Saturday, December 22

Kitchen Sink Banana Bread

My Holiday Baking this year has been pretty lack luster. It consisted of baking a couple loaves of orange cranberry bread, though I didn't have cranberries so I substituted mixed berries, and a single loaf of my Kitchen Sink Bread (so named because I put everything in it but the kitchen sink). It's a big favorite in my family, especially by Jeff who I once watched eat almost an entire load in the span of about 30 minutes.

Here's the recipe which I adapted from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and from which I got the adding coconut to keep it moist.

Kitchen Sink Banana Bread

1 stick butter (plus more to grease pan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cupped chopped pecans
1/2 grated shredded coconut
1 cup chopped fruit (apples and pears work well)

Preheat oven to 350, grease 9x5 loaf pan.

Mix together dry ingredients. Cream butter and mix in eggs, bananas and vanilla. Stir into dry mixture but do not overmix. Gently stir in remaining ingredients.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45 to 60 min until center is pretty set. Cool for 15 min, then remove from pan. Store by wrapping in wax paper. The bread will be moist and delicious!

Enjoy! Merry Christmas. We're heading to the in-laws for a few days where I imagine I won't be getting much posting or cooking done, but tune back in because in January we're going VEGAN for one month. Hooray!

Wednesday, December 12

Should I Be Concerned?

Tonight, Bryan and I went over to have dinner at Mae Ploy. This was in his fortune cookie:

In case it's a little hard to read, it says "you are going to have a new love affair". I don't know, I think it's a little awkward to put that in a cookie.

Sunday, December 9

It's all about the Crumble Topping

I had to make sure it wasn't poisonous.

About a week or two ago I made what a cookbook described as a tamale pie. Essentially it was a casserole of all things mexican: black beans, red peppers, tomatoes, etc., covered in a layer of what was supposed to be tamale but which ended up being more like cornbread. (that's the last time that I listen to a cookbook and buy corn meal when I know it should be masa) Nonetheless, it was tasty, but it left me with a pint of buttermilk. Yesterday was officially the expiration date of said buttermilk, and not wanting to waste it, I headed to my Williams Sonoma Muffin cookbook. Initially I thought I'd make some Vanilla Pear muffins, but soon realized I was out of the requisite pecans. I did have a pint of fresh raspberries that were about to die in the fridge if I didn't eat them soon. I tracked down a blackberry recipe that called for 2 cups of berries (I only had one) so I hit the freezer and pulled out a bag of TJ's frozen mixed berries.

The result? Bryan swears they must be really bad for you, given how good they taste. I claim that while technically probably not GOOD for you, I'm not sure I believe they're BAD for you either. You decide.


1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 Cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinammon
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh berries + 1 cup frozen mixed berries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter.

Make topping by combining sugar, flour and zest. Then mix in melted butter and stir until crumbly.

Just-Barely-Mixed Batter
In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients for muffins. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients (but not berries). Mix together with a scraper. Make sure you just barely mix it all together, do NOT over-stir. Batter should be clumpy.

Add berries and barely combine.

Scoop into muffin tin.

Add crumble topping evenly amongst muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until muffins are slightly golden on top and springy. If your oven is as prone to hot spots as mine is, make sure to rotate the muffins halfway through the baking process.

Let cool 15 minutes on a rack. Unmold the muffins and dive in.

After I mixed in the berries the batter turned an intense purple color. I was surprised that the muffins, once finished baking, weren't the same purple color. Somehow they had returned to their dough-color in the oven. Magic. Or chemistry. Or both.

Tuesday, December 4

Gratinéed Mustard Creamed Onions

It's not Thanksgiving if there aren't boiled onions. For years my mom has been making them, and I have to admit, I'm only a recent believer. I didn't really get the point of onions and bechamel sauce until my taste buds and I grew up. This year, I thought I'd try a new recipe to put a spin on the classic. The result: one of my favorite dishes from the entire experience.

Gratinéed Mustard Creamed Onions

2 lb white pearl onions
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp Sherry
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Equipment: 2 Qt shallow gratin (2 inches deep)

Cook onions in a large heavy pot of boiling salted water, until just tender. 25 min. REserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain and when cooled, peel. DON'T be like me and always forget and peel the onions before you cook them. Their centers will pop out and you'll feel silly.

Melt butter in dry pot over medium heat. Add flour and stir 2 min. Whisk in reserved cooking water, milk, sherry and cook until thickened, whisking. 8min. Whisk in nutmeg, mustards and 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Add onions to sauce and simmer 5 min.

Preheat broiler.

Transfer creamed onions to baking dish and sprinkle with cheese. Broil 4 to 5 inches away from heat until top is golden and bubbly. 3 min. ENJOY!!!

Monday, December 3

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Tangerine

I am normally not a huge fan of cranberry sauce, again because it tends to be overly sweet. I'll add a tiny dollop to my Thanksgiving plate, but it's not really something I go out of my way for. This recipe, however, may make me change that.

The port gives the sauce depth and the tangerines give it a kick. It's not too sweet but it still complements Turkey (at least that's what they told me) and other savories nicely.

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Tangerine

1 bag fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar (scant)
1/2 cup Ruby Port
3 strips tangerine zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice

Bring cranberries, sugar, port and zest to a simmer in a heave saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst (12 min). Remove from heat and stir in juice. Cool completely.

This recipe came from the November 07 issue of Gourmet in the section called 'Bringing Fancy Back', which I'm all about.

Sunday, December 2

Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash

I have this thing that happens when people say they don't like a particular kind of food. I take it as a challenge. I'm convinced that it's not the ingredient's fault so much as it is the preparations the person has had, that have made him decide he doesn't like a certain food. For once, I'm not talking about my better half. In fact, this time I'm talking about another member of my family, who claims that she's not a big fan of sweet potatoes. Now, she started to become a convert a couple of years ago when Alison first made her sweet potato cheesecake, but still, I wanted to convert her to a side dish she'd like. Her biggest complaint? Too cloying. How to fix this? Less sugar, more flavor.

So it was with some excitement that I stumbled across the following recipe in the pages of Bon Appétit's Thanksgiving issue.

Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash

4 lbs red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup (scant) maple syrup
3 Tbsp bourbon
1 1/2 tsp ground cinammon
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Roast potatoes on rimmed baking sheet until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh into large bowl; discard skins. Mash hot potatoes until course puree forms.
Heat cream and butter in a small pan over low heat until butter melts. Gradually stir hot mixture into hot potatoes. Stir in syrup, bourbon and spices. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle nuts over top and serve.

The result? Sweet Potato convert. This recipe is fabulous because it has kick and flavor without being overly sweet. Also, it smells like pumpkin pie and the walnuts set off the bourbon and maple syrup perfectly. I made these a day ahead without adding the walnuts, then reheated and added the nuts at the last minute.

Saturday, December 1

Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew

The Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew was the centerpiece of the Vegetarian portion of our Thanksgiving, which comprises about half of our family. The recipe came from Gourmet Magazine, but I made a couple of adjustments to get to the final product. I was a little nervous that this was going to be all flair and not very tasty, but actually it was really quite delicious and satisfying. I would make this again for any kind of Fall dinner party. Serve with a rice pilaf to soak up the sauce.

The original recipe called for one large baking pumpkin, but of course, none of the four stores we visited had any and the best I could find were actually in the floral department. Using three smaller pumpkins worked out well though because I was able to make one stew without mushrooms for those who don't dig the fungus.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew

1 fennel bulb with fronds
2 medium parsnips (1/2 pound total), peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound celery root (sometimes called celeriac; 1/2 of 1 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
14 small shallots (about 1 pound), peeled and left whole, plus 1/2 cup chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 red bell peppers
1 (8- to 9-lb) pumpkin (preferably cheese, pie, or Sweet Meat variety)
Roasted-vegetable and wine sauce, heated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1 package dried chanterelle mushrooms, resuscitated
1/2 pound seitan (seasoned wheat gluten), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, divided
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Roast root vegetables (day before):
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve, then discard stalks and remaining fronds. Halve bulb lengthwise, then core and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wedges.

Toss fennel wedges, parsnips, celery root, carrots, and whole shallots with 2 tablespoons oil, teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan until coated, then roast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and almost tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove vegetables from oven. Leave oven on.

Prepare peppers and pumpkins while vegetables roast:
Roast peppers on racks of gas burners over high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blistered, 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer peppers to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and discard stems and seeds. Cut peppers lengthwise into 1-inch strips.

Remove top of pumpkins by cutting a circle (6 inches in diameter) around stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out and discard seeds and any loose fibers from inside pumpkin with a spoon (including top of pumpkin; do not discard top), then sprinkle flesh with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Put pumpkins in a large roasting pan.

Stuff and roast pumpkins:
Pour 1/2 cup sauce into each pumpkin and cover with top, then brush all over with remaining tablespoon oil. Roast 1/2 hour.

While pumpkins roast, heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté chopped shallots until softened. Add mushrooms and sauté until they are browned and begin to give off liquid, about 8 minutes. Add wheat gluten and 1/2 teaspoon thyme, then stir in 1 1/2 cups more sauce and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and fold in roasted root vegetables and peppers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

After pumpkins have roasted 1/2 hour, spoon vegetable filling into it, then cover with top. Roast until pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork, vegetables are tender, and filling is hot, about 30 minutes more. Transfer pumpkin to a platter using 2 sturdy metal spatulas.

Stir together fennel fronds, parsley, zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme and sprinkle half of it over filling. Stir remainder into remaining sauce and serve sauce on the side. Serve with Rice Pilaf to soak up sauce.

Roasted-Vegetable and Wine Sauce

1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise
5 carrots, quartered
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 red bell peppers, quartered
1 pound plum tomatoes, halved
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb quartered
2 large onions, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup boiling water
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (1 cup)
1 (4-inch) piece celery
4 parsley stems
1 large thyme sprig
8 black peppercorns
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 cup dry red wine
4 quart water
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil; 1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Roast vegetables:
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Wash leek halves and pat dry.

Toss leek, carrots, garlic, bell peppers, plum tomatoes, fennel, and onions with oil, then spread in a 17- by 14-inch roasting pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until well browned and tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Soak porcini and make bouquet garni while vegetables roast:
Pour boiling water over porcini in a bowl and soak until softened, 10 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wrap celery, parsley stems, thyme sprig, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with string.

Lift out porcini, squeezing excess liquid back into bowl, and rinse to remove any grit. Pour soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into another bowl.

Make stock:
Transfer roasted vegetables to a 6- to 8-quart pot and add wine to roasting pan, then deglaze pan by boiling, scraping up brown bits, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine to vegetables in pot along with water (4 quarts), porcini and soaking liquid, bouquet garni, sun-dried tomatoes, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until stock is reduced to about 6 cups, about 2 hours. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing firmly on and then discarding solids.

Make sauce:
Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add stock in a stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Thanksgiving Roundup

I officially have the entire weekend off. No SAT lessons or driving to San Diego to film for Stonefield. Just me and a keyboard all weekend. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited by the prospect. I've walked Mel (which was lame because the Rangers were out handing out tickets for dogs off leash so Mel didn't get to do any of the running around she desperately needed after being cooped up in the house yesterday on account of the rain), made my pot of coffee and I'm chomping at the bit.

So to begin...a bit of Thanksgiving roundup. This year was a Moser Thanksgiving year - it'll be a Kramer Christmas - so I headed down to SD Tuesday night bearing far more recipes than were really necessary. It's all Alison's fault. I had emailed her a list of dishes that we could make, expecting her to cull it down to a reasonable number for 10 people, but instead she responded with something along the lines of: that all sounds great! Seriously people, I need saving from myself, otherwise when it comes to the Holidays I will cook until I drop. It's like a sickness. But a rather delicious one.

Brussels Sprouts, Onions, Peas and Sweet Potatoes....Heaven? I think so


Goat Cheese Crostini w/Grapefruit and Black Pepper Marmalade
Crudite with Mom's dill dip

Main Course
Turkey Breast (prepared by the CBTS Mosers - a funny story in an of itself, but one I won't get into)
Cashew Nut Loaf (a Moser vegetarian classic)
Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew

Sides and Sauces
Hazelnut, Sage and Mushroom Stuffing
Plain Jane Mashed Potatoes
Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash
Gratinéed Mustard Creamed Onions
Brussels Sprouts Hash w/Caramelized Shallots
Green Peas
Rice Pilaf
Cranberry Sauce with Port and Tangerines
Roasted Vegetable Wine Sauce
Portobello Mushroom Gravy

Butter Lettuce and Arugula with Gorgonzola, Pears and Candied Pecans

Roasted Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Maple Cream
Apple Pie

For the record - that's 18 dishes for 10 people. Overkill? Perhaps. But look at how happy those people are:


Thanks to Alison and her quick thinking with the camera, I actually have pictures of the event. I'm going to post some of my favorite recipes in separate posts today and tomorrow. They're all worth hanging on to for future Holiday events.

Friday, November 30

My Golden Compass

I am a big fan of the His Dark Materials series (aka Harry Potter for grown ups) so I've been eagerly awaiting the release of the movie even though I realize it can't possibly live up to the books. Even so, I discovered today that I have my own daemon matched to my personality. What do you think? Is it a fit?

Thursday, November 29

dog at wounded knee

Happiness is a blur

Mel came in from sitting in the sun and I noticed a gash in her flank. I assume it's somehow an injury from chasing squirrels in the yard - or maybe it's from sneaking into the neighbor's yard. Either way, she was bleeding all over my new carpet.

Fortunately it's modular (thanks mom) so after a quick wash, it was good as new. She, on the other hand, was still oozing.

Poor, wrapped dog

So I wrapped her up in gauze and an ace bandage. Good as new for hours and no more blood on the carpet.

The amazing thing? She didn't even try to take it off. That either shows she's a good dog or an extremely lazy one.

Wednesday, November 28

Greetings from a Leper Colony

Fine. Technically, I'm not at a Leper Colony. I'm home, nowhere near Hawaii. But check out this postcard from the Ginny files:

There are several things I love about this postcard. At first glance my eye is drawn not to the view but to the people on the overlook. Those are some seriously high-riding red short shorts. Not to mention the sweet mini-afro. So the question is, why would you sell a postcard that involved people other than the purchasers. It's one thing to want a picture of yourself at the top of an overlook, but a picture of complete strangers? Perhaps the idea is that if you're too lazy to hike up there yourself, you can live vicariously through these two anonymous people. Of course, it's designed to be sent to someone else, so maybe the idea is that you can trick the recipient into believing that you too made the hike.

The second brilliant aspect of this postcard is the description on the back:

"LEPER COLONY, HAWAII...far below this lookout lies world-famous Kalaupapa Leper Settlement on the Island of Molokai. Here, while helping to care for the unfortunate victims, Father Damien contracted leprosy and died of the disease April 15, 1889."

So, exactly who's Father Damien? And is this one postcard just a single example of a line of postcards dedicated to his life? It seems like such an odd fact to point out about the colony. So then I googled Father Damien and it turns out that he's the patron saint of Hawaii because of his work with the lepers.

So there's your little ironic moment turned history lesson for the day.

Monday, November 19

Silverlake Wine

Have I mentioned before how awesome this shop is? It's by far the best wine-buying experience you'll have. Everyone in there knows a ton about wine and as soon as you walk in they actually offer to help you find something without being the least bit snobby. My kind of shop.

So yesterday Alison and I headed over for their Sunday wine and paired appetizer tasting. They had a fellow who's a cheese expert bring in a selection of raw cheeses to pair with four different wines. The most interesting part, in my mind, was his assertion that when pairing wine and cheese you don't actually want balance. Strong acidic wines call for strong salty cheeses. And fruity wines call for fruity cheese.

After two hours of tasting and chatting, we left the store with six bottles of wine for our Thanksgiving feast! If you're ever over here on the eastside and need a bottle of wine - HEAD to SILVERLAKE WINE on Glendale. Trust me, you'll thank me.

Saturday, November 17

Mercury Just Went Retro

Retrograde of course, which is infinitely worse than anything that bespeaks bell bottoms.

Case in point: Thursday night. I come home from working in an office all day (already not the top of my list of things I enjoy) and decide to make a delicious-sounding recipe of curried squash stew on Quinoa. I even had my camera all ready to take pictures. So I spend the hour chopping and dicing and I make the stew...and it's honest to God the most disgusting thing I've ever tasted. I have no idea what went wrong with the recipe, but let me tell you it went bad in a major way.

So Fine. I can deal. Gonna drown my sorrows with some TV on the Internet and eat a fried egg sandwich. And I could not, for the life of me, fry an egg. I realized, as I was scraping the second batch of destroyed eggs into the trash can, that I'd recently used the pan to attempt some ill-fates hash browns and had clearly destroyed the perfect seasoning I'd developed in the pan.

Eventually I was able to cobble together a pathetic-looking egg sandwich, and sit down to the internet. Desperate to numb my brain, I clicked on the internet icon, only to discover the internet running at about 1/8 it's usual speed and completely unable to play any kind of video.

So Mercury has gone Retro on us. I'm expecting to butt my head against similar annoyances until the end of January, when it gets back to normal.

Wednesday, November 14

Rebuilding San Diego - AGAIN

San Diego keeps burning down and the Moser clan keeps building it back up.

Some background:

The 2003 Cedar Fire wiped out several communities in San Diego, the most important of which, at least in terms of Moser involvement, was Scripps Ranch. My parents got involved to help organize a community of tract-home owners to jointly hire a builder to rebuild the houses at much lower cost than a custom builder. Enter Stonefield Development. Stonefield is actually a custom and one-of-a-kind builder who took on the project and rebuilt 81 homes in Scripps Ranch. The project completed a year or two ago. There were block parties to celebrate the return of everyone home.

After the Last Rebuild

Fast forward to the October fires of 2007. That 100 year fire that happened in 2003? Turns out it was more of a 4 year fire. This current one knocked out a lot of homes in the Rancho Bernardo / Escondido areas of San Diego. My parents and Stonefield are out there again, trying to organize a group rebuild project.

To that end, I've spent the last couple of weekends in San Diego helping photograph and film the completed houses from last time around and the Stonefield informational meetings.

Currently, I'm keeping myself busy typing this because I'm waiting for my turn on the new fancy mac. I'm trying to cut down the 2+ hour meeting from last weekend into a couple of 5 min highlight clips that we can post on the Stonefield website. Bryan has the day off so he's busy cutting our movie.

We Kramers are as busy trying to save the world through existential entertainment as we Mosers are trying to rebuild what has been destroyed. I think the Mosers may win in the greater doing of good, but that's just because our final cut isn't finished yet.

Monday, November 12

Belated Halloween (or it's been a month since I last posted!)

This is yet another photo from the Ginny files. I'm not sure what those two on the couch are dressed as (not to mention the masked dark figure to their left) but I'm pretty sure they're not sheep.

So it's been over a month since I last posted. I'm finding I'm tired of restarting this blog but life keeps getting in my way, which is altogether frustrating. I'd list off the myriad of things I have going on, some of which pay, some of which - not so much, but I'm tired of listing off all those things as well.

Mostly what I'm tired of, however, is the lack of writing I've been doing lately. I'm frustrated because I feel like the thing I like to do best has seen the least amount of effort and time on my part. Stupid rent...always getting in the way of art.

So here I am. Back again. This time groveling.

I was talking with a writer the other day, and we said how easily life gets in the way of writing, and how important it is to force yourself to write a bit everyday. These are, of course, not new sentiments, nor are they new to me. But these days I'm thinking of grad school in a year or two, and finding that when I'm sitting around, my head tends to go to thinking about writing more. I've got another novel sitting on the brain, peculating, if you will, but I don't want to get started until I've at least retained an agent for the last book. (and by the way, not to toot my own horn or anything, but that book is being looked at by a couple of people who seem pretty responsive, so keep your fingers crossed for me)

Anyway (not "Anyways" because I know that drives Alison to distraction) my point in all of this is though my garden is overgrown with weeds - in a major way, it's bad news and I'm terrified for the next time my landlord decides to pop in, as she is want to do - and though I haven't been spending much time working out recipes in the kitchen, I am going to write every day, even if it's just a post like this which talks about having nothing to write about. So bear with me. My inspiration will come back, even if I have to force it kicking and screaming.

In the meantime, I'm considering starting up a second blog that is more review (of books and movies and culture) oriented and less casual here's-a-picture-of-my-dog like this one. Because lord knows that if I don't have material for one blog I should clearly start writing two. Am I the only one whose brain works like this? Anyone else out there feel like their reaction to being busy is to take on more work?

Don't worry. I'm not contagious.

Wednesday, October 3

Thought of the Day

I was listening to Larry Mantel's show today and he had a guest on that quoted a leading progressive Democrat as saying (and I'm paraphrasing)

We are as far from the New Deal today as the New Deal was from the Civil War. FDR did not look back to Lincoln for guidance and nor should we look to FDR for how to shape our future.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Tuesday, October 2

The Happiness of Fish

When I was in college, and longing for a dog, I got a fish. It was one of those multi-colored, iridescent fighting fish that will bash it's head against the walls of it's tank if you so much as place a mirror in front of it. Sometimes, when I'm reading coverage of the war, I think of that fish...

But this is not that story, nor is it an explanation for why it's been a month (!) since my last post (though I will say for the record that the SAT takes place this Saturday, that Presence still needs sound to be divided into takes, that I started working in an office part time, that Art of Tea needs posts and editing, and on and on).

This is the story of the fish I had in college. It was named by Jeff and it's name was Chinese. I can't remember now - but Jeff, if you read this, would you please remind me. So he names the fish a word that means "the happiness of fish". This term is from a Chinese proverb that I recently rediscovered in a Coetze book about animal rights.

The Happiness of Fish

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu had strolled on to the bridge over the Hao, when the former ovserved, "See hoe the minnows are darting about! That is the pleasure of fishes."
"You not being a fish yourself," said Hui Tzu, "how can you possibly know in what consists the pleasures of fishes."
"And you not being I," retorted Chuang Tzu, "how can you know that I do not know?"
"If I, not being you, can not know what you know," urged Hui Tzu, "it follows that you, not being a fish, cannot know in what consists the pleasure of fishes."
"Let us go back," said Chuang Tzu, "to you original questions. You asked me how I knew in what consists the pleasure of fishes. You very questions shows that you know I knew. I knew it from my own feelings on the bridge."

Let that be your wisdom from the east for the day.

Saturday, September 1

I'm Moving to Idaho

Seriously. I was listening to Weekend America today while driving to a student's house, and there was a story about this one town in Idaho that normally has lows of 35F this time of year. 35 DEGREES!!! Last night we couldn't even sleep upstairs in our bedroom it was so hot. Mel moves about 1 foot every 30 minutes to find a new patch of cool concrete. It's pathetic. I hate global warming. It's all humid and sticky - NOT the SoCal weather I've grown up in.'s been crazy this week. Maria's Pirates and Ninjas show opened last night and I was at the theater all day yesterday helping to paint the floor and make the programs. Plus, my first blog is up at Art of Tea (I explain biodynamics!) and there's about a six hour window every day that it's just simply too hot to work.

But here's my latest addition to the online collection of Ginny Larsen photos:

I love it. It speaks for itself. I'm going to go stick my head in the freezer.

Monday, August 27

Tea Time!

Don't you love a job that comes with swag?

So much tea, so little time.

In an effort to do more writing work and less (what would you call it? random?) work, I've just gotten a gig as a blog editor for the ART OF TEA - a purveyor of fine loose-leaf teas. These are the good thing, the real deal, the brew a cup using a really fun straining tea pot kind of tea.

Upon meeting the owner of the company (and being hired), I was given an assortment of tea samples to whet my creative appetite for writing about teas. Reading their material I realized just how very little I actually know about tea. But it's all organic and fair trade and all that good stuff, so I can get behind the company. Plus, knowledge is gained through online trips to the LA Public Library where books can be sent to your local branch.

Also no one ever accused me of not having an opinion just because I didn't know much about the subject.

Do you love samples as much as I do?
No, it's not possible.

So. I love tea. I'm not completely converted from coffee, but I'm working on it.

In a week or so you'll be able to read my writings about tea over at - don't go there yet! Or do, but don't expect to read any of my writing. I just got the gig. I need all this new found tea knowledge to steep for a few days before I write about it. But soon...very soon.

Monday, August 20

Halibut in the Ultimate Kitchen

How fabulous is this kitchen?

I love everything about it. I could bake a pie in this kitchen. I have no idea who the people in the photo are, but they're living the good life...that's for sure.

I went down to San Diego over the weekend to celebrate my mom's birthday while my brothers are still in town (well, one technically lives in town). I made my favorite it's-so-easy-yet-seems-really-impressive meal.

Macadamia Nut Encrusted Halibut with Curry Sauce and Mango Chutney

Dredge Halibut Fillets through flour, egg and processed macadamia nuts. Drizzle with melted butter and bake in the oven at 350 for about 20 min or until nuts start to brown.

Saute 2 TBSP red curry paste for a minute and add a can of coconut milk and 2 TBSP dissolved sugar. Let cook down or add a little dissolved corn starch to thicken.

Plate so that fish sits atop sauce and is drizzled with mango chutney. Serve with Jasmine rice and steamed broccolini. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17

Sound and Sight

If you aren't already listening to Radio Lab, you should be. Right now. You're reading this, which means you clearly have time to kill. Go to their website right now. You will thank me. That's all I'm going to say on this matter.

This is another good photo from the Ginny vault.

The only identifying information on the back reads: "Clown Face on the Cake. Halloween Cookies and Ice Cream. Black Cat and Moon Favors." This, then is an example of the eccentric framing I mentioned in my last post. It's not an image of children eyeing their cake with anticipation. No. It's a picture of a cake. That there are children behind it, subsequently getting their heads cut off, is of no matter to the woman behind the lens. This is a photo of a cake with a clown face. It's very cakeness appears to glow in recognition of it's rightful place center stage.

You've got to respect an image like that.

Thursday, August 16

What's Up?

When my great aunt passed away last year, she left behind photo albums filled with snapshots of her life throughout the past almost century. We spent time after her service going through the photos and trying to figure out whose dad was which little kid in each shot. People claimed their favorite pictures of themselves as little kids, or of their parents when they were little. What was left, however, says a lot about who my aunt was as a person and as a photographer. The remaining photos are often bizarre either in subject matter or framing. I don't know who most of the people are who inhabit this other prior world, but I've placed many of them on my wall. My plan is to post some of my favorites on days when I don't have anything better to blog about.

This one is one of my absolute favorites:

I think we decided that these are guys she worked with in an office in the SF Valley when she lived here until the mid-80s. Can you get any better than them? From their postures to their clothes, to the weird smirk on their faces... It's like a decade in a photo. You can hear them asking 'what's up?' in that tone that suggests they know what's up and if you're lucky, they'll share their secret knowledge with you.

Wednesday, August 15

My Brain is Melting

One of the hazards of living in a cool loft/converted carriage house is the lack of literal coolness come summertime. While it's true that our place is probably cooler than other non-air-conditioned buildings in the city, given the nature of its design (let's hear it for cross-ventilation - yeah!), it still hurts. And you can't stop me from whining. But I promise this will be the only post in which I do so.

I tried to work on cutting the movie today. I couldn't even focus my eyes on the screen. Even writing this is making me cranky because the battery is hot and it makes my wrist sweat. Sigh. I bet Hemingway never had trouble with sweating wrists when he wrote. Or if he did, he probably just called for his Cuban butler to bring him another Mojito. Maybe I should start writing about bullfights.

Or get an air conditioner like people keep suggesting to me. Only here's the thing: how's a girl supposed to stay all righteous about the environment when she's using extra power to keep her wrists cool. She can't, and therein lies the rub. So with air unconditioned I write this. Don't be expecting any recipes anytime I'm barely willing to turn on the stove to make iced tea.

Sunday, August 12

Pirates and Ninjas

Like Macaroni and Cheese, Fred and Ginger, Salt and Pepper; Pirates and Ninjas exist as one of the fundamental pairings of the human condition. This is an existential truth. Just ask Becket. Or come to the Pirates and Ninjas: An Extravagant Adventure, and see for yourself.

Pirates and Ninjas
An Extravagant Adventure
Three Short Plays and One fascinating Art Gallery
Fridays & Saturdays, Aug 31-Sept 22 @8:30pm
Theater of Note 1517 N Cahuenga Blvd
Reservations: 866-219-4944

Friday, August 10

August Afternoons

The arbor in front of our door is covered with grape vines, creating a nice shady spot for an afternoon glass of wine. Our old neighbors used to comment that we looked like the epitome of Napa when they'd come out and find us sitting there, sipping, and reading Harper'. So civilized. I think about wineries sometimes and of the million things that I'd like to learn how to do. Like make good wine. Or good beer. But then I look at my grape vine and notice that the leaves are blotched with red spots that I have yet to identify (granted I have still not taken a sample to the nursery and just asked them). And my grapes! They are truly pathetic.

The Grapes of Wrath

Nothing at all like the dense clusters of giant globes I keep finding at the farmer's market.

At least my lime tree is producing. The happy green spheres found their way into a giant batch of guacamole last night. (Want my secret recipe? I'm embarrassed to share it. Avocados. Chopped Tomato. Purple Onion - not too much- lime juice and garlic salt. Pace Salsa. All to taste. Pathetic I know. Especially from someone always railing against corporate food. Sometimes I'll lose the salsa, but it's never as good.)

These babies are just waiting to be turned into margaritas.

So my little arbor area is producing nicely, or not as the case may be. Melba doesn't care. She's just happy to have a spot to lie in the sun and then a spot to lie in the shade. And sometimes, especially after a long bout of chewing her squirrel, she's happy to have a place to lie inside.

It's hard to be the dog, but even harder to be her toy.

Tuesday, August 7

Back in the Kitchen (Eggplant Stacks)

I am on a quest. It's a quest of grand proportions and one I've been on for quite a while: Get Bryan to like eggplant.

Already, I've won the curry battle and, more recently, the asparagus war. The latter was won primarily by first hiding it in lasagna and later roasting it with olive oil. But eggplant? That's another matter altogether.

In an effort towards full disclosure, my cooking is not what has led Bryan to consider eggplant as a reasonable source of nutrition. That award goes to The East Side Italian Deli by way of Maria, who brought over their amazing Eggplant Parmesan sandwiches the other day. Fantastic! And now Bryan's hooked on them. So I decided to make my own eggplant meal the other night. Here's how it went:

Ashley's Eggplant Stacks of Fun


2 Globe eggplants
Panko Bread Crumbs
Several Eggs & Flour
Olive Oil
Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Basil
Cherry Tomatoes

Slice the eggplants, dredge the slices in flour, egg and then panko. Heat Olive Oil and fry the eggplant slices until golden brown. Set aside to drain....

...making sure to avoid the growing pile of folded laundry that threatens to take over your table.

Slice the mozzarella (and I highly recommend always using fresh if possible) and shred the basil. Now stack slices of eggplant with a slice of cheese in between each as well as some basil and salt. Halve the cherry tomatoes and toss around stacks with basil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and tomatoes have softened.

Serve to a husband, now thoroughly converted to eggplant eating. Here's an example of one:

Friday, August 3

I HIGHLY Recommend...

Market Restaurant+Bar in Del Mar. It's on Via De Los Valles right across from the polo fields (I recognize that some of my readers might argue that it's across from the Soccer fields - but either way it's kitty corner from Mary's Tack and Feed). I'd been reading about it everywhere lately and convinced my family that it would be an ideal place for us to celebrate a very belated Father's Day. What with a brother whose in Asia as much as he is on the east coast, it's rare for us to all be together, and this may be the first visit I've seen him in a decade when he didn't constantly have his nose in a book written in a language I couldn't even begin to understand.

So we went. The food is fabulous and local. It's all Chino's produce and sustainable meats. The drinks were fab, the music a tad weird, but the food was really the star. Nothing too fussy but definitely gourmet and definitely some of the best restaurant food I've had. So it's well worth all the buzz. And if you happen to be in SD for the races before they end at labor day, it's well worth a drive over. So thanks mom and dad, for taking you kids out to such a lovely meal!

Plus..they have a good website

Saturday, July 28

More Wrap Up

This is me on set.

I have to say I'm surprised, though I'm not sure why, that it's taking so long to wrap up this project. I'm still finishing up paperwork everyday. I think that at this point it's less about being in slow motion and more about just not realizing how much wrap I had. I spent the afternoon trying to clean up the side patio. Much to my surprise, I discovered a science experiment in the freezer of the unplugged refrigerator that's been sitting out there since easter. During the shoot we'd placed a bunch of bread in the freezer. It was turned on then. Now it was turned off. The mold was unbelievable.

So I didn't quite get through everything out there but I did make a dent.

The other day Bryan and I went with Alison to see a screening of a documentary her friend had cut. It was awesome. It's called the First Saturday in May - about the Kentucky Derby of course. It's not released yet, but it will be soon, I'm sure. And when it is you should rent it. Trust me. Or check out their website

That's it for now.

Thanks Mom

My mom came and fed the crew while we were shooting. The fact that we made it through the shoot is largely due to her tuna sandwiches. She kept the crew happy even in the middle of the night way past her usual bedtime. Our DP had his daily gallon of fresh home-brewed iced tea because of her, not to mention the hours she spent shopping and lugging groceries. So while Greg proved himself to be a good brother on set (You are too Jeff - you just happened to be on a different continent at the time) Mom proved to be the best mom ever. And dad proved to be the best dad with his dadness throughout.

That's why my family is awesome. Because even when we don't ask for it - they come and help. But that's no surprise. They are Mosers afterall.

Friday, July 20

Happiness is...

A bone to chew on.

Mel is happy to be back to her routine of hiking in the morning, napping in the afternoon and the occasional ride-around in the car.

I'm back to weeding the garden, and am making slow but steady progress. My tomatoes are coming in nicely. I think a few of them may be ready in the next few days (I've been saying that for a week).

I've been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Anyone reading this who has heard of this will say "finally!" because it came out last December and made a splash in places where books on where our food comes from (IOWA CORN) make splashes. By that I mean NPR. Anyway the book is as good as everyone claims it is. What's nice about it is that it's a fairly even look at the different choices one could make in selecting dinner. It's not shock journalism that just lists the atrocities of factory farming in America (of which there are tons) though he does describe some of what goes on. Just enough to make one question their choices, or so I hope. At the very least it's reaffirmed my vegetarian (plus a couple of specific kinds of fish) ethical stance.

If you haven't read it, you should. And since there's a good change that if you're reading this blog you're either a friend or, even more likely, a family member, I'll happily lend it to you. It makes me want to go start my organic farm/winery in Oregon like RIGHT NOW. But I suppose I should finish the movie with Bryan and sell my book first. Sigh. I hate it when practical consideration get in the way of dreams.

Monday, July 16

Slow Motion

I feel like I'm moving in slow motion these days. I think it has something to do with the movie and the fact that I had to so much in such a short amount of time that comparatively I now feel like a slug. Or maybe it's that I didn't have my typical crash-and-burn get-sick-and-stay-in-bed-for-three-days after a big job; instead I've been cruising along at about 40% capacity for the past couple of weeks. During the shoot I had all these big plans about my garden after we wrapped, but now I'm lucky to get a post up. And here's the current state of the garden:

Now this doesn't mean that I'm not going out there today to weed. Because I am. I had it all pulled together, but the thing about two months of neglect is that the grasses start to take over. But there's some there there.

Like these squash. They're just now entering the world. And the green tomatoes are starting to turn red. They're all just begging to be tied to their stakes.

And while there aren't any strawberries, my strawberry plant has gone nuts in my absence.

There are runners all over the path.

And so it is this that makes me take a deep breath and even in my 40% state, head out into the garden to week in the sun. Because sometimes all you need is a little dirt to make it ok to be moving in slow motion. It's not like the plants are in a big rush. And there's something beautiful and perfect about that.

I think the saying should not be stop and smell the roses, but rather, stop and weed the squash bed.

Wednesday, July 11

I'm Back!

I know you all missed me terribly. And I also realize that it's been a good solid while since I've posted. In my defense, I did warn you that I was going on movie-making sabbatical. And went I did. And now I've returned to the land of blogging most days. My garden is overrun with grass and tomatoes, my files are bursting with recipes-to-try and the Lotus Festival is just next weekend. I had to come back!

So here's a recap of what you missed in my life over the past few months:

Bryan and I shot a feature film. No one died or got hurt so it was a major success. Now we're moving into post after I finish wrapping this week.

That's pretty much it, as making the movie put the rest of my life on hold.

There are a ton of pictures from the shoot, but here are a few that happened to end up on my computer. I'll post more in the future.

all hail the almighty blackberry - this is what I looked like for most of the shoot

Mel - aka Set Dog, playing with the crew

Greg lounging around on set (this may be the only picture like this because he was normally running around being pretty much the greatest brother/transpo captain/everything assistant the world has ever known

Our expressions pretty much say it all. I hadn't slept in week. Bryan was in heaven. Go figure.

This is my Melba Toast impression. It's how she looked for most of the shoot. I'm actually hiding from the crew and sleeping in the back of Greg's car while they all shoot our gun shot effects. Of course we were in the parking structure of a hospital, so I figured if something went wrong they'd know where to go.

Ah shooting. From bum fights to dinner in the stinky LA's amazing we all lived to shoot another day.

Thursday, April 5


I am back from Washington DC, and have been for weeks. The movie is overwhelming all other aspects of my life, especially blogging. So I'm taking a hiatus until we're finished shooting (end of June), that way I won't feel guilty for not writing daily. come back. I promise I'll have lots of fun recipes and garden pix then.

Sunday, March 4

Off to DC

I leave tonight for Washington DC. And no I'm not planning a protest, though I ought to get some protesting in while I'm there...

actually I'm going to gather public domain footage from the National Archives. See you all on the flip side!

Wednesday, February 28

Joining the Club

Hey friends. There's this new fun recipe website - from what I can tell it's like the myspace for foodies and in an effort to kick start their site, they're giving away $6000 for a kitchen makeover. You know you want in on that. Click HERE to join!

Friday, February 23

You didn't want to work...

...did you?

Mel begins her blockade of my desk

Thursday, February 22

The Presence of Mange

So two things happened today, I wrote the first post for Presence (our movie) and I took Melba to the vet to get a shot and dipped for her mange. We think it's the minor localized kind that'll get wiped out by a couple of treatments. She's scared of the vet, but otherwise seems fine. I think it's more the rain that's making her mopey than anything else.

You can check out the Presence Post by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 21

The Real Vacation in Laguna Beach

A magnificent sunset
For Christmas, the Kramer's gave Bryan and me a night in a hotel in Laguna Beach. We took this much needed vacation Monday night. It was completely fabulous.

This is how Bryan enjoys his vacations
I think that Susan is on to us. First of all, she understands that we don't ever stop working. We both have day jobs (though mine are somewhat fluid) and then we have our film/writing work. I really truly take maybe a day or two off a month. Bryan's the same way. Susan tried once before to give us a weekend away. We used the money instead to buy an enlarger and set up a dark room. This time the gift came through a travel agency. Smart mom.

A room with a view
On Monday, after stopping at Fashion Island to see BREACH (which is good, but not as good as SHATTERED GLASS, which is awesome) we headed to the hotel. This was our view.

We stayed at the Beach and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach and it is literally on the sand.

Beneath my feet
We pretty much turned into jello as soon as we got there. We watched the sunset, had a drink and sat on our balcony.

Our beach from our balcony
I can't think of a better way to spend an evening than watching the tide roll in, ordering room service and watching movies on the TV (that may have been Bryan's favorite part). At night the hotel lit the surf so you could see it crash seemingly directly below your feet.

The next morning we had breakfast at their restaurant down just above the sand and went for a walk.

It's all about the sandcastle building.
Then it was back to the real world far too soon. Next time, we'll stay two nights.

Hi Bryan!

Thursday, February 15

Boxes, Boxes Everywhere...

...and not a thing to pack.

Okay, so that's not actually very accurate. In fact there were thousands of things to pack. I have a new appreciation for the work David and Kevin (and once upon a time, Bryan) do. Packing up other people's things is hard work!

Basically what happened was that I spent Monday and Tuesday helping Kevin and his crew pack up this little garage behind a house in the Crenshaw area that was literally filled with the largest collection of black literature and cultural artifacts on the West Coast. That element of it was cool. The bummer was that the room we were packing looked like this:
And that was after we spent a day packing. Before we started you couldn't see past that pile in the middle. The first day they had a hard time even getting the door open.

It was actually really interesting because as I'd pack old newspapers and magazines I'd come across some incredible photographs or an original manuscript from a slave. Really incredible documents.

By the end of Day 2 the front room looked like this:

(in the background is the room from the upper picture). They still had at least two and maybe three more days to go. The deal was that they had recently acquired a space to house this collection in a permanent organized way. But because the mold and silverfish were so bad in this old space, all of the books and papers have to first be frozen to kill everything. So Kevin and his guys had to literally double plastic bag every individual box (and by the end we were figuring that it would be about 500 boxes).

This is me, Kevin and his crew at the end of a LONG day.

I think I'm going to stick with writing and producing and leave the moving to the people with stronger backs.

Sunday, February 11

Much Better

Rain, Rain...

Mel doesn't like it when water falls from the sky. It makes her anxious, like someone wants to give her a bath.

As for me, I love it. It makes me actually want to stay indoors and do my work (yes, even on a Sunday). The call of the garden is not so great when it's cold and rainy outside. I might actually get some coverage written today, if I can keep myself from procrastinating by blogging.

I've started sending out my manuscript. So far the tally is 1 publisher, 2 agents and 2 agent query rejections. Not bad odds thus far. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 6


Today I glanced out the window and noticed these two little birds feasting on last season's figs. I'm glad someone is getting some use out of those old figs before I prune the tree. It makes me think my procrastination is really a form of bird-love. Maybe that's so.