Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's Christmas Once Again in San Francisco

From my happiest place on Earth, Mau`i, to my next favorite time of the year, the holidays, time has just flown by.  For almost the past 20 years, I have kicked off the holiday season the Friday before Thanksgiving with KOIT flipping the switch over to Christmas music and the SF Embarcadero Building Lighting and Winter Carnival and this year was no exception. 



For the past 15 years, my Black Friday shopping consisted of buying and decorating my Christmas tree but this year I took it a step further.  Since fresh trees became available the week before, I took advantage of it during the previous wet weekend freeing up the weekend right after Thanksgiving to take the REI challenge and opted to get outside and down to the Central Coast where I got to swim in November and watch the sunset over Pismo Beach followed by oceanfront dining at the Oyster Loft as if I was still in Mau`i. 

My third Apple Farm Christmas experience is always a great seasonal appropriate reminder of what I love about this time of year and one I hope will continue to be an annual tradition. 



As the 25 Days of Christmas Countdown begins, it is a perfect time to pledge to make it Bright and Merry one and if you need some inspiration before it is too late,

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Where has the time gone?  Thanksgiving has arrived kicking off the holiday season like Santa at the end of the Macy’s parade.  Last year I did a post of some of my tried and true Thanksgiving sides - and this year I decided to add to it. 

While I will probably still roast Brussel Sprouts since my mom likes them -, the 5 lb butternut squash sitting here for the last week or so have been screaming to be used. 


Pappardelle with Kale Pesto and Butternut Squash - While most people look forward to pumpkin everything during the fall, I look forward to the versatile butternut squash making this pasta dish a great side as well -

Butternut Squash Gratin - I just shared a recipe yesterday that I use to make almost every Thanksgiving but fell to the wayside when I expanded my repertoire.  Time for a comeback -

Cheesy Cauliflower Since I am on a roll with vegetable sides, the cheesy cauliflower made to look like mashed potatoes is another good option -

Potatoes Au Gratin - With all these veggie options, now you do not have to feel guilty about making this super rich dish -

Whatever you decide, spend it with good food and family, not those who are willing to run you over for a cheap TV. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Butternut Squash Gratin with Rosemary Breadcrumbs

Barely putting a dent into my 5 lb butternut squash with the pasta recipe, this is a good time as any to return to an old favorite with a recipe that I picked up from a local Farmer’s Market, butternut squash gratin.  The recipe per below calls for it to be topped with rosemary breadcrumbs but I prefer it without the breadcrumb topping so I guess mines isn't quite gratin until the cheese is melted over it. 


¼ cup unsalted butter
4 cups thinly slice onions
2 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
¾ cup canned low-salt chicken broth
Two cups fresh breadcrumbs made from soft white bread
Two cups packed grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 ½ tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp dry thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Butter 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish
  3. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium high heat and add onions, saute until light golden (about 8 min)
  4. Add squash and saute 4 minutes
  5. Sprinkle sugar, salt, and pepper over vegetables and saute until onions and squash begin to caramelize (about 5 min)
  6. Spread vegetable mixture in prepared dish and pour chicken broth over it
  7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes
  8. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees
  9. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, rosemary, and thyme in medium bowl and sprinkle over gratin
  10. Bake uncovered until top is golden brown and crisp (about 30 minutes)

Note:  You can make squash mixture 1 day ahead.  Cool and refrigerate and reheat in 350 degree oven until heat through (about 10 minutes)

Price:  $3 for 6 servings = 50 cents per serving

Friday, November 18, 2016

Steak Dinner

As Thanksgiving fast approaches, turkey and ham are high in demand this time of year.  This also opens up an opportunity to stock up on reasonably priced Costco steaks now that BBQ season is over and everyone is buying turkeys.  At a cheap $6.99/lb for boneless NY steak, I could not resist and when I was freezing my steal of a stash, I realized I had two prime rib steaks from God knows when in my freezer.  So FIFO (first in, first out), I defrosted them and made an alternative to the steaks and potatoes dinner by pairing it with cheesy cauliflower -


2 Prime Rib Steaks


  1. Bring steaks up to room temperature
  2. Rub both sides of steak with cut garlic
  3. Add 1 tbsp olive oil in pan and sear both sides of steaks for 2-3 minutes
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet and finish off in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness and how well you like your steaks
Note:  We could not finish an entire steak each so we have enough for 3 servings. 

Price:  $12 for 2 servings = $6 per serving


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Moroccan Chicken Stew

While I had been under the weather, my husband experimented with a recipe he found in the Winter Stews and One-Pot Dinners cookbook by Daniella Malfitano we checked out from the library.  Since we did not have half of the ingredients, he did short cut it and left out the raisins, chickpeas, and cherry tomatoes and adjusted the recipe per the notes. 


3 lbs bone in chicken thighs
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 medium zucchini sliced
2 carrots chopped
2 tsp turmeric
3 ¾ tsp Moroccan spice
¾ cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup raisins
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 can chickpeas (15 oz) drained
2 tbsp parsley minced for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and season chicken with 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper
  2. Heat oil in dutch oven.  Add chicken and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, remove, and set aside.
  3. Add onions and garlic to same pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes
  4. Add tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly
  5. Next add zucchini and carrots and cook together for 10 minutes
  6. Season with turmeric, Moroccan spice blend, rest of S&P, raisins and cherry tomatoes
  7. Add chicken broth and chickpeas and bring to a boil
  8. Slide chicken thighs back into the stew, cover and place in oven for 25 minutes until done.
  9. Remove and garnish with parsley before serving

  1. Made our own Moroccan spice blend using the spices we already had at home as follows  - ½ tsp each of ground cumin, salt and pepper, ¼ tsp each of ground cinammon, ground coriander, all spice, and turmeric, 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  2. Sauteed the zucchini and carrots with a splash of chicken broth since we had no tomatoes
  3. Removed the vegetable before adding chicken and broth covering ¾ of the chicken
  4. Since we did not have dutch oven to finish off in the oven, it was simmered for 35 minutes on stove top until done. 
Price:  $12 for 6 servings = $2 per serving

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pasta E Fagioli Risotta Style

With leftover carrots and celery in the fridge, all I needed was the bulb of fennel to make this new RR pasta dish.  Cooked like a risotto, it adds a layer of creamy richness to the dish without any cream while the loads of vegetables keep it well balanced.  Unlike a risotto, the last batch of liquid does not need to be cooked all the way through before serving as it would overcook the pasta.  In fact, the extra thickened liquid like the starchy cooking water from pasta nicely coats each bite. 

Price:  $6 for 6 servings = $1 per serving

Note:  You can substitute the chicken broth with vegetable broth to make this vegetarian friendly. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fresh Fettuccine with Meat Sauce

After a play in SF, we decided to get some takeout from Italian Homemade to go and this time we came prepared with a cooler so we can get a few servings of the fresh fettuccini to make later in the week.  Ironically, I never order fettuccine in a restaurant since it is often paired with alfredo sauce but after having it with a light tomato puttanesca sauce -, I realized you can be as versatile with the pastas and sauces as you like. 

Since I had some leftover Italian sausage and ground beef, this time I made a light meat sauce to go with it. 


1 lb. fresh fettucini
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
¼ lb Italian Sausage
¼ lb ground beef
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
6 anchovy filets chopped


  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat, add Italian sausage and ground beef and saute for about 5 minutes until no longer pink
  2. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes
  3. Add tomatoes and anchovy filets and bring to a simmer
  4. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes, then turn off
  5. 15 minutes before sauce is done, start boiling a pot of water for the pasta
  6. Once boiled, salt the water, and add the fettucini
  7. Since pasta is fresh, it only needs to be cooked for 4-5 minutes
  8. Reserve a ladle of starchy cooking water to add to tomato sauce before draining the pasta
  9. Mix in the reserved starchy cooking water to the tomato sauce, blending it thoroughly.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped parsley. 
  10. Add cooked pasta to the meat sauce tossing thoroughly to ensure all pasta is fully coated and serve topped with additional sauce
Price:  $20 for 4 servings = $5 per serving