Simple and Delicious.

I love wine. You’re shocked, I know. But I love, love, love, love wine. Normally I enjoy it when I’m home alone in my sweatpants, teary eyed over a John Krasinski romantic comedy. However it turns out it is much better enjoyed in the vineyards with a few friends and several key ingredients… a baguette, some grapes, a wedge of brie and lastly, and most importantly, ROASTED GARLIC.

I could live on roasted garlic, bread and brie. It’s so simple but so, so good.

Here is how to make the magic:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take several heads of garlic and remove the outer layers of paper. Use a small paring knife to cut the tops off the individual cloves. You could just cut it in half, but then you miss out on a lot of goodness.

Place garlic on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. I use my hands to rub the oil all over the garlic so it’s well coated. Bake approximately 40 minutes to an hour depending on how big the cloves are. The garlic will turn a little brown, become soft and even a little bubbly.

Take out and let cool. You can refrigerate it for a day or two … just make sure to let it come to room temperature before you use it so it’s easily spreadable. Slice up a baguette, spread a clove of garlic on and a little brie over that. Delicious.

Pack your picnic basket, set the GPS for St. Helena or Sonoma and you’re on your way to the perfect afternoon.

Bonus, your house smells like roasted garlic for days. At least I think that’s a bonus.

The “Before” Pictures

As promised, here are the before photos of the small bathroom. As you can see, the bathroom was in need of some much needed TLC. And yes, there is a door above the bathroom toilet! The door opens into the hallway linen closet. Although it was a nice convenience to be able to open the door and grab a towel, it was a little odd. So it’s been replaced with a nice built-in – which I am looking forward to accessorizing.

Stay tuned for the after shots, we expect to be completed next weekend!

Quiche & a Happy New Year…

I generally am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions. They rarely last past January 17th, so I skip it altogether. But this year I had a change of heart and my resolution is to cook for myself. As a single independent lady, I love to have people over for dinner but I’m never motivated to cook something fabulous when I’m home alone on Tuesday night. This year I’m going to try to change that.

A quiche is the perfect solution to help me with this new goal. It’s easy, delicious and good leftovers for the week. Not to mention a perfect recipe for when friends DO stop by for dinner.

The best part about quiche is that it’s adaptable to whatever you have in the fridge. Some broccoli? Perfect. Ham? Awesome.

Here is my favorite version…

1 refrigerated pie crust (I keep these in the freezer at all times. Always good to have.)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup chopped shallots
5 cups sliced assorted mushrooms
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon garlic
5 strips bacon
4 large eggs
2/3 cup half and half, or heavy cream
1/3 cup whole milk
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Fontina cheese (or Gruyere, or Mozzarella or whatever is in the fridge…)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Unroll crust and press firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Bake until light golden brown, pressing on sides of crust with back of spoon if crust begins to slide down sides of dish, about 17 minutes. Take out and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add rosemary and garlic and toss to incorporate. Transfer to plate; spread out to cool slightly.

In the same pan cook bacon until desired doneness. Some people like their bacon really crispy, some like it chewy. For a quiche I normally cook mine until it’s JUST crisp.

Whisk eggs, half and half, milk, salt, pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup of cheese, sautéed mushrooms and bacon. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over quiche.

Bake quiche until puffed, golden brown, and just set in center, about 45 minutes. I broil it for a minute or two at the end to make sure the cheese is brown and bubbly. Cool 30 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Enjoy!

Zip-lining in your Backyard

I used to think that zip-lining and canopy tours were reserved for the rainforests of Costa Rica and other tropical locales. But, when faced with the birthday dilemma of what to do for my adventure-seeking boyfriend, I was pleasantly surprised to find a zip-line almost in our backyard. Thanks Google!

Sonoma Canopy Tours is just an hour and a half north of San Francisco, near Occidental. It’s a short drive that’s well worth it. The tour takes you through the canopy of the coastal redwoods of the California coastline. If you’ve been zip-lining in Costa Rica, Mexico, or really anywhere a cruise line might drop you off, this canopy tour is a bit different – the zip lines are shorter in length but closer to the canopy than anything I’ve experienced and the tour includes 2 sky bridges, a staircase that wraps around an ancient redwood, and a 80 foot rebel that is initially scary but tons of fun. All-in-all it is a more intimate experience than its central American counterparts.

 

The highlight for us was actually the platforms – built into the sides of the redwood trees the platforms sway gently in the wind due to the tree’s shallow roots. Don’t worry, you’re strapped in so you feel completely safe!

A few notes to keep in mind: First, the canopy tour is located on the grounds of a religious camp. I worried that the experience might be very focused on the religious and spiritual aspects of the canopy tour but it was not at all. The experience was mainly just fun and educational. Second, make reservations! I had no trouble finding a tour, even just days in advance, so it seems, for now, it is a little known secret. That said, when word gets out, I can’t imagine this little gem staying that way for long!

10 days!

Only 10 days until Christmas…and only 7 days until Hanukkah (Chanukah).  Are you ready?!!

I love this time of the year. The weather is crisp, houses are lit for the holiday season, families and friends come together, and there are delicious goodies everywhere!

In the spirit of the holiday season, enjoy these 10 holiday inspirations.

#1 – Holiday Table Setting

# 2 – Modern Holiday Cards

# 3 – Holiday Wrapping

# 4 – Holiday treats

# 5 – Christmas Tree Setting

# 6 – Mistletoe

#7 – Holiday Cheer

# 8 – Handmade Christmas Ornaments

Courtesy of http://whipup.net

# 9 – Holiday Porch

# 10 – Peace on Earth

** If you are able to, please consider making a donation to a local charity or homeless shelter this holiday season to help individuals and families in need. There are many families across the U.S. who are struggling this year and there is nothing more magical than giving. 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere but Oh, What to Bake?

Maybe you don’t like pie. Maybe you need a dessert for a work potluck that feeds a crowd. Maybe you just got a little carried away at Trader Joe’s, grabbing up cans of pumpkin like a crazy person. It’s understandable this time of year.

Whatever the situation pumpkin cupcakes are the perfect solution. The light little cake is perfectly spiced and topped off with a dollop of cream cheese frosting makes the perfect Thanksgiving time snack.

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, zest, nutmeg, and allspice.

In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar, sugar, butter and eggs until combined. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Divide batter evenly among liners. I use an ice cream scoop to make sure my portions are even. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

With an electric mixer beat cream cheese until smooth. Add butter and beat until fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until light. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Make sure to taste the frosting before applying to cupcakes! There are few pleasures in life as simple and gratifying as licking the beaters.

Frost cupcakes once they are cool. I like to sprinkle with colored sanding sugar for bite. It’s the best little bit of texture. It doesn’t hurt that it makes the cupcakes look prettier too.

Now you really have something to be thankful for!