When the logs are for eating not building in the Overstory

The OverstoryWas a busy few weeks as they tend to be at this time of the year. One of the highlights was BookClub. This month’s read was The Overstory and the intersection of nature, trees, logs, and people.

Two of the several quotes I liked from the book included;

The bends in the alders speak of long-ago disasters. Spikes of pale chinquapin flowers shake down their pollen; soon they will turn into spiny fruits. Poplars repeat the wind’s gossip. Persimmons and walnuts set out their bribes and rowans their blood-red clusters Ancients oaks wave prophecies of future weather. The several hundred kinds of hawthorn laugh at the single name they’re forced to share. Laurels insist that even death is nothing to lose sleep over.”

”No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage. Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark, threatening places that must be cleared. We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees—trees are invisible.”

As per the usual – I wanted to come up with some interesting to food to go with the stories. One dessert I have never tried was a Buche de Noel. Now mostly I haven’t ever attempted it is because they traditionally have hazelnuts so never ate one. But I have been somewhat nervous about attempting a “jelly roll” or “swiss roll” type cake in any of the many forms.

But as I tend to do – I jumped in by attempting two variations on a “log theme”. 

The first was a traditional carrot cake log with cream cheese frosting and meringue mushrooms. My first challenge was to figure out the frosting – I didn’t want to use chocolate frosting -but I did want some shade of brown of the “bark”. That meant going back to my color charts. 1 part red, 10 parts yellow and a few dashes of blue made the brown. I use gel food coloring in the traditional cream cheese frosting along with some vanilla and honey to keep the liquids minimal. The recipe for the carrot cake roll can be found here

Next up.. savory style!

With the savory version “log” I came across a flourless recipe that looked like it wouldn’t work, but it did. I loved all the flavors, and confident in the knowledge that I had the sweet version as a backup, I went for it.

I found a recipe online for a flourless, sweet potato and chive log with savory cream cheese, tomato and herb filling covered in cream cheese and spicey eggplant pesto frosting.  The formal recipe for this can be found here.

The version I have below is my adapted version of the one they started with.

Note: they used metric measurements so I have converted them to US measurements.

For the “dirt” I just used ground nuts and rosemary for the savory one and ground graham crackers for the sweet version.

I also whipped up some meringue mushrooms the night before. But make sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them hard.

What you will need:

  • 16 oz (450 g) of cubed sweet potatoes
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch ground clove
  • 1/2 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 3 oz of white sharp white shredded cheddar (this is more than the original recipe)
  • 21 oz  (250 g) full fat cream cheese (3 bricks)  (room temperature)
  • 1 bunch fresh chives (about 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh)
  • 1 jar of tomato pesto ( but any savory spread will do – I couldn’t find the red onion marmalade, so I went with a jar of Tomato Pesto)
  • 1 jar of Eggplant Pesto – this is a strong cumin spiced version and also dark colored.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a Swiss roll pan (30cm x 24cm) with parchment paper.
  2. Cooke the cubed sweet potatoes in a plastic bag in the microwave for 7-8 minute to cook
  3. Remove from the bag and add to a food processor
  4. Separate the 4 eggs.
  5. Add the yolks to the food processor along with the shredded cheese, clove,  nutmeg,  and ginger, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Process the mix until smooth and a thick puree and pour into a large bowl
  7. Add 1/2 the chives and fold twice more.
  8. In a stand mixer (or by hand), whip the egg whites to soft peaks
  9. Fold in the egg whites to the puree and fold gently to incorporate
  10. Pour the mix into the sheet pan and smooth with an offset spatula so that its evenly distributed in the pan.
  11. Bake 10-12 minutes. You want it brown around the edges and spring back to the touch in the center
  12. Pull the pan out of the oven and cover the “cake” with another sheet of parchment and upside down sheet pan and flip it over. You want to cake to me on the parchment on the pan but without the edges, so you can slide it on the counter to roll easier.
  13. Remove the cake and paper to the counter.
  14. Roll the cake up with the paper attached ( as if it were filling) and wrap in plastic and chill for 30 – 60 min.
  15. While it chills – mix the cream cheese, black pepper to taste, pinch of salt, till smooth
  16. Remove the roll and unroll.
  17. Spread the cream cheese on it. work from the center out to the edges. ( I tend to use the stuff it in a plastic bag, cut the tip and make zig zags, them smooth them out technique so minimize breaking the cake)
  18. Then add the layer of tomato pesto and top with the diced chives
  19. Then remove one edge of the cake from the paper and slowly roll the cake up. Pull the paper away as you make each rotation.

Now – you serve this at this point. But I wanted a “log” so..

  1. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
  2. Mix the remaining two bricks of more cream cheese with the eggplant pesto, taste for salt and pepper etc.   You can then add your gel colors to get the shade of brown you want as you mix it more.
  3. Then using a small spatula, cover the log in long strokes.
  4. Serve room temp.

Another version of this cake with flour can be found here but I have to say the flourless one was so good I don’t see the need.

For those of you that missed this on the MentorSF Engage Blog; I’m a Prequel

An excerpt from my recent posts on my professional blog Engage, talking about my “prequel” experience with the Storycenter.org

Who would have guessed I was a “prequel”

Ok – so maybe not a real “prequel”. But I do have something newish to share.

In May 2019 I was able to participate in a training with the folks from Storycenter.org as part of its story collections project as part of California State Library System in California Listens – Digital Storytelling for the 21st Library

This one was held down in lovely Half Moon Bay,in it’s incredibly accessible and high tech new library. For two days, 10 of us, with the help of some incredible folks from the Storycenter.org  and the staff of the library mapped out and created our own stories to share.

To read the full story check out the post on my Engage blog here.

Which U.S. Airports Have the Shortest Security Lines?

Frequent travelers will know that while security lines are a necessary evil, it’s preferable to spend the least possible amount of time standing in them. There are even apps designed to help people avoid long security lines—but these aren’t always effective. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of three United States airports with comparatively short wait times, so you can get through security and on your way faster.

Tampa

Somewhat surprisingly, this tourist destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast typically provides travelers with short waits at security. This is largely due to the fact that the airport’s unique layout necessitates four separate security checkpoints, thereby allowing for better crowd distribution. Be forewarned, however, that in certain circumstances (such as the government shutdown in early 2019), the lines may be just as long—if not longer—than the ones at most major metropolitan airports. The same principles would likely apply to any airport, but it’s best to be aware that no one is exempt in these situations.

San Diego

Considering its proximity to top tourist destinations—not to mention its stand-alone appeal—the security line situation in San Diego is a cut above its closest competitors. If you were planning on renting a car to explore southern California anyway, flying into San Diego instead of LAX could end up saving you a lot of time and hassle. Who wouldn’t prefer to spend their time driving along the Pacific coast rather than standing in a crowded line? One caveat: This rule doesn’t apply during busy holiday periods when the airport can sometimes be short-handed.

Long Beach

Long Beach represents another, closer alternative for LA travelers. This small community airport can be found three miles northeast of downtown Long Beach and is serviced by several major airlines. There is a catch, though. The airport is located right off the 405, which is world-famous for its traffic jams. If you’re planning on flying out of Long Beach, avoid rush hour at all costs. The shorter lines won’t be worth the time you’ll spend sitting in gridlocked traffic.

If you’re traveling to one of the areas mentioned here, put these airports on your short list when making your plans, and see if you can work the trip around them. The time you’ll save standing in line will free up precious time that could be better spent doing almost anything else.

Here is a great article talking about some of the best food found in the San Francisco airport!

Pizzagaina vs Ham Pie.. it’s all good

Its spring and that means its time for me to make the Pizzagaina or “Meat Pie”.

Which in itself is no small task. It takes planning, shopping and lots of prep. I wrote about this in the past here.

So last night after work and while doing some recording, I started the baking the batches. I had already prepped the meat and cheese earlier in the week and did the dough the night before.

Now, this isn’t your standard hand pie. This is the Italian older cousin. It’s dense, rich with eggs and cheese and full of dried and cured meats. Think “cheesecake meets quiche” but without the jiggle.  You will hear this called by many names from including; Easter Ham Pie, Pizzagaina, Pizza Rustica but they all mean essentially the same thing.

I have several versions but as I’ve written before this is my favorite basic version recipe. You should feel free to swap out the meats for what you can find locally to you. I also started to try out doing them as mini loaves as they freeze and are great house gifts for pals

 

Top 3 Seafood Restaurants in Alabama

Alabama has the highest number of inland waterways among the 50 U.S. states as well as a few beaches. You can find great seafood in this state, although it’s not commonly thought of as a place for seafood. Three of the top seafood restaurants in Alabama are Sunset Pointe, Big Fish, and Shrimp Basket Gulf Shores. These restaurants have high customer ratings and serve excellent seafood. Whether you’re a couple, a single traveler, or a family, you can enjoy eating at one of these seafood restaurants.

Sunset Pointe – Fairhope, AL

Sunset Pointe, a famous seafood restaurant owned by Pete Blohme, features outdoor waterfront dining and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Blohme has been on numerous food shows, such as Sweet Home Alabama, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and Guy’s Big Bite. Sunset Pointe has high customer ratings for the quality of its food, good customer service, and stunning views of the marina. Popular items on the menu include crab meatballs, BBQ shrimp, lettuce wraps, snapper throats, and bouillabaisse. If you eat at the restaurant during sunset, you’ll have a beautiful view of the water. Sunset Pointe also has a full bar, a television, vegan options, highchairs, and available takeout.

Big Fish – Orange Beach, Alabama

Big Fish is just one of many restaurants in Orange Beach but is probably the most elegant you’ll find around. It has sophisticated decor, an open kitchen, a full bar, and award-winning service. There’s an outdoor seating area too. Big Fish serves fresh seafood and premium steaks. Pasta and sandwiches are additional options on the menu. Big Fish has excellent sushi, crab cakes, red snapper, and halibut. Jasmine rice is served with some of the dishes, such as the Holy Shrimp, Big Fish Style – Sautéed Fish, and Big Stir Fry.

Shrimp Basket Gulf Shores – Gulf Shores, Alabama

Shrimp Basket Gulf Shores has an oyster bar, fried seafood dishes, and other delicious seafood options. Portion sizes are large, and the restaurant is known for good customer service. It sometimes runs specials like all-you-can-eat steamed shrimp and all-you-can-eat fried fish. Shrimp Basket Gulf Shores has conveniently located two blocks from the beach if you want to spend the day there. It’s also a family-friendly restaurant. Shrimp Basket Gulf Shores has a welcoming atmosphere and casual decor.

Sunset Pointe, Big Fish, and Shrimp Basket Gulf Shores are the top seafood restaurants in Alabama. They’re three restaurants you’ll want to try if you love seafood. These restaurants have many positive customer ratings and a pleasant atmosphere for dining. The food is of excellent quality as well.

Here are a couple more travel related articles we think you’ll enjoy!

 

 

 

3 Fantastic Food Experiences in Anaheim, California

As the nation’s first theme park destination, Anaheim has built a reputation as a family-friendly vacation spot. What many people do not realize is that Anaheim is also one of California’s dining hot spots. From premium dining experiences to whimsical character options to convenient and quick meals, Anaheim’s food selections can complement any vacation style. Here are three of the most fantastic food experience to consider while enjoying this Southern California gem.

The Historic District

This charming district is a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of the Anaheim theme park scene. This district boasts many dining opportunities that are designed to please every taste and budget. The new Sweetbird eatery specializes in fried chicken sandwiches served up with two choices of slaw and its signature smashed fried potatoes. Those looking for a casual dining experience can choose to dine al fresco at The Hummus and Pita, noshing on gyros, kebobs, falafels, and pitas. Twelve Springs explains that there are several options for unique food experiences like making your own popsicles at Pop Bar, health-conscious eateries like Healthy Junk, and even get a haircut while enjoying a nice beer at Barbeer Cut and Beer. This vibrant neighborhood always has something new going on, making it a fun place to grab a bite to eat while enjoying the California sunshine.

Amusement Parks

Theme park food has never tasted so good. There are many types of Disneyland food experiences, each curated to deliver a unique and delicious meal. Park Savers explains that Disneyland provides a fantastic option for a dining adventure called character dining where you can interact with your favorite Disney characters while you eat. There are many food options for all sorts of budgets in downtown Disney. Or, you can choose a more upscale dining experience at the Carthay Circle located inside of the California Adventure theme park or grab a reservation for a seat at the exclusive chef’s table at the Napa Rose, located inside of the gorgeous Grand Californian Hotel. If you are having too much fun to sit down, you cannot go wrong with a grab-and-go corn dog and churro, two of Disneyland’s most popular food items.

Roscoe’s House Chicken and Waffles

Roscoe’s is the quintessential Southern California dining experience. Billing itself as the original fried chicken and waffle house, Roscoe’s is an Anaheim institution. Its location on Harbor Boulevard is a short jaunt from the Disneyland Resort. Guests can choose to enjoy the traditional chicken and waffles combination plate or choose from a variety of breakfast foods, creamy macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and more.

While most people are drawn to Anaheim for its family-friendly adventures, be sure to leave plenty of time to explore the delightful food options. Your taste buds will surely thank you.

Here are a couple of other articles we think you’ll enjoy!

 

 

 

In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality’ hits the nail on the head in my house

In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality

Now in my world “scruff” means so many other things when associated with being social – but this wasn’t one of them until now.

Yup- that’s me!

“Your home doesn’t need to be picture-perfect to invite people over,” says this recent quote from Robin Shreeves’s recent post that has been making the rounds on social media platforms and I can see why. It’s a welcome and heartfelt reminder of what is important when we gather and they, in the end, it isn’t about the artifacts of the room.

 

I love this idea for hospitality

Sure I can go all out for the special occasions and yea even I fall into the “vision” of the night and try to create some sensational times with the decorations, and flowers etc. These occasional meals of formality, while a good time can also be a place of such stress. Trying to make a “silk purse from a elephants ear” comes to mind.

Find the calm in hospitality

But I when I calm down and remember what the joining of people over a meal is all about for me, I remember that some of my best times with people growing up and as an adult has been the “take me as I am and as my kitchen is” variety. From a hasty last-minute New Years Eve Dinner to an annual open house while it might not be anything fancy –  it will have plenty of good people and simple food the deeds the belly and the heart. Recipes that often come from the books my Mom and others used before me.

One pull quote they use in the articles sums it up great:

Hospitality –  in the end

it doesn’t matter how perfect the place looks, and sometimes not everything has to taste perfect. On many a night 9 out of 10 things were great, but i could have derailed myself over the one item that didn’t come out right.

People won’t remember the room,

what they will remember is being welcomed, fed and loved.

My January At A Glance

Its February already and I can’t believe how behind I have with these activities that I actually enjoy doing. Suffice it to say – it will be a January recap at best.

With my new role as an “Editor” of some association with the Health Promotion and Practice Journal (@TheHPPJournal), I have been working with several young MPH interns to assist with the social media push of the journal under its new Editor In Chief. While its been fun having time with students first hand again – its also means lots more reading and meetings to add on.  

With all the weather, unusual for San Francisco, has been causes for quite the series of humorous images. From the local mini walks with Dino, to a few more substantial hikes explore San Bruno Mountain and other local park areas new to me.

 

Had some time in at not one but two of the Bawdy Storytelling shows, when I did a last minute favor for the Host Dixie La Tour and filled in at the beginning of the month and then got a chance to attend a Storytelling Roast of author, speaker and longtime friend Dossie Easton which also got me to reconnect with another longtime pal and author Janet Hardy.

Dixie and I also got to hit the studio at KQED and meet and listen to the Podcaster Earlonne Woods from the Ear Hustle podcast.

As we rolled into February proper I have a new True Passion; The Root of Evil

As a kid, I was fascinated with the case of Elizabeth Short, which back when I was 11 or 12, I happened to come across an early tv show about her and the unsolved case they called the “Black Dahlia”. Even then, and the many books that were written since, have captivated me.

So it was no surprise that TNT’s newest “ I Am The Night” would end up on my real-time watch list. Instead of my traditional way to wait till the season was over and binge watch. 

But what makes it even better is my current day fascination with unsolved case files via podcasts ( blame my buddy in Atlanta, Rachel Kfor that) comes full circle on February 13th when the Root Of Evil podcast begins. Exploring its associations with the myth and mysteries of the Hodel family. Which should make for some interesting listening is that they are including participation from the family of Dr. Hodel.

Speaking of podcasts, I am listening to several new ones and am finally in the prep stage to start recording several of my own. More to come on that!

 

Xmas Recipes 2019

Here they are

I figured it was easier to post the links in one place for folks than trying to constantly add links to the recipes on Facebook. Since many of you asked about the recipes for the South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies and the Polenta Parmesan Cookies I mentioned on an earlier this week, I will start with them.

Black Pepper Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is pretty easy and I recommend you read the instructions a few times first. The Author also suggests starting with the minimum amount of black pepper and then ramp up. I think when I make a new batch I will increase the black pepper up a 1/2 tablespoon. I think you might also be able to swap out the pepper for other types you might have handy as well.

The recipe link is from the website Food52 and was reposted according to the author notes: Text and recipe from Where Flavor Where Flavor Was Born by Andreas Viestad Born by Andreas Viestad (Chronicle, 2007).

Polenta Parmesan Cookies

This recipe was in the December 2018 issue of Food Network Magazine on page 84. The recipe itself is pretty basic and already I am thinking adaptions. Such as making them a bit thicker and turning them into “thumb” print cookies and topping with pepper jelly or a tomato bacon relish. To the taste, they read both sweet and savory so I imagine I could also top with Lemon Rind Jelly.  Just a note on this one – it does need to time to chill. I made mine the night before and sliced and cooked them the next day.

The recipe link is Polenta-Polenta-Parmesan Cookies on Food Network Magazine