Last year I wrote about my discovery of Rodan & Field (RF) They offer a line of facial products, traditionally marketed for women, but with a growing male fan base. I use several of the products on a daily (sometimes twice daily) routine and have been overwhelmingly happy with the results.

Being someone who generally isn’t a big fan of lots of steps, I found the simple three-step RF method worked perfectly for me. More importantly, the lines don’t interfere with my facial hair and have minimal fragrance.

I recently reposted those preferred steps and products on my MentorSF Engage Blog. If you want to know more about which of the products or order them for yourselves, feel free to check out the link here. 

When checking out the Rodan & Field Products, you can click through on the “I don’t have an account” which will bring you right to the full store without you having to add any details.

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.

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

 

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

 

Hallmark Hell

Even Gay People Do It

As some of you who follows me on social media (@FVSTRONA on that Twitter thing) know I tend to comment about the Hallmark Channels lack of LGBT diversity representation. 

But given that my world is a bit crazed and working as I do in the government – both Paul and I tend to come home pretty stressed. So Lifetime and Hallmarks’ annual holiday overboard on the methodologic and campy “holiday love” stories do serve as a great escape from political commentary and faux leaders trying to pretend that they actually care.

It was this in mind, that when Paul mentioned a trip back east, I conspired to turn the front rooms of the house into our own “Hallmark” style, over the top version of a bnb called “EverQueer”. 

Without telling him, I went through years of collected holiday decorations, managed to hit on a one day 70% off sale at Micheals,  and rummaged through a few pals storage units. I even got to repurpose some ornaments that I rarely get to use now that we put up the slim line tree most years. The end result was precious and we couldn’t wait for Paul’s reaction! I think he may rethink traveling before Christmas any more… This also means I get to bring out some old favorites like angel tree topper that’s been in my family for over 50 years or the diorama I picked up a few years back.

 

 

 

While it was all for fun – it still doesn’t account they Hallmark refuses to address its lack of LGBT holiday love – short of it’s either afraid of its “mom and pop” conservative viewership or its simply run by folks with an overly conservative, homophobic streak. Gee, I wonder if they would respond if people started to hashtag #LGBTCelebrateTooHallmark with pictures of the loving and holiday celebrations we have. Just saying..

Yup.. $5 on clearance at Micheals and I even found a “custom lightboard”

It was a book club that Sunday and I went big

Because book club discussions aren’t always just about talk.

Our monthly book club is also about what foods we bring; what reading the book inspires us to bring and share. Many of us choose to find a way to bring an authentic or reinterpreted version of something mentioned in the book or from the time period.

Since this month we read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. 

My take on the book was positive as a read. Finding it a well-balanced collection of research and storytelling that manages to remind the reader of the historical narrative of racism and white privilege at the heart of so many of this countries moments. But the subject did give me several layers of emotions.

But back to the food

I opted for a Bourbon Pecan Cornmeal cake with an edible gingerbread oil rig and chocolate “oil”. My unique challenge was that I have never made a gingerbread oil rig or any structure before. So choosing the right recipe and the structural challenges were quite the experience. But in the end, it all worked out.

I won’t even mention the stress of moving it in two parts then topping the cake with its “rig” caused.

The cake itself was great.

I liked to cornmeal texture with the nuts. It is one I would remake. The recipe for the cake was from http://eclecticrecipes.com and used walnuts, but I had pecans laying around begging to be used.

Fall catch up

Fall has hit me strong this year.

It’s been a pretty busy few weeks so I haven’t been able to keep up with posting. This week will be a brief recap of highlights as we round the corner into the middle of October. 

As September hit

We tried to get ourselves motivated to do a few of the local street fairs – but we ended up missing the Folsom Sreet Fair but did head out on that Friday before or some fun at the Prime dance.

But continue to manage to get a few urban hikes in and as a treat, we included an unplanned meal at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe at its newest location, one afternoon and managed to get seats with any wait! (note- Saturday afternoon around 1:30 – no line). We definitely enjoyed all the food from the grilled cornbread, sweet roll and crumb cake to the different eggs dishes. Even the coffee is good. This is not some flash in the pan cafe – they have held court in San Francisco as a local and tourist favorite for years. Word on up Dottie’s – the pastries as well as the entrees are large and go fast. If you do get in a line, let the folks know at the counter what pastry you want so they can set one aside as once they sell out – it’s out for the day. 

We did manage to check out some other local street fairs in September, including the Inner Sunset Street Fair which netted use some new food finds to try by local vendors including a new jam and a spicy garlic sesame spread.

Another fun find was these dolls

A pal of mine collects this genre of art representing the African in American arts and when I travel and find some interesting finds for him I call him up. This set of stuffed dolls match in style two smaller ones I got at an estate sale some months earlier. For now, they sit in the living room, although a few folks have referenced the movie Annabel saying the dolls seem to follow them.

I also continue to go through boxes from our move that never was opened as well as boxes sent back from CT. This little guy was an odd character that I remember seeing while growing up. My dad used to have him in different places so now he watches over us.

 

Bookclub, Sales & Food

Knocked out a bunch of new dishes this month including a baked ham with pan stewed apples,  For book club in October – I went with a new recipe for Scalloped Potatoes meet Potato Gratin.  I liked this modified version for its cheesy taste and less liquid than in regular scalloped version. 

Paul and I also managed to score big at the Timbuktu outlet sale with a few new bags. One we had been looking at online we got for less than 25% of the original price.! After the sale, we stopped by a corner Mexican place called San Jalesco we hadn’t tried before but had been around forever. We liked the food so much, we ended up back there a few weeks later to try it for dinner. Well worth the money and the folks working were a lot of fun.

I also found a new fun find at Costco. I rarely have purchased the prepared food at Costco, except for the roast chickens. But the stuffed peppers with ground meat and rice looked great and are a reasonable price. So I figured I would take a risk. My suggestion – do it. They are good, easy to heat up (just add some water to the bottom of the pan first) and are pretty well flavored so no need to “almost homemade” it.  Except maybe some more cheese on it, they require no work.

Had some fun with improvising a recipe for Monkey Bread. Which to be truthful, is really just an excuse to east chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon. But it works! Let’s face it – most foods that are this good – aren’t going to ever photograph that way.. so simply imagine how good it tastes. 🙂

Paul really likes Oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies – but they don’t really connect with me – so I decided to whip up a bar (pan) version. This adaption has all the same ingredients with the addition of chopped nuts. Making them thick, chewy and crispy – while rich, they tasted great. Perfect for a office party as they can be cut small but pack a punch of flavors. 

Palm Springs

We tool a quick trip to PS for a long weekend and managed to grab some perfect weather. Since it was last minute – we didn’t make many plans with anyone, but did grab dinner at Grand Central which recently opened ( and yes – go!) and got a peek at Arlan’s newest Daddy’s Barbershop.

Now, did you know – that in Palm Springs – they actually have a station on TV for dogs? Serious. DOGTV is a real thing an pretty much is hours of outdoor nature seems with natural sounds. 

More to come this week including our “On The Train to Reno” weekend

To be continued…