Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

This past Thursday, Santa Claus himself arrived in New York City's Herald Square officially ushering in the Christmas season. And after the leftovers have all been consumed, the decorating begins!

I. Love. Christmas.

Seriously. If it could be Christmas 12 months out of the year, it wouldn't be too many for me.

My house is currently a-glow with white twinkle lights, glistening glass ornaments in jewel tone colors and holly berries and candles in every nook and cranny.

The mantel is decked out with glass vases filled with silver and red glass balls and garland that's home to more twinkle lights and holly berries and then topped of with stockings hung for me and Max.

Yes, Santa Puppy comes to my house every year.

This year, I added some garland up the stair case, which I must admit adds a nice warm glow to a normally dark part of my house. Plus, the garland I bought for the top of my armoire turned out to be like 25 feet long, so what else was I going to do with it?

With the house brimming with gold and green, there is no better way to end a relaxing Sunday afternoon of dozing and football than with a yummy dinner. I'm about to head in the kitchen to whip up some herb-sauteed chicken thighs and cranberry pecan couscous.

To be washed down, of course, with a glass of wine.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Each year, as I watch all the holiday commercials of families gathered around tables brimming with golden turkeys, creamy mashed potatoes, steamy dishes of stuffing and green bean casserole (all of which I consumed this year might I add), I get a little wistful for that idyllic, Norman Rockwell moment.

Right. This is 2011 - who's Thanksgiving looks like that?

Most likely you have some crazy aunt (or uncle) that shows up with a jello mold and pinches your cheeks and remarks how you've grown (although you've been north of 30 for a while now). There are probably one too many casseroles, sides and pies than there are ovens, causing tensions to run high as the turkey gets cold. Perhaps there's fighting over the remote..."Parade!" "No, football!" And maybe like at my house you have 12 paws worth of canines all trying to secretly sneak a nibble of any of the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen (luckily, we've never had to actually order a pizza because of the darlings ravenous appetites).

For all this, I am thank-full.

Full of cheesy cornbake...

Full of herb-roasted turkey breast, soft and buttery rolls, sweet and tangy cranberries, cinnamony pumpkin pie with a dab (well, maybe a whopping dab) of whipped cream.

Thankful for the blessings of my family, good friendships, health, prosperity, my Hallmark Christmas CDs (don't judge me please) and of course red wine.

Perhaps most of all, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of a baby born so many years ago in a stable, I am thankful for hope in the year to come.

Yes, for all these things, I am thank-full.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Have Some Chowda

A long time ago, I made a personal resolution to experience authentic regional cuisine whenever I travel to new places. What's the point of eating at an Applebee's or Waffle House in a place like Charleston or New York City?

So, what better place than San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf to try a bread bowl of clam chowder?

Oh. My. Gosh.

The smell of the bread alone at the Boudin Bakery was nearly more than I could stand...the warm, sweet scent of the freshly baked bread wafting through the air...sends memories of homemade pies wafting through my grandmother's kitchen.

Then, there's the chowder. One look at that ivory sea of velvet makes me weak in the knees. The way the creamy lusciousness slides down the throat and warms the belly is like a first kiss on a long sweet summer night. Mmmmm....

What goes better with a hot, steamy bowl of "chowda" than a crisp, cold bottle of local beer?

Next time you're in the Wharf, stop by Boudin and partake for yourself. You won't regret it. I promise.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My First Michelin

September 30, 2010. This date will go down in history in the life of FunGirlCooks. It's going in my baby book, every scrap book and journal I own. This was the day I ate at my very first Michelin-star rated restaurant: One Market in the grand and glorious city of San Francisco.

What is a Michelin star you ask? First published in 1900 in France, the Michelin rating system has become "the benchmark in gourmet dining" by sending its professional, anonymous inspectors to restaurants around the world to rate the food on the plate.

And man, do those guys know what they're doing!

In San Fran for a work conference, I took the opportunity to get in some culinary adventures since it is one of the most magnificently mouthwatering cities in the country (in my humble opinion).

My delectable meal began with a warm, spicy glass of 2007 Freeman Pinot Noir from California's Russian River Valley and a hand-picked Dungeness crab salad over green apple water with jalapeno and cilantro garnishes.

Dinner was the Daily Roast of a tender, juicy fillet of beef wrapped in pancetta and bathed in a smoky, caramelized onion sauce that wrapped the meat in warmth like a velvet glove in the middle of winter. Served with a la carte roasted, organic baby carrots right out of Peter Rabbit's garden, it was utter perfection.

(It was so good, I forgot to take pictures! Unforgivable, I know.)

To end this intoxicating culinary experience, I had the seasonal dessert of luscious, creamy sugar pumpkin cheesecake laced with hints of warm cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkled with maple pecans. Paired with a scoop of sweet maple ice cream and a crisp gingerbread autumn cookie, the entire piece of art was drizzled with warm caramel sauce, allowing it to simply slide from the tongue down the throat into a state of pure, unadulterated pleasure.

Seriously. I now want to marry the Michelin man.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

33 Years of Love

I love birthdays. Mine. Yours. Theirs. Everyone's. This past weekend, I celebrated my 33rd year with many of my precious loved ones. In my family, your birthday is the day you get to be completely doted on and most importantly, get to eat whatever you want.

For me, nearly all of those years, that has meant a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and Brach's "little pumpkins." And this year was no exception.

Mom has long since ceased making the cake herself, but turns to our dear friend and owner of local Bill Rhodes Bakery, Becky Evans, to make this special (and gorgeous!) treat each year. This year was no exception.

The best part is the leftovers.

Ok, who doesn't like to start a meal with dessert? This moist, melt-in-your-mouth magnificence was preceded by one of my favorite dinners that embodies love for my family: Miss Elizabeth's chicken.

Miss Elizabeth was a dear lady in my dad's hometown of Boonville, Missouri that brought a steaming casserole dish of this comfort food to the farmhouse after my sweet grandmother's funeral and the rest is history. We've been making it for the past 17 years. This recipe is as homespun as they come and straight out of the church potluck cookbook. Most people call it Chicken and Rice Casserole. It's warm and creamy and utterly rich and filled with love.

Just to make sure that our veins don't completely explode from all the "love" filled food, this year's celebration was rounded out with a little greenery: a wedge salad with homemade blue cheese dressing, steamed green beans and roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta and Parmesan. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

Thirty-three years of love right here on the plate.

Miss Elizabeth's Chicken

1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of celery soup
1/2 soup can of water
1  1/2 Cups of white rice, uncooked
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 stick of margarine
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 275 degrees.

Melt margarine in a large saucepan.

Add the soups and water; heat and stir well.

Add rice and stir.

Pour half of the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Place chicken on top; salt and pepper.

Pour the rest of the mixture on top of chicken.

Cover with foil and bake for 2 hours; uncover and bake for one additional hour until golden and bubbly.