20 December 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

of star light
and candle light
when hope lights up
all our lives, we gather to
a tree

Each ornament is a shining reminder that happiness comes one thought, one action, one day at a time.

Best wishes for happiness from our house to yours. 


08 December 2011

Orange Cupcakes with Chocolate Cardamom Ganache

Sometimes you find something that just works. For me, that's chocolate and orange. Chocolate and cardamom. Ok, to be honest, that's chocolate and just about anything (but probably not brussels sprouts).

I've been working at a new part time job. I would dearly love to learn how to make chocolates, and I offered my local chocolatier Christophe Saive my slave labor during his busy season if he'd teach me to make chocolates after the rush. I think I'm going to be way ahead on this deal!

21 November 2011


They say that there's a Chinese curse that goes something like, “May you lead an interesting life”. I have to say that parts of my life have been very interesting indeed. I came of age in Atlanta during the Civil Rights era, when Martin Luther King was still alive. I saw him show the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance, and it's a lesson I've never forgotten—even if sometimes my Irish temper doesn't let me put it into action... 

16 November 2011

Plate to Page: A Weekend to Remember

On a recent Friday, 4 friends and 12 strangers gathered for lunch at a villa in Tuscany. Monday morning 16 fast friends hugged goodbye, promising to keep in touch. In between, there was work and laughter and photos and wine and food. Lots of food. This was Plate to Page Tuscany.

Plate to Page is a workshop that combines food writing and food photography. And food styling. All in three days. Whew! A lot to do. And we did it all.

11 October 2011

My Dream Lunch and a Winner!

There is a restaurant I’ve wanted to visit since I first read about it when I was in grad school. It just ticked all the boxes for me, and I’ve had it on my list of things to so ‘someday’ ever since. 

Whenever we came to the Bay area I tried to get reservations, but I was always too late. This trip, however, a friend of Dan’s invited us for lunch. He’d managed to get the reservations by staying up till midnight and at 12:01on the day they were available he pounced. Needless to say, I was thrilled! 

07 October 2011

Lunch at the CIA

Yesterday we drove from San Francisco to Napa to have lunch with some friends. It was my first time in the Napa Valley, and it is gorgeous. The hills and fields are covered with vineyards--rows and rows of vines as far as the eye can see. These corduroy hills are the home of some famous American wine names, and as we drove we could see their names all around us. 
We got to our friends’ house and spent (not enough) time catching up and touring their wonderful garden. Then it was off to lunch. I was a little surprised when Jan told us that we’d be eating at the CIA. When you lived in DC for as long as we did, “lunch at the CIA” sounds a little ominous. I tend to start thinking of all the the things I’ve done wrong and wondering which one they’ll be wanting to ask me about--kind of like when that police car is following you for a while... 

04 October 2011

Le Bilan and a Giveaway

Well. It’s been a long time since I posted here. I know. I’ve been pretty much staying away from food stuff lately—as my goal weight approaches. And now I can proudly say that I’M THERE! And now it’s time to ‘faire le bilan’.
In French, the word ‘bilan’ means ‘the bottom line’. Heh, when talking about a diet, is there a better description? Since I started my diet with a ‘rechnung’, it seems appropriate to end it with a ‘bilan’. For me, there have been some interesting results. 
Some are about the obvious—weight lost, fitness gained, etc—but others have been about the reactions of others and my own re-training of my eating habits. So here we go. After 12 weeks of dieting, here are my results: 

07 August 2011

Making lemonade

No, those aren't lemons, and the only lemonade we made was the kind you make when life hands you lemons. Last Thursday one of my neighbors showed up on my doorstep with a case of little green plums. It seems that her sister's plum tree had so many plums on it that it fell over! They had an absolute GLUT of them. So she brought me a few... eight and a half kilos of plums, to be exact. (18.7 pounds) That's a lot of plums when they're not much bigger than an large cherry!

Oh, my. I love plums, especially these little ones. Normally I'd be thinking about clafouti, pies, tarts.On my diet, though, I can't eat fruit right now. None. Not one little tiny plum, let alone 8 ½ kilos of them. What to do?

01 August 2011

In Praise of Everyday Miracles

One of the things that I've been doing since I've been on this diet is walking. At least 30 minutes. Every day. Rain or shine, hot or cold (Belgium, remember?). I have several routes, depending on whether it's raining or not, how far I want to go, whether I want hilly or flat, or just how I feel.

25 July 2011

Katrin's Summer Beans

No, I haven't disappeared. I've not been cooking much, since I've been on this diet. Roast chicken, grilled steak, fish with leeks and tomatoes. You've either seen these recipes or you don't need them. So I haven't been posting. MISTAKE! Because we've been travelling....

20 June 2011

The Reckoning (recipe: Fish Terrine)

In restaurants in Germany, when you finish your meal you don't ask for the bill. You ask for 'die rechnung'. It's what tells you how much you have to pay for your excesses at the table. As you may have guessed, this word is the root of our English word 'reckoning'. Which also has to do with paying for your excesses.

22 May 2011


So. The world ended yesterday sometime when I wasn't looking. I guess we're now in paradise—a place where we have everything we need to be happy. To me the world looks the same as it did before. Maybe we always lived here? Maybe we've always had everything we needed to be happy?

14 May 2011

Occupational Hazards

I've been a little bit under the weather lately. No, that's not really true—I've been on the injured reserve list. I have a kitchen injury.

We're all familiar with the normal kitchen injuries: burns and cuts. When we work with fire and knives we expect a little blister or cut from time to time. Sometimes we even have something more dramatic, like the time I sliced the tip off my little finger while preparing dinner for some friends. It bled significantly for a couple of hours. When I say 'significantly' I mean that I had blood dripping off my elbow as I held my tightly wrapped hand above my head (why hold it above my head? I don't really know—it seemed like a good idea at the time).

30 April 2011


I have been trying to figure out how to bake with gluten-free flours. I have quite a collection: brown rice, white rice, corn (fine and coarse), buckwheat, almond, oat. But wait, there's more! Teff, millet, quinoa, chestnut, chickpea, coconut. I keep thinking that I have to 'know' each one before I know how to combine them. I've been a little discouraged, to be honest.

As I read more and more about gluten- and wheat- free baking, I see similar recipes with different flours and I don't understand why they used one as opposed to another. I don't like it when I don't understand...

09 April 2011

Simple Gifts

Many years ago, when I had my first kitchen, I began to do what my grandmother called “setting up housekeeping”. I had to figure out what I needed: plates, glasses and silverware of course, but also towels, mixing bowls, cutting boards and canisters. Canisters. What to keep my staples in? I searched and searched and couldn't find anything that I wanted to look at on my countertop every day.

Part of the problem was that I've always resisted buying things that tell me what their function is: Sugar, Coffee, Flour, Salt. What if I want to put rice in the one that says 'flour'? I can guarantee that if it tells me to put flour in it I'll have an almost irresistible need to put rice in it. Or popcorn. I don't have bowls that say “pasta” in my house. If I did, they'd surely have salad or fruit in them. Some might call this perverse - I like to think of it as being creative.

12 February 2011

Rabbit and Merguez Tagine

I have two tagines, those lovely Moroccan cooking dishes. The big one is a traditional cone-shaped one, made from glazed terra cotta. I bought it from a Moroccan shop in our town not long after we moved here. I fell in love with it when I first saw it--it’s old, a little wonky, a little chipped. It wasn’t new when I bought it. The shop owner tried to talk me out of that particular one, pointing out that there were new, colorful ones available. I can only use it for serving, not for cooking. It’s too big for my oven, and I can’t use it on the stovetop because the bottom’s not exactly flat. But I love it.

02 February 2011

Lemon Curd

What's in a name? I mean, Shakespeare said it, didn't he? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This is the kind of statement that makes me want to push the concept. I mean, what if we take a lovely rose and call it a booger. Will we want to stick our noses in it and breathe deeply? I'm not so sure.

Take lemon curd. I mean, let's face it: curd is not a pretty word. It brings up images of Miss Muffet and spiders. Altogether too icky a name for this lovely stuff. It's like somebody boogered my rose. I think we should call it something else. What, though? Lemon roses? Lemon velvet? No, that sounds like chewing tobacco. Lemon sauce? Too liquid. Lemon jam? Close, but how to distinguish it from marmalade?

17 January 2011

FLASHBACK: The Best Laid Plans...(part 6)

Note: This is a continuing story. The previous parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Twelve years ago yesterday something happened that changed our lives changed forever. At the time we had no idea the impact this event would have on our lives. It started out innocently enough: on a sunny January day Dan went for a ride on his new bike with some friends. I went to an acting class at the Shakespeare Theatre. On the way home, I kept trying to remember the words to a part that I was supposed to be learning for the class, and when I walked in the house the phone was ringing. I picked it up and someone said, “Hello, you don't know me, my name is Jamie Gardner”. (Telemarketing, I thought preparing to hang up.) “I'm calling to tell you that Dan has had an accident on his bike. But he's OK.” (Great, I thought, he's wrecked his new bike. I'm going to have to kick some butt.) “It looks like he's broken his leg. But he's OK.” (Probably can't kick butt while he's on crutches.) “The ambulance is here and they've stabilized him. He's OK.” (Oh.) “He's going to have to go to the hospital. He's OK”. By now I was beginning to realize that this wasn't a simple fall off a bike. In fact, it was the beginning of a year that was at the same time the most difficult and the most important in our lives together.

09 January 2011

Oven Roasted Ribs

Someone recently remarked that we must only eat desserts at our house, judging by my blog. It’s not really true that we only eat desserts. It’s just that they’re so pretty! Really, don’t you think so? They’re like the cheerleaders of the table, jumping up and shouting “me! me! look at me!” “take MY picture!” Ahem. Maybe they don’t really do that--maybe it’s just me.