Tag Archives: san francisco

baked butternut squash kale risotto

i moved into a new apartment last weekend! it is still mostly in shambles, but the kitchen is set up, snaut has adjusted and is back to his ornery self, the water pressure in the shower is truly remarkable, and i’ve been sleeping well. things are off to a great start.

i made dinner at home for the first time tonight — i was inspired by this recipe, which showed up in my reader this week. perfect for a chilly san francisco night in a new, warm home!

baked butternut squash kale barley risotto
(adapted from real simple)

2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cups butternut squash (not gonna lie, I used the 12 oz., pre-cut bag of it from TJ’s, but you could peel, seed, and cut up a whole one if you want)
2 brat-sized sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces (i like the garlic herb ones from TJ’s)
salt and pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup white wine
2.5 cups vegetable broth
5 oz. kale (i used half the 10 oz. prepackaged bag from TJ’s…are you seeing the trend? the new apartment is a very short walk from TJ’s…)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 T butter

preheat the oven to 400. hope the oven thermostat is correct because you forgot to bring the oven thermometer from your last apartment. make a note to get one of those.

if you have a dutch oven, get that baby on the stove over some heat. if you don’t have one because you’re saving it for your wedding registry, a big, short saucepan or even a stockpot will do just fine.

pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil. put on some christmas music while the oil heats up!

add the onion, butternut squash, sausage, salt, and pepper. sauté until the onion is translucent, five minutes or so.

feed the cat so he stops being so damn underfoot all the time, jeez!

stir in the barley and toss/toast it for about a minute.

stir in the wine and let it burn off for a minute or two. while you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass. mmmm, charles shaw. (hey, moving ain’t cheap. and neither are apartments in san francisco. you can use nice wine if you can afford it, moneybags.)

add the stock and kale; cover the pot and let the kale wilt for a minute or two. then uncover it and stir in the wilted kale. bring the everything to a boil.

if you’re using a dutch oven, throw the lid on that baby and stick it in the preheated non-dutch oven. if you’re a hopeful woman living in sin, transfer the contents of your trusty stockpot to an oven-safe 2.5-quart casserole dish with a lid, cover it, and put that in the preheated oven. (bonus points if it’s vintage pyrex!! you’re going to make an awesome wife someday!)

bake it for 35-40 minutes.

change into pajamas and type up the recipe while drinking more wine and cuddling with the cat. eat a few potato chips for a snack if you must.

once the barley is tender and the liquid is mostly soaked up, take your delicious-smelling meal out of the oven. make a mental note to get some mitten-type potholders because the ones that you hold but don’t fit onto your actual hands really don’t cut it.


stir in some parmesan (about half a cup) and a tablespoon of butter for good measure.

let cool slightly to soak up the rest of the liquid and serve in brightly colored bowls with more parmesan and more wine. watch some TV while you eat and be super thankful for your awesome life!



I finished grad school, and I officially have three new initials to put after my name!

Mom and Dad came out for graduation weekend.

lower legion of honor scenic vista

We saw some sights,

fun with old transit

I wore great shoes and my friends and I pretended we were at prom,

msw prom 2011

We celebrated with people who came from far and wide,

hooray for friends and family!

And the next day, we threw a party with lots of finger foods.

Menu items included:
Pioneer Woman’s bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers
– Pioneer Woman’s hot artichoke dip (from her cookbook)
Stuffed mushrooms
White bean hummus
– Deviled eggs (Mom makes the best ones with relish and mayo)
– Bacon-wrapped smokies (self-explanatory)
– Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (soak the chestnuts in a mixture of Worcestershire, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar for 30 minutes before wrapping them)
Goat cheese toasts
– Caprese skewers (fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and half a cherry tomato on a toothpick)
Pioneer Woman’s best chocolate sheet cake ever
And lots of beer.

It feels good to be done. Next step: find a job. I’ll keep you posted.

funny how it flies

a few weeks ago marked the five-year anniversary of my move to san francisco. five years is a pretty long time.

there’s not much about my current life that my 21-year-old self would have ever fathomed. considering my first months here — depressed, lonely, lost, dependent, disenchanted — my original san francisco self would have never believed i’d still be here after this much time.

she’d also have a hard time imagining that i’ve made real friends here, friends i want to be friends with for the rest of my life. and that i have a community here and that, for the most part, i feel loved and like i belong. and that i’m in grad school (even more amazingly, close to finishing grad school). and that i live in the richmond. and that i want to do life with a native californian. and that i can actually face confrontation and deal with ugly feelings and still maintain relationships. and that i can be okay on my own (but, admittedly, am better with people). and that i know so much transit trivia and have so many muni route maps committed to memory (okay, maybe she would have believed that one. . .i’ve always been a nerd.)

of course, i’m still me. i still listen to the mountain goats when i’m nostalgisky. i still love eating burritos as big as my head. i still want to be supremely competent and productive in everything i do. i still mentally collect and archive lots of weird data. i still get ridiculously lonely for no real reason. i still eat kashi every single morning, and i still look forward to it.

and even though i couldn’t have predicted nearly any of my current life circumstances five years ago, i’m pretty happy about how things have turned out. i feel like i’ve accomplished a lot in tangible (and less tangible) ways, which is important to an achiever like me. the next five years could be even bigger than these last five. . .and i’m probably equally as unable to foresee where i’ll be then. so that’s exciting.

“if i ventured in the slipstream between the viaducts of your dream, where immobile steel rims crack and the ditch in the back roads stop. . .could you find me? would you kiss-a my eyes? to lay me down in silence easy, to be born again.” – van morrison

my neighborhood is ridiculous.

all the bay area IGA stores (including the one that was 7 blocks from my house) went out of business recently, so now there are no regular old supermarkets within reasonable walking distance. finding items that are not standard eastern european and/or asian fare proves to be quite a goose chase.

this morning i needed three items to make breakfast: eggs (preferably local and organic); buttermilk (standard); and bacon (preferably deli-style/fresh/thick-cut).

the asian market on my block had none of the above.

the asian/russian/american market a block away had organic sonoma county eggs for $3.49 (not bad). but they only had pre-packaged bacon and old-world-style bulgarian buttermilk (which is made with yogurt cultures instead of cream cultures, making it thicker and more tart — could be good for some baked goods, but i’m not sure about pancakes).

the russian deli a block away had fresh thick-cut bacon (although it cooked up more like really fatty ham, so next time i think i will try another butcher shop a few more blocks away) but again, only bulgarian buttermilk. they do get bonus points for always talking to me in russian, though.

i had to go to the fancy-pants organic food co-op a few blocks away to find regular buttermilk.

it takes commitment to cook american in these parts.

my year in music

**Disclaimer: This is not a list of my favorite albums that came out in 2010. In fact, many of these albums did not come out in 2010. They did, however, enter my music library and my world this year. This was a year of old jobs, new jobs, old graduate programs, new homes; good decisions that turned out to be good decisions, good decisions that turned out to be bad decisions; more stability in some areas and more up-in-the-air-ness in others. These are the most listened to and most memory/nostalgia-inducing albums of my 2010, in no particular order.

Passion Pit, Manners
This year’s record of absurdly catchy electropop hooks has cemented its place as great road-trip-to-the-Cabin and pump-things-up-after-dinner music. Stupid, stupid, stupid catchy. Also love backup vocals from PS 22.

The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
This one came out in 2010! I’m so hip and with it! This album doesn’t have the epic choruses that originally got me hooked on The Arcade Fire, but the more I listen to it, the more solid I realize it is.

The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
Hey, this album came out in 2010 too! I have a lot to say about this album. It began when I went to visit an old lovey in Seattle this summer for a long weekend. It was a trip full of transit, fun, and girl-power adventure, but the highlight was the record-release show for The Head and the Heart at Conor Byrne in Ballard. I was floored by the three-part vocal harmonies, catchy melodies, and all-around stellar songwriting. Lyrics like “My roots are grown, but I don’t know where they are” just speak. Since that night in Ballard, I have sung along to every song on this album at the top of my lungs at least a dozen times. I haven’t liked a band as much as I like this band in a long, long time.
This album is also associated with a really strong, independent, assertive time in my year. The Seattle trip and finding this band was something I did on my own, just for me; I needed that time, and I realized I needed it, and I took it, and I was better for me and everyone else after it. When I think about it, so much of my music collection is linked to one dude or another, whether he introduced me to them or we saw them live together or we made out while listening to them or whatever. (What can I say, over the past few years I have exclusively dated dudes with excellent taste in music. It’s not what you’re like, it’s what you like, right?) But this is one of the few bands I feel like I found on my own and recognized the value of on my own. They are a damn good find, and if these new songs are any indication, their sophomore album is going to be even better: “Been talking ’bout the way things change / my family lives in a different state / and if you don’t know what to make of it / then we will not relate.” Tell me.

Freelance Whales, Weathervanes
Steph introduced me to this album shortly after we moved into our new house. I will always associate it with our first experimentations with the KitchenAid. Pretty, catchy, cheesy at times, a bit of a guilty pleasure, oh-so-very indie.

The xx, Xx
The xx opened for Hot Chip when John and I saw them at the Fox this year. I love how simple the instrumentation and vocals are, and I love Romy’s sexy voice. Great example of less being more.

Geographer, Animal Shapes
This is a legitimate 2010 album! I had heard of Geographer but never really got hooked until I heard “Kites.” Then it turned out there were weird connections with them, like my friend from school being roommates with the singer/songwriter. It’s a small city. These songs all make me bop and invent harmony parts, signs of good stuff.

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
This is another 2010 (in the US) album! I listened to these guys almost exclusively during my last few months at 41 Octavia. Foot-stomping goodness.

Feist, The Reminder
I know I’m really behind the times on this one, but belting out “What made you think this boy could become / the man who would make you sure he was the oooooooooooooooone, my oooooooooooone?” got me through quite a few nights this year.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Up from Below
Tableau: The scene shop at West Valley College, safety goggles on, router in hand, crew from The Easily Distracted Theatre alongside, finishing the set for Foresight, Up from Below playing on the stereo. And the longer I’m away from my given home, and the more I wonder what “home” means, the more I realize it is wherever I’m with you. Hippies.

Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
I’m only good to listen to this in its entirety about once every two weeks, but it’s complex and ugly and pretty and bizarre. My favorite elements are the metallic-chains effect in “Age of Adz” that sounds like Sonic when you rev him up and, of course, the use of Auto-Tune in “Impossible Soul.”

BONUS: Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas
I only bought this box set this year, but I’ve been listening to it non-stop while baking and decorating and traveling and such. The arrangements of classic hymns inspire me for my own experiments in playing Jesus music, and some of the originals (“That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” and “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)”, in particular), are legitimately great songs, Christmas or not. Also “The Friendly Beasts” is my second favorite Christmas song ever (second to David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”), so bonus points for a great version of that.

Happy 2011!!


it has been a busy few weeks in my domestic life. i moved to a new house, in a new neighborhood. going from living in the living room of an apartment that had no common space to a three-plus–bedroom, two-story home is quite a change—but it’s a good one. i definitely feel more like a real person. and it’s great to have a couch. and a bedroom door. the things we do for a central location.

anyway, i’ve been acquiring lots of house stuff to fill all the space. the most exciting is my kitchenaid mixer, which i got for a ridiculously low price on craigslist. i have been lusting after a mixer like this for a while, but i felt like it was the type of thing i should wait to receive as a wedding shower gift. i had this superstitious notion that if i bought one for myself i’d somehow be a failure of a domestic lady or would somehow curse my chances of ever getting a ring put on it. then i thought about making so much homemade butter and bread dough and frosting and other things, and i decided if i got one second-hand on craigslist, it wouldn’t count as buying one for myself. one RSS feed, a few days, and phone call later, gris and i are a match made in heaven.

sweet sweet kitchenaid

(i also finally got a smartphone, which means lots of pictures of random stuff, mostly snaut, but also kitchen appliances and food.)

the first thing we (the mixer and i) made together was alton brown’s soft pretzels.

homemade soft pretzels!

they were really fun, really easy, and really delicious. they reheated in the oven surprisingly well; i ate them for almost a week. (whoa, that’d be one giant pretzel a day. don’t worry, i shared them with people.) next time, i’d split the dough into 16 chunks and make more, smaller pretzels.

mid-week, we made this adaptation of ad hoc’s blueberry cobbler. i halved it for a small dessert to complement the delicious curry john made for dinner, and it still made enough for at least 4 people. i loved the simple flavors that let the blueberries shine.

finally, we made milk chocolate frosting for peanut butter blondies to take to a potluck. i am a big fan of peanut butter and chocolate, but these blondies were a little too much for me, all around. the blondie was really dense, and i think i would have liked the frosting better without the melted milk chocolate chips—it tasted too much like fudge. (for me, that is possible.) although it was fun to fashion a double boiler out of household items. well, a small saucepan and a small skillet. not that creative, i guess. anyway, the frosting easily had the best texture of any frosting i’ve ever made, thanks to you-know-who.

our house needed some more bowls for everyday use, and as i was considering options, i decided i want to start acquiring fiestaware!! i love the mix-and-match and the idea of adding to my collection slowly as i can afford it, depending on what colors i can find and what pieces i need. someday i will have a full set! i began the collection with four rimmed soup bowls in shamrock, scarlet, plum, and peacock.

pretty bowls

i love this bowl shape—i make a lot of one-dish meals like pasta and veggies, curry, soup, stir fry, and so on, and this is the perfect vessel for all of them. tangerine and sunflower will round out my color combination for now, and i think the gusto bowls are next.

snaut has been adjusting to the new house pretty well. he spent the first 24 hours hiding in my bedroom closet (did i mention i have a bedroom closet?!), and then he alternated between exploring and hiding under the covers of my bed. i only accidentally sat on him once.

undercover kitteh

after a day or two, though, he was running around per usual. there was a cat tree in the garage of our house, left over from a neighborhood garage sale, which i brought up to one of the empty rooms. at first he wanted nothing to do with it, of course, but now it’s cool. he also likes the direct sunlight (sometimes there is direct sunlight in the central richmond!!!) and the big windows in the new place.

cat tree, cat, sunlight, and foliage

anyway, that’s the haps. i’m feeling fairly settled in, with a lot of baking out of my system, just in time to start classes tomorrow. time flies.

more than i can chew

For the past few months, a bunch of my friends have been hard at work on an ambitious theatre-meets-film-meets-technology production. (If you read this blog, live in San Francisco, and are not coming to a show — we need to talk.) For the last few weeks, I’ve been pretty involved too — helping staple, screw, spackle, sand, paint, stain, grind, route, build, and set up the set; making food runs; putting together the program; and providing moral support; among other contributions.

And, of course, in typical hyper-committal fashion, I’ve also volunteered to supply baked goods and man the concession stand for each show. Here’s the menu for opening weekend; I figure I’ll see what moves and what doesn’t to adjust accordingly for the second weekend:

Peanut butter whoopie pies
Carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (Sans the maple syrup in this recipe — sorry Smitten Kitchen, I love love love you, but I’m worried that will be too much sweetness.)
Blueberry streusel muffins (Not sure how many people are interested in muffins as a late-night snack, but we need a muffin as a prop for each show, so I figured I’d bake a batch and try to sell the rest.)
Hershey’s best brownies (My cousin submitted this recipe to our family cookbook — quick, delicious, high yield.)
Chocolate chip cookies

(My amazing roommate Steph has graciously agreed to bake the cookies, so her recipes may vary slightly.)

I can do this, right? Probably the most interesting part will be transporting everything to the theater. I’m also interested to see if I can break even, or even possibly make a profit?