And Another

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How on earth has another year passed already?

You know what is the biggest difference between last year and this year?
Reading his own birthday card!

My child, my amazing child, is READING HIS OWN BIRTHDAY CARDS!!

Obviously that’s not the only difference this last year has made, but I’d say that’s a pretty exciting difference. Wouldn’t you?

Other changes include:
Hailey
A gorgeous niece added to the family.

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A newly developed sense of…ahem…style*.

*Who am I kidding, I wish I was half as stylish as this kid!

And about 4 inches of vertical growth! I think I may have to keep up this feeding him thing…

By the way, I really need to thank Alton Brown for the most amazing Angel Food Cake recipe ever. The birthday boy was especially pleased.

A few notes about the recipe:

1. I didn’t have cake flour, so I made my own by measuring a cup of all purpose flour, and then taking two tablespoons out. I then added two tablespoons of cornstarch and mixed well.
2. I didn’t really wait for the egg whites to reach room temperature. I forgot. But it was just fine!
3. I used vanilla extract because that’s what I had. But it was just fine!
4. I used my new oven. This has no bearing on the recipe, per se, I’m just really excited about it still.
5. I served this cake with home made whipped cream, sliced strawberries, and homemade caramel sauce. Yeah mama!

Well, if this isn’t inspiration

Then I don’t know what is.
New Oven!

I know I haven’t posted anything in awhile. And while I’m kind of sorry about that, I also really enjoyed the downtime.

I took some time to take photos just for fun. And because I wasn’t trying to get any kind of photo in particular, it helped me improve my skills a little.
Hellooooooo F stop!
Dandelions
Exhibit A

My Bubble
Exhibit B

And to be quite honest with you, I was feeling a bit uninspired in the kitchen. I know, right? Kind of lame for a food blogger to stop having fun in the kitchen.

I don’t want to post fluff just so I can say I posted something. I write when I’m inspired. Or when I’ve had a success.

Or an epic failure.

And there were so many other things happening in my life–all for the good!–that what we were eating for dinner just kind of went on the back burner. (Kitchen pun! It’s ok, I know I’m hilarious.)

But let’s get back to that gorgeous photo at the top.

Dude, we got a new oven!

New Oven!
It bakes! (And doesn’t take 40 minutes to preheat)

New Oven!
It cooks! (Well, I guess technically I cook, but that’s beside the point)

I’m in love.

Between the new oven and my dreamboat, I’m kind of in heaven. And! I’m ready to get back in the kitchen.

Watch out world!

Dreamboat

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you My KitchenAid Stand Mixer:
Homemade Raviolis
(The folks at KitchenAid have no idea I exist, and I’m not getting paid or perked in any way. I’m just seriously in love with my mixer, and my amazing husband who gave it to me. This is a total gush post.)

Remember last Christmas when I yelled at family? This year was stunned silence. Speechless awe.

Yeah, Nick gets me. He knows what’s what.

And this mixer is what, let me tell you!

‘Cause it has attachments, you see.
Homemade Raviolis
Like pasta rollers.

And my talented husband knows how to work that roller.

Sure, the filling tasted amazing. And balsamic brown butter sauce is epic. But paper thin pasta rolled to perfection just can’t be beaten. Or competed with, really.

And making cookies with this mixer? No sweat.

Literally! I don’t have to mix the chocolate chips in by hand anymore!

You know how some people choose a certain car or shoe designer to fall head over heels for?

For me, it’s this mixer. And I anticipate we’ll spend many happy years together.

Now it just needs a name…

When the holidays are over

Pork Roast
You put away the decorations. Take down the lights.

Pork Roast
Pack up the tree shaped cookie cutters,

Pork Roast
and tuck away the red sprinkles.

Pork Roast
It’s kind of sad.
More than kind of.

Pork Roast
Just taking down all the Christmas lights leaves me feeling a bit dim.

Pork Roast
It’s important to find something warm and comforting to look forward to.

Pork Roast
Something to make your spirits bright, even as you stack the last of the storage boxes in the garage.

Pork Roast
Knowing that dinner’s waiting in the crock pot when you get home is pretty darn comforting.

I know, I know. “Pork roast? Come on, Jo; two weeks ago I was gorging myself on honey glazed ham and pierogies.
Roast is so…not festive.”

I hear ya! I do. But I think what I need now is comfort food. And the added luxury of not having to come up with a full dinner menu is so nice. It makes the transition out of the holiday mindset just a little easier.

So. Merry…happy…Thursday.

Pork Roast in the Crockpot
Serves 4 with leftovers

I have to admit, I did not use a recipe or write down what I was throwing into the crockpot, so this is an estimation to the best of my memory. Feel free to add or subtract whatever spices you prefer.

2 pound pork shoulder (or other cut of meat suitable for roast)
1 quart beef or vegetable stock (enough to cover the meat in the crockpot)
1 medium onion, sliced into big chunks
1 or 2 large turnips, sliced into half-rounds
6-8 red potatoes, cut into evenly sized chunks
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
Rosemary, basil, salt, pepper, oregeno and thyme to taste

Pour the stock into your crockpot and add all the seasonings. Stir gently to combine. (If you like a thicker, more gravy-like sauce at the end, add 2-3 tbsp of cornstarch to the stock with the rest of the seasonings.)
Cut the pork in half, or smaller, to ensure that it’s covered almost completely in the stock. Then add the vegetables on top of the roast.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. You just need to make sure the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160F.

California Eatin’

Crest

Recently, my husband and I took a trip to sunny* California. What follows are a few photos of our favorite meals.

Balsamic Mushroom Burger
Just a taste
Balsamic Portabello Burger and Beer Tasting, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco

Crepe
Veggie Crepe, Streetcar Cafe, San Francisco

Grilled Edamame
Your food's on fire!
Grilled Edamame and Flaming Sushi! Shimizu, Oakland

Avocado!
Bagel Sandwich Makings
Clean Eating
Avocado Chicken Salad, Bagel Sandwich, Very Verde Green Juice and Fruit Cup, Abbot’s Habit, Santa Monica

Beautiful Latte
Gorgeous Latte, Intelligentsia, Venice

Omusubi
Omusubi, Sunny Blue, Santa Monica. This was by far our favorite meal. We even tried to recreate it at home. I’ll share more about that experience soon!

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Shabu Shabu, California Shabu Shabu, Santa Monica. This was my least favorite, but I’m convinced I was doing it wrong. Everyone else loved it.

Miette
Chocolate Fleur De Sel Tarte, Miette, Ferry Building, San Francisco

Tofu Clay Pot
Tofu Clay Pot, Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant, China Town San Francisco

We ended up walking between 5 and 10 miles every day taking in the sites and the food. I’m certain there are many amazing things we missed, but man did we have fun! I guess we’ll have to go back soon 🙂

*I’m sure that San Francisco is generally a sunny, warm place, but when we were there, I froze! Like, had to buy a coat and why did I only bring sandals froze. Santa Monica and Venice Beach were much more to my taste.

Survival Salad

We’ve had a long spring this year. A long wet spring.
Great for the grass and my water bill, not so great for morale.

So I’m overjoyed about 80+ degree weather. It’s seriously my favorite time of year. I may have mentioned it once or twice. (Or everyday of my life.)
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But even though I’m seriously a happy camper, turning on the oven when it’s 85F in my kitchen is just asking for trouble. And melted popsicles.

So what’s a Jo to do? Make a giant salad! With chicken! And vegetables! And no oven!

Summer Survival Salad
Serves 4-6

4 unfrozen chicken breasts (I like boneless and skinless, but use what you’ve got)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1-2 cups sugar snap peas (you can leave them whole, but I cut them in half for easier eating)
your favorite mix of lettuce

Marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes, up to a day, in your favorite Italian salad dressing or vinaigrette (I’ll give you my favorite recipe at the bottom).
Grill the chicken (outside! not in your kitchen!) until fully cooked, adding more marinade each time you turn the chicken. Allow the chicken to rest covered in tin foil before you slice it into strips.

In the meantime, assemble your salad. I like to do it in layers, ’cause it’s more fun that way. Then plate and serve.

Grilled Chicken Salad
See? No melted popsicles.

Grilled Chicken Salad
Start with lettuce.

Grilled Chicken Salad
Add bell peppers.

Grilled Chicken Salad
Another layer of lettuce and then cucumbers.

Grilled Chicken Salad
Another layer of lettuce and then tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

Grilled Chicken Salad
All plated and ready to eat!

My favorite salad dressing/chicken marinade
from Emeril Lagasse

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 clove pressed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Add all ingredients into a lidded container. Shake or whisk until everything is combined. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

What are your favorite summer survival foods?

This thing that happens

There’s this thing that happens to me when the sun shines.

Suddenly, things that were so stressful and worrisome become not such a big deal.

Where I would have found myself saying no before, I now find myself enthusiastically saying yes.

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I find that making dinner can wait, because there’s something amazing happening in the back yard.
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Dinner planning is a little more exciting when I think about picking vegetables from my garden in a few weeks/months.
Basil
Last summer’s basil

I get excited about being outside again, and I don’t even have to be bribed!

When these guys start talking about sleeping in a tent, I don’t shudder like I would have even two weeks ago.
Easter Egg Hunt

And even though there have been a few setbacks,
Easter Egg Hunt
Snow. Again.

I think it’s safe to say, I’m seeing the signs that winter is over.
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Finally.