, you’ll love the one at Lafayette Park. We went there for a birthday party and couldn’t believe how nice it was.  


The playground at Lafayette park.

Berkeley Marina/Cesar Chavez Park. When Harper was a baby, my moms group used to meet here to walk our strollers on the wide path through this waterfront park. People come to “kite hill” to fly kites here, which is fun to watch. Nearby at the marina there is a nice playground and then a big adventure playground for older kids.

I might do a separate list for kid-friendly restaurants, but there are a few places I can recommend. For breakfast, we love Mel’s Diner. They have a bunch of bay area locations (apparently these are different from the Mel’s Drive-Ins, which would also be good), which have kids menus, crayons and balloons. For Mexican food, the Talavera in Berkeley is great because it’s right next to a little park. For ice cream, we love Fentons in Oakland. You can get huge sundaes to share, and although there’s sometimes a line, you can usually get a table pretty quickly. 


Baby-size sundae at Fenton’s.

I will keep adding to this list as we discover new things!

Back in bloom

Mom, Mike and I have spent a lot of time in the yard lately just trying to get it back in shape after “winter.” The last few months have actually been really restorative for the plants since they were struggling at the end of last summer’s drought.

We had also decided to make some changes to the landscaping and finally had time to do it. The previous owners had pretty ornamental plants and we wanted more edible ones. So we dug out all the hedges and some of the geraniums to make room for a berry patch. Most of last year’s strawberry plants survived, and we added a few more to fill in the gaps. They are going strong.


So excited for strawberries!

The blueberry bush we bought last year had basically turned into a stick by the end of the summer, but I’m glad to report that it did survive and it’s started to leaf out quite a bit.

We bought two more blueberry bushes and then two raspberry plants, both of which seem to be happy.


One of the happy raspberries. 

In order to keep the dogs and Harper from messing up the plants, Mike built a fence around them.

We did leave these pretty tulips in the middle, although we might move the bulbs later.

I actually didn’t know they were going to come up until I noticed them poking out from under one of our planter boxes. When I moved the box I discovered a little salamander family living under there. At first I thought they were newts, so I showed Harper and she kept going back to that spot yelling, “baby NEWT!” So funny.

On the other end of the berries there is a beautiful fuchsia plant that also looked pretty terrible a few months ago. I’m so glad to see that it’s back in bloom.

The other red and white fuchsia plant got sort of squished by another bush, so it’s taking a little longer to recover. But I think it will.

This mum that looks like daisies was another surprise.

I had planted it in the ammo box planter, and not only did it return, it jumped out into places all over the yard.

The mint that was growing in the box got this sort of purple trim around the edges, but it seems to be turning back to normal.

Our hydrangeas look really lush again, which is nice. We have one little and one big, but the little guy is catching up!

The calla lilies that were so pretty last year are popping through the soil again.

And I’m thrilled to see this orchid, the only potted plant I kept from the previous owners, produced these impressive blooms.

I forgot to water this plant I bought at the end of last summer and figured it was dead, but it has flowers on it again. Whew!

I had to trim a couple geranium plants because they became absolutely huge after the winter rains.

The side yard, where the dogs are supposed to do their business, got completely overgrown with shoulder-high weeds.

So I finally dug them all up, plus all the ground cover that was keeping the dogs from using the rest of the yard. We are going to regrade it a little bit to help with drainage and then plant new grass seed.


Just a bit better…

We dug up a LOT of weeds to make a little tomato patch, and then fenced it in.

We got a few more plants to fill in some open spots. And of course I can’t give up my dream of having dahlias.

I also can’t give up on our little mandarin tree, which has yet to produce an edible orange. It was happiest in the shade of one of our ugly hedges, so now that the hedge is gone I keep moving it around the yard trying to find a good spot.

It does at least have some small oranges all over it. The other orange tree, though, has totally flourished.

When we moved in it had one orange and no new blossoms. Now it is producing like crazy. It has fragrant blossoms and bees all over it.

It has some tiny green oranges and some that are almost ready to pick.

We pruned it a little and weeded around it, but mostly we are just waiting for those oranges to ripen. Exciting!

Our little front-yard garden got kind of disrupted when we had our sewer lateral replaced, but it still looks pretty good. And then mom dug out the little triangular spot in our driveway, planted some pretty flowers and decorated it with a cool rock. I’ll have to post some photos of that.

All in all we are feeling really great about the yard and just hoping it stays healthy as long as possible since another dry summer is pretty much guaranteed.