Home Cooked Date Night on Oahu

We have been taking time away from work with my husbands’ family on the North Shore of Oahu. Needless to say, we feel so lucky to have had the chance to get away from work and our regular routine for a while. Our plates have been filled with a lot of fresh fruit and some wonderful fresh fish, not to mention locally made pickled green papaya with sweet plums – amazing.

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Last night my sweetie and I opted for a date night in and visited Celestial Natural Foods about 15 minutes up the road for some hand-picked goods. With the help of my homemade almond-lime-garlic dipping sauce, our plates of baked brown rice, sauteed broccolini, squash and zucchini with lots of garlic and onion, sprouted beans, peas and lentils and fresh sunflower sprouts made for the perfect vegetarian spread. With our chairs on the beach and feet in the sand, we enjoyed ocean-side dining at its finest, ending with a fierce game of dominoes and some Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge.

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Today, I made a creamy congee with leftovers. The house that we have had the pleasure of staying in has a plethora of amazing books: Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods and Essential Ayurveda, to name just a couple. Herewith is the recipe for my experimental congee, portioned out to feed about 8 people with hefty leftovers:

  • one heaping handful of brown rice, cooked
  • 5-6 cups heaping cups of water
  • vegetables and flavor agents of choice (we had broccolini, yellow crook neck squash, zucchini, onion, garlic)
  • sprouted peas, lentils and peas (about 2 cups works)
  • soy or tamari sauce
  • fennel seeds
  • ground mustard
  • dried marjoram
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • sprouts to garnish

congee

There are many ways to flavor or enhance congee. I simply diced and chopped the veggies, onion and garlic, threw in large dashes of the soy sauce, herbs and spices, and mixed everything together in a large pot, brought to boil and set down to simmer for about 3 hours. We ended up with a wonderful savory porridge, perfect for a light lunch before Opal Thai for dinner. Aloha!

 

Skill Exchange Mixer a Success

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a workshop at the Makeshift Society. Little did I know just how much fun it was going to be, and how much I would be learning myself. Kate Koeppel, creator of Skill Exchange (and my website), brings folks together to teach, share and learn from one another, promoting self-reliance skill building.

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Mixing up the local, seasonal, medicinal onion dip. Yum

Quite the crowd

Quite the crowd

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Supportive friends from the health and wellness world, Jessica Mishra and Michaele Kruger

That being said, the first mixer of a series open to the public was a party; we learned how to stitch a tie from This Humble Abode, properly store produce and why we should buy local from Mission Community Market, pickle green strawberries from Fermenters Club (for all you in need for a kick to your digestive system!), and how to make date sweetened almond milk from Project Juice . All in all, the night was a sweet success.

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A super happy me getting ready to perform

For additional press and information about this event, visit the DIY Network’s Made+Remade blog. Hope to see you at the next Skill Exchange! Photo credit: Kara Brodgesell.

Urban Homesteading…in Piedmont

We obviously aren’t as hardcore as the pioneers were. Folks had it hard back in the day. I constantly try to remind myself of this as I complain about bad cell phone reception or the fact that one of the burners on our stove isn’t working. I mean…really. I do need to work on my perspective, and there really is no one that should be blamed. It is what our culture has grown into. And this is negative, in many ways. But it is also fantastic. Fantastic because of the feedback loop trend that has been capturing many of the largest and busiest metropolitan areas in the US – urban homesteading. I know, I know. This isn’t new. Let’s throw back to our friends the pioneers, the Little House on the Prairie peeps that we read about in 3rd grade. We all know that growing your own food, hunting and gathering is the basis of survival. But maybe it takes all of this advanced technology, Facebook, severe carpal tunnel from typing and falling asleep to the whirring sounds and blue light of our laptops to actually get us outside. I hope we all make more time to mess around and experiment in our gardens, on our fire escapes or on those random peninsula’s that run through town – and get our kids out there, too. For example, the landscaped peninsula that is going in on Ronada and Ramona streets in my town sounds like a perfect piece to add to that intersection. How about a community garden or something of the like in that space? After all, didn’t that neighborhood have the best float ever last year at the 4th of July parade? (I believe kids were dressed up as garden gnomes. Awesome).

My husband and I have been trying to drown out some of those ever so attractive conveniences and do things the long way. “Does she have kids?” You ask? No, I don’t. Yet. I hear your chuckles. My sisters have three kids each, and my brother has two. I see how busy they are, and I hear about what it takes to get your kids through school successfully, make them into responsible, upstanding and good, hardworking people. And don’t forget finding out how to set them apart from the crowd, help them get into a good college, stay healthy, excel at their sport, serve the community, keep up with friends, keep up with trends and be happy. We are trying to instill in ourselves a way of dealing with all of these responsibilities in a certain way so that when we do have kids we can plan on laying some of that responsibility on the garden itself, forming unique experiences and lessons to be learned from the radishes, beets, cucumber plants…and chickens. I see some parents doing this around town, and I love what I see.

Speaking of children, ours are our plants right now. And we have many “kids” growing up in our household: kale, Dino and curly, Swiss chard, watermelon radishes, purple and white spring onions (lots of onions), carrots, tomatoes, beets, Serrano chiles, sweet and purple basil, and flowers to attract the bees. We plan on chickens, and are designing the coop now (it would be too easy to run to Williams-Sonoma’s new Agrarian line for that Taj Mahal of chicken coops. But that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Besides, building it is half the fun, and challenge…and it’s cheaper (sorry, Williams-Sonoma). But it’s fascinating how this shows where the market is trending. And we are fascinated at how fast our plants are growing! The radishes are going crazy, some of the flowers have given up (pansies sure don’t like heat!), and new alyssum flowers have been potted to attract the bees. And when asked if we will be keeping bees…? Our answer is probably never. It is incredible to watch and learn from their intricate systems of production, but could you see us chasing a swarm around Piedmont? Yikes.

And…………..we’re planted. We were like kids in a candy store. We were inspecting the soil looking for sprouts way too many times per day. These were planted on Friday, May 4. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Growing…May 7th.

Growing…huge(ish)! In just over a week. May 14th

Drip irrigation for the tomatoes. Lesson: the “rust” that can appear on the leaves of the tomatoes is due to water hitting the leaves (some weird fungus). You won’t want to water the tomato plant leaves, but penetrate the roots instead. We have planted Early Girl, Cherokee Purple, Rose de Berne, Gold Medal tomatoes and one tomatillo plant. Don’t think we won’t be coming to your house with a couple pounds of tomatoes this summer!

Give me a beet! Nature does provide the most intense colors.

It is hard to juggle everything (sometimes anything) in our lives. Maybe think about giving yourself some time, getting a head start, asking some friends (with some tools), and working really hard to dedicate a couple of weekends to getting a planter box or a chicken coop built, a vertical or even a spiral herb garden or fire escape plot going. Perhaps making it a habit to integrate gardening and farming into your family routine would be beneficial to your family dynamic; kids will flip out from the satisfaction they feel after growing, harvesting and eating the food from their garden (get them young!). Teenagers might scoff at first, but if you let them know it’s there and make it a chore (in short bursts of time), they might come back around later, and college kids will start coming home telling you how cool their urban homesteading and permaculture classes are. I can’t wait until I hear a neighbor say, “Sorry, kids. Before you go hangout at Mulberry’s or text your friends down the street to meet up, you owe me 1/2 hour in the garden. The kale needs to be harvested, blueberries need to be picked, the chickens need more feed or the compost needs to be turned.” Once the whining fades away, it might be worth it. Embrace your green space and tune in next time for further stories of our challenges, successes and lessons learned.

Boxes, Black Beans and Blood Oranges

This past weekend, two generous and talented friends came over to help make one of our dreams into a reality. One of our urban homesteading dreams, that is. We are SO blessed to have friends who care about our desires to produce our own food and set a small, but to us important, example of what it means to live (or at least eat) off the land in a small town where we hope more and more food is being grown. We are hoping to gently influence some of our East Bay/Piedmont and Oakland neighbors to perhaps carve out a few feet of space to grow some herbs, maybe even some kale (of course KALE), if they haven’t already. The anticipation and anxious feelings surrounding growing our own food is so exciting.

My father-in-law said something a few weeks ago that keeps sticking out in my head. He said that we as American’s, and the way our society and culture dictates change, seems to be driven by emergency situations. To that point, just because there isn’t a war, i.e. World War II, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to develop our own ways of being self-sufficient. This is where the concept of the Victory Garden popped into my head. Taking any space that you have, even if it’s in the form of pots in the windowsill of your studio apartment, or on the kitchen table. Historically, the Victory Garden was supposed to boost morale and empower all citizens to take advantage of their own backyard resources, supporting themselves and the war effort by growing food, raise certain animals and live off of the land, to a certain degree (or even pots or planter boxes). For more information on what’s going on in places like Oakland in regards to urban farming and Victory Gardening, there is a lot to thumb through at The Victory Garden Foundations’ website, and this amazing website. I found this through catching up with works by artist Amy Franchescini, whom I saw at the SFMOMA and who has been honored for the SECA award in the past. TRULY innovative and artistic eco-creative stuff, but I digress a bit.

Blog title item #1: BOXES. We now have one of two planter boxes built and ready for sealing, concrete laying (we have to with our webs of redwood root-age. No wonder redwood trees are so resilient, large, ancient and amazing. Their roots go EVERYWHERE!) and planting. I think we need starters (not seeds) and will go for tomatoes, carrots, LOTS of greens (lettuces, kale, chard, kale and more kale) and maybe try our hand at some blueberries under the redwood trees. Apparently they like acidic soil. SO many possibilities! But we did get the Sunset Western Garden Book, which is basically a bible to grow anything. I have also heard that Golden Gate Gardening is a must buy for growing food and any plants in the San Francisco Bay Area, since our climate is so diverse (and amazing – no bias here).

Felled redwoods from a nearby vacant lot. Friends asked for permission to mill the wood, we paid the friends for the service and amazing skill with which the wood was milled and cut, and here the redwood planks await…for planter box making!

Russ, Scotty and Tim savoring one of the finished boxes, after Scotty and Tim produced a beautiful piece. We watched and provided food (Thanksgiving sandwiches, anyone?) beer and cold water, and Russ lent a hand and helped with heavy lifting and other tasks. Can’t mess with perfection, ladies and germs. I hope Tim and Scotty aren’t annoyed at how in awe I am and how I ask constantly how they know so much about so much. ; ) They are amazing friends.

If you build it, they will come! And now…if we grow it, we will eat!

We were fortunate to have great friends helping us out, who knew how to deal with dimension, measurements very accurately…and had the tools. Scotty and Tim are really talented people.

On to the topic of black beans. I found a recipe in a magazine that I usually toss aside (I won’t say which one…but I have narrowed my view since I started subscribing to Whole Living, which I love). The night of the box building, we were having friends over for dinner. I haven’t done too much with any regional South American themed recipes, and I still have so much to experiment with and learn. This recipe was one of those you look at with uncertainty, with about 50 kagillion ingredients that you know you probably don’t have in your pantry. But…I decided to take it on and give it a makeover. The recipe was for pork and plantain enchiladas with black bean puree. I had black beans already, and a good amount of ingredients it called for, but wanted to make it a bit more simple…and vegetarian. So, from this recipe, I just dropped a few things and, even though it was still a bit complicated (sort of like Thanksgiving in a dish, with multiple components to coordinate at once), I still had a lot of fun doing it.

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 chopped yellow onions, divided
  • 1 2/3 cups organic chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 6 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained (Eden Organics brand does not have BPA lining in the cans – that’s a GOOD thing). Or you can cook your own beans (soak and sprout) which ups their nutritional value. I didn’t have time this week.
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 soft sweet, ripe plantains, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas (try to get as “clean” as you can. Many seemingly pure corn tortillas usually have lots of other additives in there.
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • Sour cream or “crema,” which is basically cream that some South American cuisine’s use for garnishing. I added a little honey to make it sweet to complement the plantains
  1. For tomatillo sauce: combine 1 choppped onion, 1 cup broth, tomatillos, 1 garlic clove, and serrano in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tomatillos are tender. Cool for 10 minutes. Combine tomatillo mixture, cilantro, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender; process until smooth. Pour into a large measuring cup.
  2. For Black Bean Puree: Place skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add the remaining onion; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add remaining garlic clove; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add remaining 2/3 cup broth, and cook for 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add black beans; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool slightly. Place black bean mixture in blender. Pulse 15 times, scraping occasionally until mixture is a thick puree.
  3. For Plantains: Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Combine 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, honey, and plantains in a medium bowl, tossing to coat plantain. Add plantain mixture to pan; sautée for 3 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Cool slightly; finely chop.
  4. ASSEMBLY TIME: Next, I heated the corn tortilla’s slightly in the oven to soften them up, and then keep them warm. I put out a buffet of all ingredients for everyone to pile onto their tortilla’s, like soft tacos (including the brown rice, plantains, tomatillo sauce, black bean puree, crema, and garnish with more cilantro.
  5. TIME TO EAT!

The spread (salad, tomatillo, crema and cilantro), brown rice, black bean puree (under foil) and plantains in the foreground

A simple side salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds and simple, homemade mustard vinaigrette dressing (my favorite!)

To accompany? Friends Ryan and Liz (Liz is a culinary student, and amazing cook, in Napa, so it was fun to get her input on the meal) brought fixings for blood orange margarita’s. I love them…and not just for their creative booze concoctions.  ; )

Blood oranges await their fate: freshly squeezed juice for us!

The mixologist hard at work

SO refreshing. Tequila, agave syrup, Cointreau (I think?) and fresh-squeezed blood orange juice

And that was our weekend. Fun times, good friends, great food and the pursuit of happiness through planter box building. EMBRACE URBAN FARMING and stay tuned for more on our journey towards home-grown kale and farm fresh eggs.

COOKING BONANZA, Part 1: Ode to my fellow amateur chefs…

What you need to start a Cooking Bonanza – friends, food, friends, wine, friends and…friends.

Two of my classmates, Annaka and Heather, started cooking together one night in Heather’s culinary heaven of a kitchen. She’s got every pot and pan, tool and spice…I can’t imagine the madness that ensued that night, later dubbed “Cooking Bonanza”. But it gave birth to a great idea and a really fun way to bond with classmates and friends.

The first time I attended, we were hanging over each others’ business at the cutting boards, stove, sink and counter tops. Heather has a wonderful kitchen, major open floor plan, so there is plenty of room to work. But we were all working together at the same time on multiple dishes (we are talking 1-3 dishes per person). It turned out to be great; a charming and familiar way to work with “too many cooks in the kitchen.” It made us comfortable with each other and willing to throw ideas around, and help each other when a dish was failing a bit (my Tom Kha gai sucked at first – ah the wonders of simmering). Annaka is the true chef; she knows how flavors work well together and how to take ANYTHING she has lying around in her kitchen (or yours) and turn it into a perfect dish. Hey Top Chef! You have your next contestant right here. Heather is very particular with quality of ingredients, keeping us all in check on the best of whatever kind of ingredient we are working with, which is what we are all passionate about. Plus she tells amazing stories about ninja personal trainers. That one is a Heather original. I also got to meet Mama of the Year (in my book), Karen. She is so chill, hilarious and nurturing, and brings baby Phillip with her wherever she goes. God bless her; she always remembers to pack the good stuff…chocolate, that is. The past two Bonanza’s, she has brought the makings for dessert.

Heather, Annaka and Karen

The menu for February’s Cooking Bonanza was a smorgasbord of yumminess. We thought of doing a Thai theme (I think it was?) and then just brought whatever was in our pantries, and whatever we felt like cooking that night. I wanted to make a spicy toasted walnut and apple salad, with lime vinaigrette, and tried to improvise, but it came out a little flat. I also brought the making for Tom Kha Gai, a traditional Thai coconut soup (SO yummy, with tomatoes, bok choi, lemongrass, etc.). We had to cook it down a bit, and I didn’t strain it a I should have, but I think the leftovers came out fine. THE BEST dishes were the prawns and white beans in a simple tomato sauce, Annaka’s ridonkulous cream of mushroom soup (non dairy, with sweet potatoes and other goodies blended in there), brown rice with fresh herbs, this baked spiced eggplant with a tangy almond sauce (one of my favorite tastes), and broccolini with olive oil and garlic. SO yummy. AND…Karen made chocolate pudding with tofu (melt chocolate, add cocoa powder, blend) with fresh strawberries. I ate WAY too much of that stuff. And I must admit I was a proponent of adding more chocolate than was probably necessary. After having not eaten chocolate for a couple of years a while back, I remember why I was addicted.

Apple salad and roasted eggplant strips with almond sauce

Sauteed broccolini with garlic

“Cream” of mushroom soup. SO savory.

Prawns, white beans and the rice

Prawns in perfectly simple tomato sauce

Rice with fresh herbs

My plate – ready to dig in and enjoy our hard work! What a pretty plate.

And finally, dessert. I had more than my share. : )

We all ascended on Heather’s apartment around 6:30, and started to eat around 9pm. It was fantastic and got me excited for the next…pictures of the FOOD below. No recipes are provided herewith…even though some of use used recipes, things changes A LOT throughout the evening with the dishes. This post is meant to motivate and inspire you to IMPROVISE, after seeing some of these dishes! Stay tuned for Part II of COOKING BONANZA, to be posted right after this with easy and scrumptious recipes from the March Bonanza!

Super Simple Sauerkraut

When I was volunteering with OBUGS in the garden this past summer, we were scheduled to help the kids make sauerkraut one morning for camp. I had never made kraut and had never thought of the process of making it as an easy process. I also didn’t realize just how important fermented foods, in moderation, are for us. Probiotics, baby! Probiotics!

Probiotics are the good bacteria we need to balance our gut, and to breakdown food and absorb nutrients properly. The more obsessed I get with nutrition, the more intrigued (and obsessed) I get with the gut and the liver. Without the proper maintenance and care of these two digestive super heroes, our bodies are in serious trouble. Basically, fermented food create a Frankenstein of living goodness, which we need to give our bodies to balance the gut. Many of us know probiotics in relationship to kombucha drinks and yogurt. Good quality yogurt should have the bacteria lactobacillus. This bacteria converts the lactose and other sugars in the yogurt to lactic acid, which in turn makes its environment acidic, inhibiting the growth of some harmful bacteria. The good, the bad…and hopefully the balance – gotta have them all. If you look at your yogurt container, it usually says what bacteria it hosts. Oh, and do yourself a favor: go for the good stuff with yogurt. Try to stay away from products like Activia. There’s just too much sugar and other weirdo’s lurking around in there (BTW, “weirdo’s” are what I am going to call non-food, chemical ingredients in food products from now on. I think it’s appropriate). St. Benoit is hella good – and super simple (sense a theme here?). Their honey flavor uses local honey from Marshall’s…and they themselves are a local company (to the Bay Area). I am lactose intolerant, and usually eat goat products, but found St. Benoit to be fine in moderation for me  (no more than 1/4 cup per day).

Fermented foods such as kraut have the same effect. Since the bacteria stimulates stomach acid, it’s best to eat a spoonful of a fermented food prior to or with a meal to aid in digestion. You can buy some great krauts at the store, although please read the label to make sure there are no weirdo’s in there . OR, you can make your own! Again…super simple. I made my first batch today and we will see how it turns out after it has gotten to stew for a while. All you need is:

Cabbage

Colored sea or mountain salt (preferably high quality, hasn’t been iodized, pink Himalayan or gray). I use a larger chunked pink Himalayan salt that I grind myself. A little bit should go a long way!

Large-mouthed mason jars or a crock (large ceramic jar for pickling and kraut)

A kitchen mallet, or meat tenderizer (I used a wood, non-handled rolling pin)

Take off two or three outer leaves and set aside. Cut cabbage into thin strips and then cut those strips in half so they aren’t too long. Put in a bowl, add one or two tablespoons of salt and start to crush and pound the cabbage with a tool like a meat tenderizer/mallet-type object, or with your fist. You want to crush the cabbage just until you see it glisten; water is being released and it is softening. This is fun for kids, if you have the cabbage in a large bowl. The cabbage can jump around a bit.  : )

Crushing away with the rolling pin.

Next add salt to the bottom of the jar (I added about 1/2 tsp). The amount of salt you add throughout packing the jar with cabbage is really up to you. I packed the jar about a third of the volume with cabbage. Then sprinkle another 1/2-1 tsp of salt on top of the layer, pounding down the cabbage. Keep layering (you will probably only have 3-4 layers) until you have about half an inch of room between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar mouth, pounding down the cabbage after every layer.

All packed.

When you have filled the jar, with room at the top, start pouring some water into the jar slowly (filtered water if possible), making sure your cabbage is submerged. One trick I found, if you don’t have a weight to hold down the cabbage, is to use a full cabbage leaf to hold down stragglers of cabbage strips that want to float to the top. Let your kraut sit at room temp for about a week, or longer. Open it up and try it out! Refrigerate. Done and done.

Putting a plate or tray underneath your packed jars can help if they lids are looser than you think and water spills over.

DON’T FORGET! For all you fancy pants peeps out there, you can add all kinds of things to your kraut. Beet strips, grated carrots, chopped scallions, onions, garlic, fennel seeds, turnips, apples, caraway seeds, sea veggies or other herbs and spices, added to the cabbage. I’ve had beet and apple with fennel seed. Tasty stuff.

I Heart Temescal

The husband and I have one night a week that we designate as our eating out night – gotta stay true to our food budget without compromising nutrition or quality. And we go big on this night; if we have a Google Deals coupon at our favorite Indian street food spot in Berkeley (Vik’s Chaat Corner, baby)? Then that’s where you’ll find us. As those of us thinking we are well-versed in the ever-evolving culinary scene of the Bay Area know, their are plenty of spots to hit up to get amazing food on the cheap. And then there are the splurges…

Doña Tomás is not just a Mexican restaurant. It is one of the establishments guilty of starting the Temescal District revolution… creating something very, very special in an otherwise forgotten and downtrodden area of Oakland. The husband had never been, and I have always loved it. The atmosphere is perfect, and having just been to Oaxaca over the holidays, it felt even more authentic than I thought it always was. The clean, white stucco walls with what look like vintage Frida Kaho tunics sparsely adorning the walls make their way through the hallway separating the bar area and main dining area. The bar feels like members of the Buena Vista Social Club will be setting up soon to play in the corner. It has deep, deep red walls, making you feel really comfortable and ready to settle in. Their thick and crispy chips with cotija cheese crumbled atop and thinner, smokey salsa is a perfect starter. We also ordered the following to share:

Quesadillas con Betabeles:  house-made tortillas filled with goat cheese, beets, fennel and thyme, topped with tomatillo-guajillo salsa
and kumquats

The kumquats added an perfect sweet to the savory

Sopes con Platanos: crispy masa cakes topped with fried plantains, black beans, crema and epazote

I heart plantains. Check out Sol Food in San Rafael for more plantain goodness…

Chile Verde: a stew of Niman Ranch lamb with potatoes, poblanos and avocado leaves, topped with crema and cheddar,
served with green rice

The food was, as always, amazing. I usually always go for the carnitas, but decided to venture out. With no room for dessert, we were satisfied. Until. Wait, wait. As we know, this side of the street has a great line-up of places to rival any Mission or Meat Packing type district have gone up around Dona Tomas, as well:

Bakesale Betty – BEST apple and pecan pie I have ever had, and when you are standing in the 20+person line on a sunny afternoon, they’ll bring out fresh baked cookies while you wait, on the house.

Article Pract – I just want to pile their yarns in beautiful hues and textures and dream away – and I gotta get back into knitting and purling myself.

Pizziaolo - I believe a few veterans from the Chez Panisse kitchen started this up, so it was sure to be good from the get go. I have never actually been, but it’s one of those place that has been on my short list WAY too long. I will for sure forgo my gluten issue for a slice of this pie.

Scream Sorbet – we aren’t talking your Dreyer’s rainbow weirdness here. With flavors like Almond Pink Peppercorn (the nut makes the cream base – there’s not dairy!) and Hazelnut Chocolate (better than I would imagine frozen Nutella to be – AND CREAMIER) this place rocks my world. Hard on the budget, but a MUST for the senses.

You get my point. This particular block is the place to be. And down the street we’ve got one of the East Bay versions of Burma Superstar and Lanesplitter’s Pizza. How can you go wrong? On the contrary. You can’t go wrong, but you can find a welcoming surprise inside…the street. Sitting pretty behind the lineup is a modest alley way that I believe was first opened to the public via the Temescal Alley Barbershop. The shop welcomes you to peer in to see the notably attractive barbers in hipster jeans and checkered shirts (my husband is the most attractive man I know, but this is like Blaine from Glee attractive). And as you head past a few of the sandwich boards, alluring one’s curiosity, you must also notice a unique finds vintage furnishings shop, a jewelry and home goods shop and much more to be perused. See the lineup here and make your way down there on a warm summer evening after dinner for music and open doors to the shops. Oakland Art Beat posts such happenings on their calendar online. Many neighbors were also sharing the fruits of their labor along the alley (pictured below).

So sweet. The women who grew these whispered to me about her mispellings, but I just assumed it was mistaken because of her excitement to share!

I took this picture earlier in the week when I was in the neighborhood for lunch. Another way to think about “urban gardening,” or even a moveable garden installation. If it had had a chicken coop? Heaven.

This was such a perfect end to the evening. There were homemade doughnuts being served outside as a small band played what sounded like a mix between Fever Ray, The Postal Service and Air. And as our friend Tim would say in response to being told about a meal or scenario that satisfies his…?                                                       “Perfect.”

Looking into Temescal Alley towards the band.

Three Stone Hearth Goodness

I was driving along Tunnel Road in Oakland, running errands, when I got a phone call from my favorite community supported and employee operated cooking and teaching kitchen Three Stone Hearth! I was off the waiting list for their Full Moon Feast; my husband and I were next in line. AWESOME. We have ordered some goodies from them over the past few months (and one of the women who started Three Stone went to Bauman College!) I had my first liver pate, my first African bean fritters (or akara) and my first taste of an amazing mung bean stew from an order placed with Three Stone, not to mention the fact they that are one of a FEW resale options for purchasing raw cow and goat milk. With all I have learned about pasturized milk, not to mention the fact that it is pasturized down to the bare bones of its’ naturally occurring nutrients, this is such a breath of fresh air. You don’t even get a lot of calcium out of that glass of non-fat milk. Bummer. If you are lactose intolerant, raw goat milk can be something to try out in small doses. The goat milk rocks my world. Three Stone gets their milk from Claravale Farm.

Back to the feast. Three Stone Hearth hosted its Full Moon Feast (they do 2-3 per year, I think) on Saturday. The meal was prepared by the current Cooking and Culinary Traditions Program students as well as staff and worker/owners. Following the meal there were two really interesting and informative interviews with Alexis Koefoed of Soul Food Farm whose chickens were used for the meal and Marco Vangelisti of Slow Money Northern California, speaking about investing in local and sustainable food systems, i.e Soul Food Farms and Three Stone Hearth. I absolutely loved the ideas posed in these interviews, which aren’t complex ideas, but that we as people living amongst other people don’t even look to anymore – sharing, sustaining each other and small businesses, etc.. The concept discussed by Marco was simple: slow our money down. Slow Money looks to invest in smaller but sustainable companies, whose sustainability is only questioned because of having to compete against larger corporations and a bottom line that is harder to balance when most people shop at place like Target and Safeway. Yes, smaller farms and organic food and produce can be more expensive. But your health care bills and those doctors visits, the drugs you take and the extra time it costs to deal with your diabetes or IBS cost more, over time. It is so cool to think that just eating more quality food could actually make you cut down on healthcare costs, should you choose to make this budgetary shift. The average American spends 13% of their income on food. LET’S PUSH IT UP A BIT TO 17 OR 20%! Perhaps we can look at cutting costs and think twice when buying clothes or housewares, video games or that new iPhone model to replace a perfectly good one. We can all manipulate our budgets to spend more money on food. It’s just a matter of changing the way we think about spending money, to whom that money goes and how FAST it is going.

Here was the menu for the night. It was marvelous, and we even bumped into one of my teachers’ at dinner!

Appetizer
Naturally Leavened Pizzeta with Dungeness Crab, Heirloom Tomato Sauce, and Your Family Farm Egg Aioli (my gluten free option was just as yummy: Gluten-free Pizzeta on Grindstone Quinoa Ciabatta)

Main Course
Ballotine of Chicken
Soul Food Farm Pastured Chicken is de-boned and stuffed with Bellwether Farm ricotta, Bloomsdale spinach and house-cured duck prosciutto then oven-roasted until golden brown.
Miso-Glazed Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Riverdog Farm Root Vegetables with Fennel and Chestnuts
Relish of Pickled Beets and Onions
with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, beet kvass and fresh dill

This chicken was so tender and makes you appreciate pasture raised chickens. It was probably the best chicken I have ever had.

Roots, shoots and tubers. Simple, so amazing and warming.

My plate – so colorful with the beets, brussels sprouts, chicken and root veggies

Salad
Pan di Zucchero in a Styrian Pumpkinseed Oil Vinaigrette
with Blood Orange, Pomegranate, and Fuyu persimmon

Bitter greens post-entree, which helps with digestion. The bitterness aids in liver function.

The husband chowing down – talk about eating the rainbow…

Dessert
Platter of Sweets and Savories:
Caramels with Fleur de Sel
Crescent Cookies with Housemade Cranberry-Apple Preserve
Bari Dates
Shaved Fiscalini Farm Vintage Bandage Wrapped Cheddar Cheese

I had two of the caramels (top left). They were literally melting on the plate. SO amazing.

Beverage
Sassafras and Ginger “Root Beer”

The ginger “root” kombucha. Our table drank it up quickly; it wasn’t too sweet, and very refreshing before the meal and throughout dinner

Sign up with Three Stone Hearth! Make some space in your budget for this amazing resource of healthful, sustainable, local and organic food stuffs. You won’t regret it. EMBRACE THE COMMUNITY KITCHEN!

Our wonderful chefs, who were clearly working so hard to provide us with such a scrumptious, warming and building dinner. They didn’t even sit down to eat together until we were all served and satisfied. THANK YOU TSH!