Christmas in the heartland

I was pretty worried that our plan to fly to Kansas City, have our parents shuttle us to Wisconsin, and then fly out of Minneapolis was going to be a disaster. We do have a history of traveling in winter and getting stuck in snowstorms. But thanks to unseasonably warm weather (sadly, no white Christmas for us), we got to every stop without a hitch. And we had a really great time seeing family and friends in the Midwest.

First stop was my family in Kansas. We decided to make prime rib for our almost-Christmas dinner, and it was fantastic. We rubbed the roast with a paste of olive oil, cracked peppercorns, thyme, basil, sea salt, rosemary, and crushed bay leaves. It created a really flavorful au jus in the pan, too.

Apparently in our food coma we neglected to take any more photos, but we did also have a yummy seafood dinner with my dad and stepmom, bubble bread and Frenchiladas (stuffed crepes covered in cheese) with my aunt and uncle, and a lot of flipping through old photos and chatting with grandmas for geneology research.

I’m very excited to start using this bad boy, an enameled cast iron dutch oven that was a gift from my parents.

And these cookbooks. The Paradise Cafe was an institution in my hometown, Lawrence, before it closed.

I forgot to mention that the night before we left for our trip, I started feeling just awful. I think all the stress of Renegade and making last-minute orders caught up to me. So the entire trip I was hoarse and coughing, but I powered through!

Charlotte and Charlie rode along with us halfway to Wisconsin. I made them matching outfits for Christmas and they were so cute.

They’re even starring in their own 2012 calendar!

Everything normally covered in snow was dry and brown, but I still enjoyed the scenery.




If you look closely you can see people ice fishing on the lake.

Once we got to Wisconsin, we did all the Wisconsin essentials.

Drove a big truck.

Ate sausages and cheese curds.

(It was at this point that I lost all willpower to resist sausage logs, Chex Mix, and cookie trays for the rest of the trip.)

We watched cardinals perch on Mike’s parents’ Cadillac of birdfeeders.

Had a Paul Bunyan sighting.

Tried on Stormy Cromer hats.

And mourned the lack of snow in the yard.

In Minnesota we met up with friends and did the Minnesota essentials: walked on a frozen lake, played a bird identifying board game, and ate pickled herring (well, Mike did).

Mike got to hold baby Maya and learned that babies love beards!

I was definitely ready to get back to my house and my doggies, but I had the best time catching up with everyone in our hometowns.

Now that we are completely stuffed to bursting, we are going to wish 2011 farewell with a shrimp ring and ring in 2012 by starting a cleanse. Happy New Year!

Renegade goodies

So Renegade was beyond amazing. Not only was the selection of vendors incredibly good, but the shoppers were out in full force!

3rd Annual Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market in San Francisco
Photo by the peeps at Renegade. See more here.

I’m glad I worked so hard to make extra goods because I sold out of almost everything. After a pretty dry spell the last couple months it was awesome to get selling again.

Oh, and guess who they put me next to… the uber-talented Rae Dunn, who designed the salt and pepper cellars I got for my birthday.

Since I did so well I decided to make a few purchases. My big splurge was this bag from appetite.

Sophisticated. And not from Target.

I also got a cute little yarn bucket from the other vendor next to me, chewing the cud.

And this print I have been wanting for a long time from Casa Murriguez.

There may have been another purchase that will have to stay secret until after Christmas.

So now I’m just getting everything ready for our trip to the Midwest. Now that I am a total wimp I will probably freeze my tush off, especially when we get to the frozen north. But I’m excited!

Calling all holiday shoppers

This weekend you can find me at the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco selling all of my knit goodies — owls, cowls, poufs, fingerless gloves, ornaments, and anything else I can squeeze in the back of my Yaris.

Last weekend I signed up for a little holiday open house in Berkeley and in 3 hours my supply was almost completely wiped out. Which was wonderful! I’ve just been a teensy bit stressed about replenishing it all in the space of a week. But I’m almost done.

Until tomorrow, I leave you with some love from Ryan Gosling.

Holiday baking

It’s that time of year again…

Christmastime always makes me think of rolling out sugar cookie dough and pressing Hershey Kisses into the tops of peanut blossoms. Of course the eating part is fun, but it’s really all about doing something fun with your family.

Our number-one tradition, of course, is gooey bubble bread on Christmas morning.

Then there are the sugar cookies, with colored icing and sprinkles.

If you’re feeling like a baking superstar, you can attempt Candy Striped Cookie Sticks.

Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with a classic chocolate-chip cookie dough recipe, which you can adapt to make:

• red velvet sandwiches
• chocolate cookies with mint chips (just add cocoa powder)
• cranberry walnut cookies (swap dried berries for the chocolate chips)
• spirals (leave out chips entirely and roll half chocolate-half regular dough together and slice)
chocolate Suzies

Peanut butter lovers, you must make those peanut blossoms,

and stuffed peanut butter ball cookies.

This year I might be sticking to the much less guilt-inducing Pepparkakor in various shapes.

What are you baking this year?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We got into the full holiday spirit and put up a Christmas tree this weekend. I love having a fresh one — it smells divine.

In case you were wondering, yes, a two-door Yaris can hold an entire tree plus two people. Oh yes it can.

Anyway, we don’t have a ton of our own Christmas ornaments yet, but we do have a few really fun ones. I have to have some odes to “A Christmas Story,” including the double dog dare ornament,

and a tiny leg lamp. It comes in a little crate that plays lines from the movie. The dogs love it.

I’ve had Kermie and Piggy for a while now, but they’re extra special now that there’s a new Muppets movie.

Then there’s the Grinch

and adorable Cindy Lou Who.

I switched out my pinecone centerpiece for my favorite sparkly ornaments. They’re too pretty to go on the tree!

December also means it’s time to break out the monkey pants.

Other things making me smile this week:

Leftover pizza from Tony’s.

Whole wheat fig bars from the Berkeley Bowl. These are so much better than Fig Newtons it’s ridiculous.

The cutest owl Kleenex box. Owls refuse to go out of fashion!

And these vintage looking wire baskets I got at Marshall’s for $5.99 each. They will be perfect for craft fair displays.

Speaking of, I will be participating in a holiday trunk show this weekend hosted by the Pumpkin House studio in Oakland. It’s 1-4 p.m. Saturday at 5725 James Ave. in Rockridge. There will be treats!

Chicken Paprikash

Apart from “When Harry Met Sally” references, I didn’t actually know what Chicken Paprikash was. Not surprisingly it’s chicken with lots of paprika — and it’s delicious!

When I was looking for recipes that included chicken and tomatoes (and eventually settled on the tikka masala), I also found some paprikash recipes that piqued my interest. So I tried it this week.

It’s a really hearty, comforting dish that’s perfect to make in the winter. The recipe I found called for dumplings, but I decided I preferred egg noodles. I also wanted to use chicken breasts rather than a whole chicken, but you could really go either way.

Chicken Paprikash
adapted from Saveur

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large (or 4 small) boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour, plus 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
4 small sweet peppers
4 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
3 cups egg noodles

Heat a big pot of water to boil the egg noodles. Just follow the package directions for cooking time.

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the 1/2 cup of flour. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until brown on both sides, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Now add the paprika, tomatoes, onions, and peppers to the pan, scraping up all the brown bits, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 2-inch chunks, and add it back to the pan with the chicken broth. Once that’s all mixed together and bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of flour. Whisk in 3/4 cup of broth from the pot. Add that mixture back into the pan and stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Serve over egg noodles.

Repeat! Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash! But I would be pleased to partake of your pecan piiiiiiieee.

San Francisco at night

Last night we had a fun date night in the city, and I wanted to take some photos that capture what San Francisco is like at night. I can’t believe it, but we’ve been here a whole year.

We had dinner at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, which was sublime.

I didn’t notice when I took this, but I love the stocking hanging in the window above.

Then we walked around North Beach, which is a wild mix of cultures.

Brandy Ho’s is one of our favorite Chinese restaurants. But we were wondering, what are the people upstairs cooking for dinner?

I had to get a look at my poufs in the window at Park and Pond.

Love these iconic buildings at night.

And on the way back to the BART station you pass the orange Christmas tree. Love it!