Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

Still getting rid of the Thanksgiving weekend hangover. My family not only celebrated the most epic day of feasting all year this past weekend, but my Mom's 60th Birthday as well... which called for another feast in itself. When Underhill's celebrate we head to my parents' place in on Camano Island. It calls for game time, punctual 5:00 cocktail hour with Dad's Manhattans, and ridiculous "snack" spreads that start at 3:00 and wind down with enough food at dinner to last us through the week. Its also the one time of year I'll let myself cheat on being gluten free to stuff myself full of stuffing. Has to be Marie Callendar's cornbread stuffing. Has to be the same way we've made it since I can remember - celery, onion, walnuts and mushrooms. No more. Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving food that they've deemed untouchable. Sometimes less fuss makes it better. Thanksgiving is an interesting combination of lavish dishes paired with simple favorites you've loved since you can remember Thanksgivings. Mine is the stuffing, so don't mess. Rather than recap recipes, I captured the wine, indulgence and smiles of my family. Happy post Thanksgiving, I'm prepping to detox just in time to redo it all at Christmas time :).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving in to Autumn with Brussels Sprouts

I just got back from a vacation to Mexico with my boyfriend, best friend and her man, and their two amazing friends whom I'd never met until we landed in Puerto Vallarta. The couples retreat was timed just right, I had my fill of drinking homemade pina coladas from a canteen, cooking or ordering tacos every night - made simply and un-fussed with like they should be. We soaked up as much sun as we did tequila and at the end of the trip I came home to discover that the bone-chilling cold of late Fall had finally set in while we were away.

Even though it's always a sad day when you pull out the winter coats and put away your flip flops, I don't mind too terribly. It's the turning point where massive maple leaves burst from green, to red, to yellow and orange - always most vibrant before they die. I like the crisp, cold walks in the sun on weekends with a scarf and hat and my hand shoved in my boyfriend's coat pocket. And I really like the Autumn vegetables that have started to wander into my CSA box and onto my plate. Tonight I made a healthy dinner that feels hearty but gave me a break from the beef stews and and potatoes that can prepare you for winter. Raw Brussels Sprout salad with pomegranate seeds and roasted root vegetables on the side. Favorite things about this food - you can easily find new ways to adjust the recipe with what you have on hand, and it tastes just as good an hour later as it does when served immediately.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate Seeds
1/2 lb. Brussels Sprouts, shredded
1/2 C Tofu, cubed
1/4 Yellow Onion, finely sliced
1/3 C Pomegranate Seeds
1/4 C Toasted Almond Slivers
Handful of shaved Parmesan

1/4 C Olive Oil
1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon Mustard
2 tsp Honey
Salt and Pepper

 Dice tofu into cubes and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and brown in a saute pan and set aside. Peel off outer leaves of Brussels sprouts and shred. Slice onion and place in a bowl of cold water - this will take away some of the bite! Whisk vinaigrette in a separate bowl and combine with all ingredients. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Last of the Summer: Arepas & Sangria

Summer in Seattle never really began this year, so it's slightly odd to say it's ending. But as the sunset creeps earlier in the day and the air feels crisper - I know I'm headed down a path of pulling out the sweaters from the back of my closet and turning on the furnace for the first time in months.

I looked through the refrigerator at the last of the fresh white corn from my CSA box, the plums and blackberries that were beginning to over ripen and soften. I had to accept the inevitable, that I probably am not going to see these fruits and veggies at their prime for much longer. So I had to make the most of this last haul I had on hand. This recipe for sangria is amazing because it relies more on the natural sweetness of the fruit rather than a sugary juice that left us all with the crazy hangovers of college parties past. You can use a simple red table wine, any fresh citrus and fruit you have on hand, it only gets better as the fruit marinates in the drink.

Arepas are made with a fine corn flour called Masa Harina. Traditionally used in Mexico to make tortillas and tamales, it's easy to find at any grocery store. You have the freedom to use it as a canvas for any toppings you wish - just like pizza. The texture is dense yet soft and tastes like a thick, doughy corn tortilla. Mixing in mozzarella to the dough before grilling in a cast iron skillet lends more flavor and richness to the mix. Enjoy your food with friends, sip sangria with the last of a summer sunset, and make sure you soak up the last of the season.

2 bottles Red Table Wine
1 bottle natural fruit juice blend - I love Trader Joe's Mango Passion fruit Juice Blend
A splash of Orange Liquor
Sliced or chopped fruit - orange, lime, apple, stone fruit and berries

There's no right or wrong fruit you can use, but I like to have a mix which includes some citrus and variation in texture. Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher or mason jar and allow the sangria to chill in the refrigerator for an hour so fruit can soak up the flavors of the liquid.

Vegetarian Arepas:
Makes 2 servings

1 Cup Masa Harina
1 Cup warm Water
6 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1 can black beans
1 ear of corn, kernels
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
4 asparagus stalks, chopped
2 small yellow zucchini squash, sliced
1 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs dry Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

To make Arepa dough combine Masa Harina, Water, chopped mozzarella and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl and mix with wooden spoon. Form into a ball and leave to rest for a few minutes. Divide dough into two balls and flatten into an 1/8th inch thick disk using your hands. Add 1 Tbs vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet and heat on high. Add Arepas to pan and lower heat to medium. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side.

While Arepas are cooking, combine all vegetables in a large bowl and lightly coat with vegetable oil. Mix seasoning blend together and sprinkle over vegetables, mixing to coat well. Saute vegetables in a separate pan on medium-high heat until roasted and tender. Drain and rinse black beans and place in a small sauce pan on a third stove burner. Add a dash of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Cover and cook through for 5 minutes.

Remove Arepas from pan and place on a plate. Lay down a layer of black beans and top with sauteed vegetables. Add hot sauce or salsa if you like.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Cold Coast

Having lived near the beach in LA for 4 years, I'm accustomed to ocean waters bordering on warm temperatures, or at least tolerably cold. I've never been to the coast of Washington, beyond the Puget Sound channels of water where Seattle rests. So when a friend recommended we head to Westport - 2 1/2 hours West - where he could teach me to surf the Northwest Pacific waves, I was all kinds of about it.

What we did not anticipate was that surf shops close early and even in August, the ocean water this far North along the West Coast is absolutely frigid. I felt the chill all the way in my hips after standing in the small wake for :30 seconds. I will save learning to surf for a tropical location where sharks are more of a concern than hypothermia. But this left us a long afternoon to explore Westport, which happens to be the cutest damn beach town I've been to. Its a place where restaurants need names like "The One-Eyed Crab" or "Granny Hazel's Candy & Gifts."  The boardwalk wreaks of saltwater spray and oyster shells discarded by seagulls. You have multiple opportunities to purchase a windsock or a handmade lawn ornament. And you can see the mountains from the beach made of pulverized gray stones and white clam shells. It was a whole part of Washington I haven't seen before, and is a nod to part of our maritime culture that seeps Eastward into the city. There isn't much to do in this fisherman's town beyond listen to boat ropes creak and sea lions complain, fly a kite and watch the local color. But spending the day here had a funny way of putting a smile on my face that I didn't even know was there.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Astounding Campaign Case Study

St. John Agency just released a case study on one of their most successful projects. It's inspiring really. What's more fantastic is that they call all us ad kids out on our grand representations of how successful and earth-shattering we like to portray our projects as being.

I lol-ed anyway...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Apartment Hunting

I’m apartment hunting. The best friend and roommate is leaving to San Francisco in a few short weeks and I am left on the prowl for my next digs. She’s done a lot for me, inspired me to get tattoos that I’m still too afraid to commit to, educated me on the art of how cutting big pieces of sushi in half with chopsticks – this is something I believe she picked up in her home state of Colorado. Be wary of seafood practices created in a landlocked state. She’s shared her precious pup, Kaiyuh, which is great because I get all the love and none of the responsibility. It’s like being an aunt or uncle. You can love on her and play to your heart’s content, but then pass the buck on “taking care of her” just like you’d pass the baby when the diaper needs changing. By now we communicate more in our own high pitched language of moans, squeaks and little kid speak that resembles the characters on Rugrats. I’m sure it’s annoying to the rest of the world, but we’ve long surpassed the point of recognition or consideration for others' ears. My gal Nichole is leaving on a jet plane, thus leaving me with the task of finding a new apartment. House hunting is one of those actions that’s like an emotional oxymoron of sorts. It evokes the seemingly opposite or unrelated feelings of excitement as well as dread and panic all at once.

And since I’ve begun the task of scouring for vacancies I can’t help but be dumbfounded at how lazy, non-existent or downright unappealing landlords make their apartment listings appear. Let’s take this gem for example:

The description tells me little more than the price and general area of my search. Upon viewing the full listing, it tells me the address and when I can move in. Contact Ray for more details – I’d love to! (I think to myself) but Ray has chosen to not leave a phone number or email to reach him by! I also have no idea what the place will look like, as there are no pictures. Though it is commendable that his psychic powers knew that my major priority was how close the apartment is to food resources and busses to get there.

At least Ray was smart enough to list his space on Craigslist. After only returning a few hits a day for my criteria, I abandoned the internet and spent two hours driving around the neighborhood I’m looking to live to find droves of vacancy signs posted outside apartment buildings. This was a fun test in multi-tasking as I drove up and down streets with a pen clenched in my teeth, pulling over every few feet to use my x-ray vision on deciphering the size 12 font of vacancy listings that hung on placards above building entryways. After an afternoon of pulling over, writing down phone numbers and checking my rearview mirror periodically to make sure I wasn’t blocking traffic, I realized just how inefficient and archaic this all seemed for the poor apartment seeker.

It would seem commonsense enough that providing basic details and a little incentive would get renters more apartment seekers knocking on their door. Tell me the basic information, give me a visual of what I’m in for, and tell me why it’s worth my while. I’m going to make a chart. Because charts are legit.  It's a funnel.

The fact that most renters neglect these basic steps only implies that they don’t care enough about their product, which sends up red flags on the character and quality of the apartment and its management. I think this last point can be true for a lot of product advertisers. I won’t be calling Ray and his apartment shrouded in secrecy. Guess who I did call? The lovely couple who listed their apartment on Craigslist replete with details and images, have a flyer with images, renter benefits and contact information in front of the house, and a lovely answering message that tells me all about the apartment I’m interested in before clicking over to the beep. What’s more, I’m actually excited about it rather than filled with dread and panic.