Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011!

The obligatory new year post! I'm normally not a big fan of new year's resolutions - if you want to change your life, just do it, don't wait for the calendar to turn over. Sometimes, though, the holiday gluttony starts getting to me and I just can't help but plan to make changes in the new year, and that is definitely the case this year. In a lot ways I am looking to the holiday craziness finally dying down and having a chance to relax and take control of some things I just haven't gotten around to. THUS! My resolutions:
  1. Take better care of myself. It's definitely time to get back into a workout routine (some combination of cardio dance classes at work, ballet in the evenings, and weights with my friend Erik). Beyond that, I'm going to try to add a few steps to my beauty routine - I got a head start last night with an at-home spa night. At the ripe old age of 24, it's time to start taking good care of myself, before nasty things like aging set in.
  2. Get a dog. At the moment, I'm not really in a position to take good care of a dog, between my cozy but cluttered house and 3-hour round trip commute 5 days a week. I'm thinking of making some changes by the end of the year, though, and I would love to get a cute lil puppy as soon as it's more practical. I've wanted one since I moved out to California, and at some point I just have to make it happen!
  3. Become a better chef. I'm confident in my recipe-following abilities, but I want to work on making up new and exciting things - maybe even turn them into my own recipes. This means lots of practice and taking chances, and probably some good old recipe following, too (instead of going to my old boring stand-bys over and over).
  4. Revamp my possessions. Between my wardrobe and my furnishings, sometimes I still feel like I'm a college student. I have the means to surround myself with more "grown up" things now. It's time I do some more of that and learn to part with the things I no longer need. (I can be a bit of a hoarder.)
Think that's it for now. My dear readers (whoever you are): Are you making resolutions this year? What do you plan on doing in 2011?

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

9" what?

Christmas present from my boyfriend: 9" Unicorn Magnum Plus.

Sounds dirty, right? Yeah, not so much. It is considered to be one of the best pepper grinders, and I totally agree - a zillion times better than my old cheap-o one. THANKS TIM!

A walk through this fine city I call home

It has been fantastic having a few extra days off work for the holidays - I am actually home during daylight hours for once! I watched a friend's cats during Christmas week, so I brought my camera along and took some pictures in Dolores Park on my way to cat sit. It was a little gloomy out, but I wouldn't have it any other way in December.

I also tried out my tripod and camera remote for the first time and had a pretty awkward time taking self-portraits. Hooray!

Jeans: Express; Tank top: Express; Shoes: Doc Martens; Leather jacket: Banana Republic; Owl necklace: etsy

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Dinner

My family has never been big on a fancy Christmas dinner. We typically eat a snacky dinner on Christmas Eve - think assorted cheeses, perhaps some sushi, and my dad's homemade korv (sausage) when he was alive - and a big breakfast on Christmas morning, but after all that, we are ready to just lounge around and do something less exciting for the rest of the holiday.

This year, however, I stayed home in San Francisco and took matters into my own hands. I made a roast beef (something I'd only attempted once before) using my grandmother's loose recipe. I was worried that it was overdone, but it ended up being perfect. (Scroll to the bottom for a how-to!)


I have to admit, though, the mashed potatoes and gravy were what I was really looking forward to. I attended not one but two Thanksgiving dinners this year - one had great potatoes but ran out of gravy before it got to me, and the other had a-ok gravy but runny, turkey-stock-y potatoes. While the overall meals were great, they left me with a craving for some great mashed potatoes and gravy, and I finally settled that on Christmas with rosemary-beef gravy. YUM.

I found a recipe for herb rolls on foodgawker awhile back and decided to give it a shot for this meal. They were fantastic. Thanks Carolyn at Food Gal!

I rounded things out with some lemon-y roasted asparagus and a bottle of wine.

The only downside was that Tim and I were the only ones there to eat it - we could have easily fed half a dozen, or more!

Nana's Roast Beef (with my own adaptations)

  • Bottom round (I used a 4-pounder)
  • Assorted veggies, like carrots and celery
  • Salt and pepper
  • Several sprigs of rosemary
This hardly needs a recipe, it's so simple. 

1. About 4 to 5 hours before dinner, pull the bottom round out of the fridge, cut off excess fat, and rub some salt and pepper all over. Let sit for a couple hours so it can come to room temp. If you have a dutch over, that's perfect. If not, a roasting pan will do fine.

2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the dutch oven with the beef on the stove over medium high heat. Sear on all sides.

3. Using tongs or a large fork, pick the beef up and place chopped veggies underneath. This keeps the bottom from sticking and also adds flavor to the juices (which will later become fantastic gravy). Put 4 or 5 sprigs of rosemary on the bottom, too, set the beef in, and pull another sprig of rosemary apart on top of the beef.

Post-sear, pre-roast
4. Put a lid on and stick it in the oven for about an hour, depending on the size. Use a meat thermometer to check doneness - I pulled mine out at about 120°.

5. Let rest on a cutting board for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving - tent it with tin foil and it will stay hot.

And the gravy (my favorite part of the roast!):

Drain the juices into another container and discard the veggies and rosemary. Return juices to the dutch oven and add a cup or two of store-bought beef broth, to taste. Warm over low heat on the stove and slowly stir in about 2 tablespoons of flour and then 2 tablespoons of milk (add more broth, flour, or milk
to get the right consistency, if necessary). Keep stirring until all the lumps are gone and the gravy is thick - voila!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Peppermint bark

My second almost-cookie: Peppermint bark. I made an extra yummy version, with white chocolate and crushed peppermint sandwiched around dark chocolate peppermint ganache. Mmmm!

This recipe came from the Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook - I went to a signing at Macy's back in November, but I wasn't convinced I should buy the book until they passed out some of this bark to try.

Sadly, I am not yet to the point where cookbook companies send me free books in exchange for review (ha), so this is a genuine, unbiased plug for the book. I haven't made anything else from it yet, but it looks fantastic.

Am I allowed to post recipes from purchased books? I think I'll just stick to family recipes (or ones I make up myself). I definitely recommend the cookbook though :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I didn't end up baking any actual cookies this year, but I made a few no-bake candy sorts of things.

First, an old family favorite, buckeyes. These are one of my favorite Christmas cookies - like homemade Reese's (yum!), and they are super easy with only 4 ingredients!


  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar (3 1/2 cups)
  • Semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (I used about a bag and a half)

1. Beat butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar together until blended (it may look a bit crumbly, but there shouldn't be patches of unmixed sugar).

2. Roll into small balls, separate on a cookie sheet, and chill or freeze until solid.

3. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler, stirring frequently.

4. Using a toothpick, dip the peanut butter balls one at a time into the chocolate. Place back on cookie sheet and chill again until chocolate is hardened.

5. Smooth out the toothpick holes and serve!

Homemade Christmas

Now that Christmas is over, I can post pics of all of the things I've been working on for the last couple of months! I only (re)taught myself to crochet in October, so each one of these things was a learning experience in its own way. I started off with some patterns from Mr. Funky's Super Crochet Wonderful (the cat, the flower hat/scarf set, and the bunnies) and then branched off into making up my own.

A cat, for my sister

Hat/Scarf set for my mom

Octopus for my niece, Lillian

Daddy-daughter Steelers hats for my brother and his daughter
Striped hat for my sister-in-law
And I think my personal favorite (although the octopus is a close second), bunnies for my roommate, modeled after her real life bunnies. The black one is the late Darby, who lost a leg a few years back (hence the peg leg) and, sadly, had to be put down in early December this year. Duncan, on the right, is still going strong.

It was lots of fun making all of these things, but the mad rush at the end was more than slightly stressful. It's awesome to no longer have a deadline, and perhaps I'll get a chance to make something for myself?

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I think that my roommate and I do a pretty good job of keeping our apartment (and especially kitchen) clean. The one thing we don't always do is keep the lid on the trash can, and although we compost, bits of food get in there. It seems that a mouse has gotten in the habit of sneaking in for food at night (at least, that is my guess)... However, last night there was no bag, and apparently that made it deep enough that he could not get out. I woke up to find this:

Having had a pet mouse once upon a time (which I accidentally killed via lack of water - I am a terrible person), my reaction was more like "OMG CUTE!!!!!" than fear or disgust. I proceeded to don gloves and coax him into a glass jar (I told myself it was so he was easier to carry outside, but let's be honest, it was really so I could get a better look at him and take some pictures).

I released him a block away at a health center that has a lot of trees and bushes - maybe he'll find a new home there? Or make his way back. But honestly, as long as he continues to be stealthy, I don't really mind....