Saturday, September 29, 2007

Zoo day!

Looking for Lemurs, originally uploaded by jessicafm.

Recently we decided the day was perfect for a family visit to the zoo. Mark had a bus to check out in the Sunset, I looked out at the sky and suggested we head to the zoo after he'd looked at the bus.

What a perfect plan!

The day was beautiful and sunny, a rarity in the Sunset District. The San Francisco Zoo wasn't very crowded so we were able to get up close and see pretty much any animals we wanted; even the lions in the Cat House, who were being weighed.


We got to see the penguins being fed:


Unfortunately, the petting zoo was closed -- it looked like they were renovating it -- so Davey didn't get a chance to pet and feed the goats (a favorite childhood memory of mine). However, we did enjoy the Meerkat exhibit right by the closed off petting zoo entrance.


The playground there was a bit of a disappointment. I remember it being pretty darned cool when I was a kid, but they've had to remove the old aircraft and stuff like that in the name of "safety." sigh. The equipment that was there was old, wood, metal and getting rusted. That said, Davey enjoyed the slide with Mark:

Sliding at the zoo

Last, but definitely not least, we had some quiet time with the western lowland gorillas!

Lowland Gorilla

On the way home we stopped on Clement Street and grabbed a couple delicious carne asada burritos from Gordo Burrito to take home for dinner.

While Davey didn't get excited about the animals, per se, he did watch them and look where we pointed and seemed to enjoy a day in the sun with his mommy and daddy.

All in all, so did we.

Bubbles make it better

P1030270_2.JPG, originally uploaded by freemntn.

I gotta be meeeeee!

I gotta be meeeeee!, originally uploaded by jessicafm.

Gazing off in the distance

Gazing off in the distance, originally uploaded by jessicafm.

Who's over there?

Who's over there?, originally uploaded by jessicafm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy 14 Prescott!

Last weekend we celebrated the 14th birthday of our wonderful nephew, Prescott. Such a nice 14 year old boy you haven't met, let me tell you!

It was a very fun family and close friend party -- all the guests hand-picked by Prescott, himself. He chose well. It was a very relaxing, filling, tasty and fun-filled afternoon.

Happy birthday Prescott!!

Of course there's a food angle for this blog, right?

I made the Chinese Chicken Salad recipe from Simply Recipes. That salad, while time consuming to make, has become my favorite in the couple of months since I first tried it. Apparently others also loved it at the party, as several folks asked for the recipe. So folks, there it is -- enjoy!

I also took this opportunity to try out a vegan cake recipe. Davey is still quite allergic to eggs and dairy and as his first birthday approaches, I'm anxiously trying to determine what kind of cake I can make for the big day. I surfed the web. I scoured my cookbooks. I asked for advice from David Lebovitz, who kindly replied and suggested using soy products and (ick) margarine, but that he'd avoided such things so didn't have any experience to share. Then the idea hit me... I asked Dad to pose the question for a good recipe to his compatriots in the Cooking Conference on The Well. That was a great idea as several members posted some suggestions!

Vegan creme-filled devil's food cupcake

The one I ended up going with was the vegan creme filled devil's food cupcake. While it's not what I'd choose for my own cake and I thought perhaps it was a little dense for my taste, it was quite good for vegan and Davey seemed to like the half I gave him with lunch on Sunday.

Vegan creme-filled devil's food cupcake

I didn't do the top decorations (i.e. squiggles) for this dry-run, but I'll go nuts when it comes time for the real birthday cupcakes. Also, note that the recipe for the creme filling made entirely too much and it was quite thick and difficult to pipe. I think I might figure out how to halve the recipe (if my 6qt mixer will let me) and make it a little thinner. It was pretty difficult to pipe because of its density. I think it might be nice to add a little flavoring such as orange, cherry, or peppermint, too.

Until then, here's the recipe:

Devil's Food Cupcakes With Fluffy White Filling and Chocolate Icing

Adapted from "Vegan With a Vengeance," by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Marlowe, 2005)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 tablespoons black cocoa powder (see note) or more Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, such as Earthbalance
1/3 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
2-1/2 to 3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the chocolate icing:
1/3 cup plain soy milk
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or confectioners' sugar

For the royal icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons plain soy milk.

1. For the cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners, and spray lightly with nonstick spray. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and
salt. In a mixer, combine the soy milk, oil, syrup, sugar, vinegar and vanilla. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add half the dry ingredients and mix to blend. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix for 1 minute.

2. Use a standard ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

3. For the filling: In a mixer, beat margarine and shortening until combined. Add 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and beat until very fluffy, about 10 minutes. Taste for sweetness and add remaining 1/2 cup sugar if
desired. Add vanilla and beat for 1 minute more.

4. For the chocolate icing: In a small skillet, bring soy milk to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low and stir in the chocolate and maple syrup, stirring until just melted. Turn off heat.

5. For the royal icing: Using an electric mixer or by hand, sift sugar into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon soy milk. Mix, adding up to 1 more tablespoon soy milk until consistency is like stiff toothpaste.

6. To assemble: Prepare two pastry bags, one fitted with a large plain tip, and one with a small writing tip. Fill large-tipped bag with filling, and the small-tipped bag with royal icing. (Instead of pastry bags, thick resealable plastic bags may be used. For filling, cut off one corner of bag so the opening measures a scant 1/2 inch across. For icing, opening should be just large enough to pipe a thin line.)

7. Using your pinkie, poke a hole in center of each cupcake top about an inch deep. Push tip of pastry bag with filling into each hole, firmly squeezing in filling and slowly drawing tip up and out. When all cakes
have been filled, wipe off any excess that sticks out from holes; tops of cupcakes should be flat.

8. Place cupcakes on a baking sheet or tray that fits in refrigerator. Rewarm pan of chocolate icing over low heat if necessary, stirring constantly. Dip top of each cupcake into icing, swirling to coat completely. When all cupcakes are dipped, refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes to set. When set, use royal icing to make squiggles across center of each cupcake. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 1 day.

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

Note: Black cocoa, which gives the cake its characteristic dark color and bittersweet flavor, is available from King Arthur Flour, (800) 827-6836

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pistachio Gelato

Pistachio Gelato, originally uploaded by jessicafm.

The latest and greatest ice cream made in our kitchen was this Pistachio Gelato. Of course this came from David Lebovitz, but this time it was a recipe from his blog, not from his book.

Crema di PistacchioIt turns out he was coveting one of the prizes I received from the Menu for Hope III raffle from last December: the Bronte Pistachio Creme. I'd been holding off opening that jar as one of those, "That's just too good to eat, I can't open it until I know what I'm going to do with it." David came up with the perfect idea and blogged about it.

Pistachio Gelato

Armed with his (very simple) recipe, I gave it a shot. When I gave Mark the dasher to lick, as I moved the gelato from the freezer bowl to its container, he exclaimed that it was the best ice cream I've made thus far (and I've made a lot of ice cream now).

Sweet, but not too sweet, incredibly rich tasting; this is my absolute favorite gelato. It blows away any pistachio gelato I've ever bought, including the one I got at a gelateria in Lucca.

And now that I've used up my jar of pistachio paste, I will just have to live with the memories of this luscious frozen creation. Unless I find that paste again somewhere...

Pistachio Gelato
Recipe from David Lebovitz

About 3 cups

2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
7 ounces Bronte pistachio paste
a few drops of lemon juice

1. Make a slurry by mixing the 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

2. Heat the rest of the milk and the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.

3. When it almost starts to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook at gentle simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat, scrape into a bowl, and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

5. Once chilled, whisk in the pistachio paste and just a few drops of lemon juice until smooth.

6. Freeze the gelato in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wow, I'm officially a published photographer!

Impeach Cheney!, originally uploaded by jessicafm.

I received two tear-outs and two copies of the September 2007 issue of San Francisco Magazine in the mail today. They purchased this photo that I took during the MLB All Star Game and published it on pages 48-49 of this month's issue of their magazine. How very cool!

Now I'll have to start dressing like an artist.

Monday, September 17, 2007

3 years!

Picnic at Point Reyes on Mark & Jessica's 3rd wedding anniversary
Originally uploaded by jessicafm

Wow, yesterday we celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. Sweetie Mark let me sleep in until almost 9 and had a cup of decaf ready for me when I woke. Ah, how nice! I hadn't slept that late in I don't remember how long.

Then we packed up the stroller, some lunch stuff for Davey and headed out the back roads for a little country drive. We stopped at the Rouge et Noir cheese factory to pick up lunch stuff for Mark and I and then drove to Point Reyes headquarters to have a little picnic. A nice bench in the shade of bays and pines, a tasty lunch, a good mood, perfect temperatures and a happy baby... it was lovely. Then we went for a stroll along the Earthquake Trail, with Davey enjoying pushing his stroller for part of the way.

Afterwards we drove back to civilization through Lagunitas, waving to Schuster as we passed by his street. We passed through Woodacre where Mark showed where he lived for a short while as a young boy. Then we drove by a few open houses in the Dominican area of San Rafael, just for the fun of it, ending up at Northgate Mall to stroll around, let Davey play in the playground for a bit, and do some window shopping. Okay, I bought some very cool shoes, too. :-)

We met up with Dad and Linda at El Encanto for an early supper, which was delicious and very fun, as usual.

Dad and Linda gave us two very beautiful floral arrangements as anniversary gifts, because they couldn't decide between the two. Thank you guys!

Wow, 3 years... it's been wonderful so far and it's just getting better. Love, love, love!

Friday, September 7, 2007

11 months old

Amazing to think of it, but 11 months ago I was cradling a tiny little bundle in my arms while lying in a hospital bed, wondering at his newborn beauty.

Now he's got 4 teeth with a 5th making its way through, waves bye-bye and hi, says: mama, dada, mama-baba, walks with a little aid from his push-car (or a helpful grown-up), eats solid foods, plays hide-and-seek and generally fills our home with love and joy.

We measured him today and our unofficial numbers have him at 29 inches long and 17-1/2 pounds. He's a great eater, but is still a skinny little muscle boy.

Happy 11 month birthday, my baby!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I think I'll try some corn on the cob!

It seems that Davey likes corn! At least he likes the idea of chomping on the cob like Mommy and Daddy. He did manage to pop a few kernels with his four little teeth. Notice that he wouldn't let go of his prized red ball though. ;-)

And so begins his interest in cars

Davey's been pushing everything he can around the house lately. If it's a book, he crawls along and pushes the book with one palm. If it's an overturned plastic bowl, he gets up on his knees and pushes. It seemed like it was really time to get him a push-car, yeah? Well, YEAH! We picked up this car on Tuesday afternoon and as soon as Mark put it together that evening, Davey was pushing it everywhere he could inside the house. Now it goes at a bit of a breakneck speed on the hardwood floors. But it's just the right speed on the lawn:

And his first experience with automotive problems:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Love-filled, lively, lickable Labor Day

What started out as a, "Hey, let's check out this barbecue recipe," between a small number of close family turned in to a big Schuster/Freiberg/Merz family get together in our back yard.

Earlier in the week Polly sent an email to Dad, uncle Jon and I to share a recipe from America's Test Kitchen for Kansas City BBQ Sauce:

Kansas City barbecue sauce is very sticky, sweet, and smoky—far more so than most tomato-based sauces. We like our barbecue sauce extra-thick. If you like a thinner, smoother texture, the sauce can be strained after it has finished cooking.

Makes about 4 cups
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup root beer
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients, except for liquid smoke, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is thick and has reduced to 4 cups, about 1 hour. Stir in liquid smoke, if using. (Sauce can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 1 week.)

Now doesn't that sound good?

Instead of making this, however, I mentioned a recipe I'd just seen on Simply Recipes for Grilled Spicy Citrus Ribs, and was curious to try. Not that the Kansas City BBQ recipe didn't sound good, but... I was hoping maybe we could have a little rib-off. ;-)

Unfortunately, uncle Jon is having major back pain and couldn't come over. And it was all very last minute that Polly and Dad decided to come over. Then on Monday morning Polly asked if we should invite Ginger Barton, if she was still in town. "Hey, that's a great idea!" Polly called Ginger and, indeed, she was in town for one more day before heading back to Oregon. She wanted to come to a BBQ, as did Wolfgang and Amy Schuster and their kids, Mason and Morgan, as well as Steve Schuster and their daughter, Bethany. Phew -- we just went from a few people to a full-on party. Since the Schusters and the Freibergs may as well be one family, this was one heck of a wonderful afternoon!

I made some ribs based on a combination of Simply Recipe's version and my uncle Jon's barbecue glaze (recipe at the end of this post), plus some strawberry lemonade. Polly brought some lentil and corn salad, popcorn and "broken peach frosting ice cream," and some marinated tri-tip. Dad brought a bunch of hummus dips, corn, sausages and beer. Wolf and Amy brought sourdough bread, potato salad, corn and limeade. Steve brought sourdough bread (still warm from the ovens) and garlic to make some great garlic/olive oil/vinegar dip, using the olive oil I received from Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy as part of my winnings in the Menu for Hope III raffle.


It was quite a feast and quite a love-fest. I absolutely love everyone who was at our home...

Now, for the recipes.

Strawberry Lemonade
Based on the basil lemonade from Orangette
2 cups Strawberry Lemon Syrup (see below)
2 cups cold water
2 cups ice cubes
1 ¼ cups fresh lemon juice

Stir together in a large pitcher and serve in a tall glass, "on the rocks."

Strawberry Lemon Syrup
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 strips of lemon zest
1 cup sliced strawberries

Bring water, sugar and lemon zest to a boil in a medium sized pot. Once boiled and the sugar is dissolved, turn off heat, add the strawberries, put a lid on the pot and let sit for at least an hour. Strain out strawberries and lemon zest and chill until ready to use.

Barbecuing ribs

Barbecued Ribs
Based on Simply Recipes Grilled Spicy Citrus Ribs
2 racks of ribs (about 4 pounds), St. Louis-cut spareribs or baby back ribs*
2 1/2 cups spicy citrus brine
Oil for the grill grate
1 cup "uncle Jon's glaze" (recipe to follow)

Spicy Citrus Brine
1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (1-2 limes)
1/4 cup water

2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. Prepare the brine. Combine the juices and water and measure in a measuring cup. You should have exactly 2 1/2 cups liquid. If you have less, add enough water so that you have 2 1/2 cups of liquid, if you have more, discard the excess. The correct ratio of liquid to salt is important for the brine to work properly. Place liquids in a medium sized bowl, add other brine ingredients - salt, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Stir for half a minute until the salt has completely dissolved.

2. Prepare the ribs. If you want, remove the thin membrane that lines the concave side of each rib rack. This will make it easier for the brine and spices to penetrate as well as easier to cut and eat when the ribs are done. Insert a dull knife edge between the membrane and ribs to loosen. Grip the loosened membrane and pull away to remove. Cut the racks in half. Put in a plastic ziplock freezer bag. Add the brine to the bag. Squeeze the excess air out of the bag and seal the bag. Massage the brine into the ribs. Place the bag of brine and ribs into a bowl (in case there is leakage) and place into the refrigerator. Refrigerate in the brine for 3-6 hours. Note that brining too long can over-saturate the meat with the brine. So stick within the 3-6 hour time frame.

Uncle Jon's BBQ Glaze
1/2 cup good quality raspberry jam
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce

Stir ingredients in a bowl (or measuring cup) until thoroughly mixed.

Left-over bbq glaze

3. Heat the grill to 300-325 degrees with indirect heat. I was using a gas grill, which made this easy: I turned on the outer burners but left the middle flames off.

4. Remove the ribs from the ziplock and pat off them dry with paper towels. Place on the grill for about 25-30 minutes. After 20-25 minutes, flip the ribs and cook for another 15 minutes. Then brush on a liberal amount of Uncle Jon's Glaze and cook for 10 minutes. Flip ribs one more time, apply a liberal amount of glaze and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes. The internal temperature of the ribs, with an instant read thermometer, should read 155 degrees.

5. When the ribs are to temperature, take them off, let them rest a little while and then slice up in to one or two rib sections.

Grab your napkins and dig in!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Moments in time at the Sausalito Art Festival

How can I resist that face?
How can I resist this face?

Dad takes center stage with Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Dad was in fine voice!

Rozzie & Prescott
Rozzie and Prescott wait patiently for the Tim Cain performance.

Davey enjoys a Tim Cain performance.

Oh god, pride of man!

Can I play with your earring, Aunt Polly?
Davey and Polly discuss his desire to pull her earrings.