Dearest readers, this post is bittersweet.  I’ve decided to sign off from my blog for a while.  The main reason is without a doubt the happiest of all possible reasons:  As you know, I met someone wonderful about a year ago and, just before we left for a two-week trip to Asia over the holidays, he proposed.  Yes, it’s true, I’m happily and blissfully engaged.  With a wedding in my near future (September!) I know I need to focus on all that planning a wedding entails.

Also, interestingly, I’ve found that as I’ve settled into this new life with my husband-to-be, I’m entertaining and cooking more than ever, but compelled (less than ever) to photograph what I’m making, Tweet my updates, check in on Facebook, or write posts.  All of that social media activity tends to break the flow of what’s really happening, and it has become harder and harder for me to do as I’ve felt more rooted and connected to the real world around me.  (As I write this, I notice that my last Tweet was over a month ago – yikes.)  Someone suggested that I hire a PR assistant to tweet and post for me, but then, what’s the point of that?  It seems so inauthentic and deceitful to my readers, for that matter.  Do other bloggers really do that?  I hope not.

As much as I know I’ll miss my friends in the blogging community, I feel more enriched and more grounded in a broader sense than ever before.  I feel present and happy and appreciative of this special time.

My television pilots and instructional videos continue to float around in the entertainment world, and I hope with all my heart that one of the networks will pick me up someday soon.  Everyone seems to want “big concept” shows like Top Chef and Cake Wars these days, which isn’t really me.  I hope that eventually the trend will shift back to a style of programming that is geared toward an audience that actually wants to learn how to cook.  If it does, and there’s room for me in the lineup, I’ll be ready!

For now, I leave you with a virtual potluck of some favorite recipes that have appeared on this blog over the past three years.  Click on the picture, and you’ll be taken to the recipe in the archives.  I hope this is enough to keep you cooking and happy until I return.

I sign off with the deepest gratitude for the many talented bloggers, producers, photographers and stylists who have inspired me and supported me from the beginning.  We’re not done yet!  I’ll be back as soon as I’m ready, and we’ll dive back in. Also I have started working with Marley Spoon and they have provided me with this exclusive $100 off Marley Spoon vouchers.


open-faced apple pie

brandied cherries

Cherry Tomatoes1

apricot almond tart

chocolate souffle

lentil burger

Posted in Baking & Cake Decorating, Entertaining, Essays, Home & Garden | 2 Comments

Holiday greetings! Thanksgiving was a total blast. We rented an 8 foot table, moved the couch and ottoman, and put that big ol’ table right down the middle of our living room. Ten people gathered round it for a feast of turkey, sage and sausage stuffing, cornbread, whipped sweet potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, cranberry sauce and green beans. My dad (pictured with me) and I  did most of the cooking and baking (that’s me rolling out the biscuits), which is more like performing an elaborate piece of choreography in our tiny shoebox of a kitchen. But we had a fabulous, fabulous time. Moe’s mother and sister came, along with my parents, our good friends G&K, and our other good friends B&S, along with their one-year-old daughter.

I have also started working with Marley Spoon, check out this new Marley Spoon Voucher provided to me by them.

But what was most special about this year’s Thanksgiving was not what we ate, but what we ate it on.   Our table was adorned with some very special pieces of china and silver, all from my grandmother.  Her china is white and ivory with a band of gold around the perimeter, delicately etched with a lacy floral pattern.  It dates to the 1930s, when my great grandmother bought a 20-piece set at Marshall Fields in Chicago.  (My mother now has the other half of the set.)  The sterling set consists of goblets, serving pieces, and a butter dish.  My grandmother had a stroke nearly ten years ago and, sadly, can’t entertain like she used to.  But it made her happy this year that all of her most cherished pieces were being put to good use.

And Hanukkah is here already! We celebrated and lit the menorah last night with cousins from out of town and I whipped up a dinner to make my Jewish grandma proud: whole roasted chicken, matzah stuffing, and crispy potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. For dessert, we devoured a platter of homemade baklava given to me as a holiday gift by a dear friend. We had a wonderful time talking and laughing over wine and delicious, traditional food. This, to me, is what the holidays are all about.

And for Christmas and New Year’s? We are off to Vietnam and Thailand for a two-week tropical trip of beaches, sand and some of the world’s freshest seafood. Not terribly traditional, I’ll give you that, but I think we’ll have a great time. We’ll be on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, for the first leg of our journey, then Railay Beach, Thailand through the first week of January.

Photos of food, beaches and paradise to follow shortly.

Happy holidays to you and yours.


Posted in Baking & Cake Decorating, Entertaining, Home & Garden | Tagged | 6 Comments

What do cinnamon rolls have to do with Thanksgiving?  Not much, apparently.  But if you’re hosting a post-feast brunch this weekend, what could be better to serve than cinnamon rolls?

That’s what we’re doing on Sunday.  My parents, Moe’s mom and sister, and a few other assorted friends and relatives are gathering at our place for cinnamon rolls, coffee and fruit salad before we say goodbye.  So I threw together this little video on how to make cinnamon rolls at home.  It couldn’t be easier — a simple yeast dough slathered in butter and sugar, rolled up, sliced and baked to cinnamon-y deliciousness.

After turkey with all the fixings and pumpkin pie… why not?

PS — Moe did the camera work this time, for the first time. Didn’t he do a mighty fine job?

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As a follow-up to my post last week about my jaunt to the San Francisco Cheese School, I present to you my notes. Since you probably can’t read what I scribbled (and dribbled) all over my actual notes, I’ve summarized my key findings below. Happy cheese eating!

1. Fresh bright cheeses go with fresh bright wines. For example, a sauvignon blanc would go well with an herbed goats milk cheese like Fleur Verte.

2. At the other end of the spectrum… a “bigger” wine like cabernet sauvignon goes well with more complex cheeses that are aged and nutty in flavor, such as a stilton.

3. “Raw milk cheese” simply means that the milk was not pasteurized before the cheese making process began, which in turn means that the cheese making process began within two hours of when the milk was collected from the animal.

4. The hardness of the cheese is correlated with how long the cheese is aged. Hard cheeses like parmigiano-reggiano are aged 18-24 months. A semi-soft cheese such as ossau araty (Basque sheep’s milk cheese) is aged 30-60 days. Semi-soft cheeses must be made with pasteurized milk in the US because raw milk contains live microflora that (according to the USDA) can cause illness.

5. In a soft, aged cheese like Tomme Crayeuse, the center of the round is less aged than the outer portion. So it will have a different texture and flavor… it’s softer and more tart.

6. There is no lactose in cheese aged over 60 days. Goat, sheep and water buffalo cheeses are the easiest to digest for people who have lactose or dairy intolerance.

7. Butterfat content has to do with the creaminess of the cheese. Swiss has 45% bf, double crème cheese (brie) are about 65% bf, and triple crème cheeses (like Brillat-Savarin) are 75% bf. To put all of this into perspective… butter is at least 85% butterfat.

8. How long before guests arrive should you take your cheeses out of the fridge? Hard cheese can sit out for up to an hour, semi-hard cheeses can sit out for about 20 minutes. Soft and fresh cheeses should come out of the fridge just as guests are arriving.

9. Some of my favorite pairings… aged balsamic on parmigiano-reggiano… Tomme Crayeuse with dried figs and port… Colston Bassett Stilton with honey and port… Epoisses with Riesling.

10. Honey is incredible on all cheeses. You can’t go wrong.

Cheese School Notes

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San Francisco Cheese School

Have you ever started to assemble a cheese platter for a party and then realized that you have no idea what you’re doing?  I have.  Beyond the very basic and boring rule of “one hard cheese, one semi-hard cheese, and one soft cheese,” I’ve never felt the least bit confident about how to pick a good cheese or how to pick three (or more) cheeses that go well together.  And pairing cheese with wine and other foods?  Forget it.  Totally out of my league.

And haven’t you always been curious about what else, besides cheese, might go on a cheese platter?  Grapes?  Crackers?  Snore.  I’ve been desperate to find someone who could help me come up with something a little more exciting.

Let me tell you who can.  Juliana Uruburu, director of cheese at the Bay Area’s famous Market Hall and instructor of “Perfect Cheese Pairings” at the San Francisco Cheese School.

I attended Juliana’s two-hour class this week and was blown away by 1) how fun it was and 2) how little I know about cheese. (I was also blown away by how tipsy one can get on nothing but cheese and wine for dinner, but let’s save that for the end.)

The Cheese School holds small classes in a lovely wood-floored, open-windowed loft space on Powell Street not far from Fisherman’s Wharf.  You sit at a long dining room-style table that’s set with the prettiest china and sparkling wine glasses and tiny, adorable cheese utensils.  The instructor imparts to you all of her infinite wisdom (in a very informal lecture) about cheese and food and wine while you dine on the very cheese and food and wine she’s talking about.  You ask questions and you take notes and she stops to explain things and then you ask more questions and you take more notes.  And then you drink some wine and you forget that you already asked a particular question but she answers anyway and everyone laughs together and has more wine.

Tell me… what wouldn’t be fun about all that?

As for number 2, as much as you’re having fun, you will definitely come away from the experience feeling like you need more classes.  I felt far more comfortable about how to assemble a cheese platter after this particular class, and there were certain logical tips I knew I could file away in my mental recipe box for easy retrieval. (“Bright, fruity wines go with bright, lively cheeses,” and “Honey is amazing on ANY cheese!”)  But I know that we hardly scratched the surface of all there is to know about cheese.  You know those numbers and letters stamped into the rind of your parmigiano regiano?  There’s a whole handbook on how to decode those numbers!  They tell you not only where the cheese wheel came from but what family produced it and at what time of year.  And forget pairing cheese with wine.  There are classes on pairing cheese with beer, pairing cheese with port, and even pairing cheese with sake.  Sake!  Who would ever think of serving cheese with sake?  Apparently, it can be done.

Next week, for those of you who don’t live close enough to attend a class in person, I’ll post the Top Ten things I Learned in Cheese School and a copy of my horribly scribbled but somewhat funny (and partially wine-stained) class notes.  For the rest of you, I encourage you to sign up for a class pronto, before you find yourself staring dumbfoundedly at another boring cheese platter. You absolutely must go on empty stomach and indulge in nothing but cheese and wine for dinner.  You deserve it.  Just be sure to cab it home.

Photo credit: San Francisco Cheese School

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