A Mighty Brunch, Indeed.

This past Sunday I hosted a brunch to benefit Charity: Water. I’m heading out on Thursday to Camp Mighty and every camper is tasked with fundraising at least $200 for this charity so that the entirety of the campers can raise at least $20,000. Some people are selling wares or teaching workshops or drawing pictures. I decided to make 192 mini muffins and turn them into a tree.

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We made other things, too. Here’s the spread…

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Kale and apple salad with poppyseed dressing, truffled deviled eggs, breakfast casserole, bacon roasted potatoes, The Source of All Bacon, fruit salad, muffin topiary (almond, pumpkin and cardamom pear) and Thank You Toffee.

I asked one of my friends to shoot pics as I assumed I wouldn’t have the attention span to do so. He did. Not that his attention span is much better.

Here’s one of me and his very patient wife, Stacy…

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Here’s one of just Stacy looking at him like she does…

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Here’s one of him (Andy) that I hope that she captured…

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I’m getting off track.

So, I hosted a brunch and lots of my friends attended. I was a little self conscious and didn’t want the party to be too big, in case I failed at hostessing. Mostly I just invited besties, people who have held my hair as I partied too hard and people who know my snarky side. Or any combination of above.

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Not a bad turnout, I say.

Greg and Moran came and brought their cherub of a son, Dashiel. Here he is with our fur baby, Shiro.

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Behind them you can see Dash’s mom alongside Casey and Marek. I think Marek is maybe driving the convo somewhat.

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My sweet puppy tried to scam my good friend, Megan, on whom Shiro could probably smell “total sucker for dogs.”

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My lovely beau, Clayton, offered his scrumptious breakfast sandwiches made fresh to order. Here’s a sample… Toasted sourdough spread with spicy mustard, topped with arugula, cilantro, bacon, sauteed onions and jalapenos…with an egg over easy. Or as I like to call it, “The Reason I am With That Guy.”

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There were endless Mimosas.

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Very adjacent to the donation bowl.

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And anytime a big, crystal bowl is at a party…someone has to make this joke:

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I love my friends. Thanks, guys, for helping me make my goal and giving me a most excellent send off to Camp Mighty. See you on the flip side!

Kitchen equipment advice needed

I need a food processor.

My last one, may she rest in peace, was burned out from one too many batches of hummus. I bought her in great condition at a thrift store for $10 ten years ago. I need a new one. I’ve needed a new one for almost a year. I thought my Vitamix could perform some of the same duties but….it’s just not the same. (Y’all, I overheat that thing nearly every time I use it.) I need a food processor.

Halp!

They come in all sorts of capacities and I have zero idea of which one to buy. There’s nothing worse than having one that’s too small…but it seems that one that is too big would be a mistake, too. Here are some of my contenders (each pic links to Amazon for more information):

Cuisinart, 11-cup. It also comes in an array of colors ranging from purple to red to stainless steel. $160 to $200 depending on color. It also comes in a 9-cup version.

Old-school style Cuisinart, 11-cup. $129. There’s a 9-cup version for $99.

Big ‘ole 14-cup Cuisinart. $199.

My needs

  • Right capacity for my workflow. (Mentioned in my intro.)
  • A workhorse. (I make my own tahini and hummus about once a month.)
  • Inexpensive. (Meaning, I can’t buy whatever is the “Vitamix” version of a food processor. Unless one of these are that….then…..rock on.)

I’m open to suggestions or additional considerations I seem to have missed.

Food on plates, y’all

We ate.

And ate and ate.

Then ate some more.

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It was absurd. We took eating to an artform.

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No, really. One day…just because it was there…we snarfed Mondrian cake.

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When we went to Tartine, I got a Morning Bun, just as I was told to do. Then, just because it was there, I got a cup of seasonal bread pudding. Take a closer look at that action…

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I’d never guess that I’d voluntarily eat a sardine but when Chez Panisse touts a prix fixe… That night it was bucatini with sardines, pine nuts and all sorts of goodies I can’t remember.

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Truthfully, some of our foods were on jackets and sweaters….not just plates.

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And sometimes food only needed fingers.

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Paper plates and raw seafood, y’all.

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Of course I had to visit Bi-Rite Creamery.

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And we ate food in bowls. This was, maybe, the best breakfast I’ve ever had. Ever. In my life. And I’m a fat kid. Who works in the restaurant world. Just. Saying.

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Mushroom marshmallow

Chocolate lavender macaron

Chocolate & vanilla "adult" variety

So…yeah. You get the point. I’ll stop now.

Napa Valley, y’all

Of course Food On Trees was a fantastic attraction in our 3.5 days in Napa Valley. Another draw for us? Wine, of course!

We first visited Odisea, a wine company formed from a partnership between Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz (a couple of oenophiles from Oklahoma). It is situated in an unassuming corporate park location, but once inside I realized I was walking right into where the magic happens.

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We tasted wine that had been aging in their barrels anywhere from 2 weeks to two years. Was mind blowing to walk into a warehouse stacked six high and twelve deep and maybe 24 long with beautiful oak barrels storing all manner of lovely liquid grapes from many years and varietals. As we were tasting through the funhouse, Adam said,

“I need to go visit a vineyard this afternoon. Do you two want to come with?”

Uh, yeah.

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We hopped in his truck and headed out to Phoenix Ranch Vineyard. Brian Phoenix greeted us at the gate and walked us through several rows of grapes. Some of his grapes go to folks like Odisea or other wine makers and Phoenix make some themselves. My favorite was the viognier varietal which fruited super-tasty grapes that were also gorgeous.

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Later in the week we bought a bottle of Phoenix Ranch Viognier at Back Room Wines. It’ll be nice to revisit that vineyard in a couple of years when the bottle gets uncorked. We’ll taste the sun and soil and smile.

Adam graciously scheduled another winery/ranch for us to visit the next day: Black Sears. We made the graceful, winding drive up Howell Mountain just outside of St. Helena to the tip top where Chris met us with two glasses and a bottle. We tasted and hiked up the syrah-growing sandy soil to this vantage…

I advise seeing wine country with a doctor.

Of all the wine experiences we had while in California, Black Sears is probably the story I return to most often…

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Eating cabernet grapes while drinking cabernet wine. Cool stuff. This photo also reminds me of the conversation we were having at that very moment. In the distance we could hear the workers destemming grapes that had been brought in during the week. Like any laborers, they were blasting music to get them through the day and as we were tasting cabernet, the soulful vocal stylings of Eddie Money filled the air.

Those wine boys may know a lot about grapes but I TOTALLY named way more Eddie Money song titles.

More drinking and tasting happened in those 3.5 days. How much? Nearly 80 wines before we arrived in San Francisco. Dear Napa Valley…I hope you have some sort of liver repair service.

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Food on trees is my new favorite thing

We are on day 4 of 10 of our vacation and the thing I can’t seem to get enough of is food on trees. I know that Oklahoma has lots of peaches and a few apples, but it’s far more exciting to see GRAPEFRUITS hanging on a branch. Or lemons. Or POMEGRANATES. Sorry to scream fruit.

POMEGRANATES!

Y’all (when you see me use that word, know that it means I’m about to channel my inner hick), I made Clayton pull the car over into a person’s private residential driveway so I could go lay my eyes on what I was certain was a citrus grove of some sort. The ground was covered in fallen fruit but upon inspection the trees were loaded with something that looked really foreign and not citrusy. I picked one off the ground, turned it around in my hand and picked at a crack in what seemed to be a husk. Gasp! It was this!

I just picked that. I am nerding out.

Walnuts, y’all! In a tree! On the side of the highway!

Last night I jumped a fence to determine what a certain tree was fruiting (persimmon) and as I was crawling back over Clayton noticed a fig tree right next to it. JUST SITTING THERE. I’m a fruit thief of the highest order! It was a bit of a theme for the Napa leg of our trip.

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Found an orange tree…..stole oranges!

Found an apple tree….stole apples!

Found an olive tree….stole nothing. I’ve already learned that lesson.

Today’s another traveling/settling day as we transition to the chaos of San Francisco. Hoping to figure out a way to get Napa Valley photos from my antique Canon Rebel to Flickr so I can share the good stuff.

A housewarming

On Labor Day weekend we hosted a Housewarming Party for ourselves. The point wasn’t to get gifts but to get krunk with a random assortment of people who we love and/or think are nifty. Clayton knows half of Oklahoma City and I know the other half. With that in mind, we were really stingy with the guest list and figured that we might have to have a few more parties to eventually circulate all of our friends through this new house of ours. I think the guest list happened like this…

“You get 30 and I get 30. That’s it. This house can only hold 60 drunk people.”

According to the clock, around 10:15 my drunk self had a sudden recollection that I was supposed to be shooting party pics.

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Did you know that if you tilt the camera to the side then it means the shot is arty? I love this pic because Audrey is looking at her husband with lots of affection. I also love that Clayton is looking at me like, “Why are you taking my picture?” The answer, my love? Because you are smoking hot. Now I have additional photographic evidence of that fact.

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Hey James! Leaning to the side didn’t get you out of the pic. Hee hee. See the two women talking to each other? Yeah…later on this new friendship would fill my camera drive with photos that’ll never make it to this blog.

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That’s Mike looking at Christine like RAWR. I love those two together!

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More love birds. Twenty-five years as of this year!

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Clayton makes a really, really boozy sangria. Two pitchers were created for the party.

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After we killed pitcher #1, I dumped the boozy berries into a bowl for snacking. Those strawberry slices actually burned. They burned GOOD.

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Meanwhile in the living room, Alex and nice-stranger-whose-name-maybe-starts-with-a-J-or-B, found some of our many musical instruments and began jamming a bit. I even grabbed my banjo and held it whilst wishing I could play a single chord.

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This is what happens when you think you’ve shot enough photos and you set your camera down and leave the room.

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Jenny has one of the brightest smiles (and souls) I’ve ever seen. Kristy is similar. It’s no wonder they buddied up so quickly. This photo is severely edited to protect reputations and corneas. Most of those photos are so….um….candid…that I can’t in good conscience post them here. But they involve drums, butts, fruits and nuts. 🙂

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I found the fruit like this the next morning and giggled like crazy. Later in the morning I scrolled through the camera contents and things made more sense. Also, I had to burn that camera.

I’m a little irritated with myself that I didn’t get pics earlier because there was a whole different slate of people who were here then. And a big, beautiful table full of beautiful food. More people came later and we all tested the strength of the back porch. Until 1:30am.

We had a party from 6pm to 1:30am. We rule.

One of my beautiful friends, K.C., brought us this:

Best gift.

And we were gifted three orchids, who are ALL still alive for the time being.

OH! Let’s have a moment that K.C. gifted us her song lyrics (view the song in iTunes here) and three friends brought orchids. When I first got to know K.C. she had just released her album, Orchid. I’m sure there’s a message from the Universe in there somewhere.

Cooking soap

One of the things I love about Pinterest is the craftiness it has returned to my life. I grew up making all sorts of things. Little Sheri loved crafts, cooking and sewing. She made cookies, pies, hook rugs, doll clothes and all sorts of things with her grandma when she was 10. When she was a teenager and had many more responsibilities, she reveled in making dinner from the Lincoln County Home Extension anniversary cookbook she found in her dad’s cookbook collection.

Strangely, that all went away in my 20s when I got married and started my family. I think the “making things” for me was less about domestication and more about how I expressed my creativity. When my “spare” time was filled with matrimony and children (and the rise of The Internet), I got diverted from making things. Then I started my career path and any spare creativity at that point was spent at work.

Fast forward through several years of life shifting. Fast forward all the way to last year when Pinterest sprung onto the social-whatever scene.

I LOVED IT!

And because of it, I’ve rediscovered and just-plain-discovered new things to create.

And 9 months ago I created a big batch of body soap for about $3. I just now ran out. So…this weekend…I made another batch. I love that I can save so much waste and avoid a teensy bit of the plastic bottle consumption that is too big a part of my life.

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Cast of characters! 2 bars of soap, bottle of glycerin, a stock pot and a gallon of distilled water.

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Grate the soaps on a cheese grater.

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Pour in the water and turn on the burner to medium or medium low. You won’t be boiling anything. You’ll be heating the water and occasionally stirring the mixture until the soap melts. At some point, add the glycerin. Preferably add it in the beginning so you don’t forget.

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The recipe I found said to get vegetable glycerin but I just bought the first bottle I found and it works just fine. For all I know it is make from virgins and kittens.

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Heat and stir occasionally until you don’t see any soap bits. Just a soapy soup the color of whatever you put in your pot.

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Look, Ma! No hands!

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Look, Ma! Extra hands!

Once slightly cool (only so you don’t burn yourself), pour your soap into containers. I reuse a bodywash bottle and then the rest have in the past gone into glass jars. This time I’m trying the used gallon jug for storage to see how it fares. I’ll keep you posted.

Body Soap
1 gallon distilled water
2 bars grated soap 
2 Tbsp glycerin oil

Put all this in a stock pot over medium heat. Stir occassionally until soap is melted. Pour into containers and dance a jig that you’ve just saved yourself about $40 in soap expenditures and kept at least 7 new plastic bottles out of the whole waste system.

A tale of two dolmas

Recently, we were shopping at our favorite local asian market and stumbled upon dolmas. I stacked a few jars of these treats in the cart with a twinkle in my eye and Clayton said, “Meh… just get enough for you. I don’t like the ones in the jar.”

I scoffed and thought him to be foolish for non-fresh dolmas are all the same. Actually, jarred were probably better because canned foods are kind of evil. A few aisles down, we stumbled across the canned dolmas of the same brand. Just to be right…I put back a jar of mine so that we had one of each.

A taste test was born!

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From the outside, the jar wins every day. What would you prefer? A pretty little jar full of deep green fragrant oil and lemony, creamy dolmas? Or a military-grade can of hidden-from-sight dolmas? What are you hiding in your closed up can, little dolmas?

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Ewww. That’s what. Jelly, gooey, white rice starchy weirdness.

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But, on the plate, we can see my jarred dolmas look darker and drier. (They were.) The canned dolmas were way creamier, more lemony and there were more dolmas in the can for the same price.

So much better that we polished off the can and put the jarred dolmas back in the fridge for someone else to enjoy. Someone who doesn’t yet know that not all dolmas are created equal.

Sonnenblumenbrot

This is my new favorite bread. It is called Sonnenblumenbrot.

It has a little ridged pattern and then a cross across the top.

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It is lovingly crafted by John McBryde at Prairie Thunder Baking Company.

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It is full of sunflower seeds.

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I slice it with Clayton’s cool, old bread saw. (Yes, I just made that up. I have no idea what it’s called.)

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I put the delicious Sonnenblumenbrot into my grody toaster. Note to self: check Pinterest for toaster cleaning method.

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Then I put my tahini on it. Making my own tahini will one day help me break even on buying a Vitamix.

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And some sort of fruity thing. This day it was Peach Butter.

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It is my favorite breakfast right now.

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I bought both the bread and butter from Matt Burch at Urban Agrarian.

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This is not a sponsored post and the only discount I get is from my Keep it Local OK card, which I also purchased all on my own, too. If you live in Oklahoma, you should, too. 🙂

Food Science

So….my son and I started a little project earlier this year.

His favorite meal is a plate of plain pasta, cut up fruit and maybe some shredded cheese. Homeboy likes to keep things simple and while I would love for him to keep that life skill, I do think he needs to branch out with regards to his nutrition. And by branch out I mean Eat Things That Are Green But Are Not Candy.

Thus….the Scientific Journal was born!

I told him that he needed to eat vegetables so that he could grow up strong and healthy. He was hesitant in every way a typical 7 year old would be, but after hearing The Plan he was on board, or at least as on board as a 7-year-old skeptic could be.

The Plan: We would go to Whole Foods every couple of weeks to gather specimens. He would pick a new vegetable to try and pick a vegetable or fruit for ME to try. Then, we would take our specimens home for cooking, testing and journaling.

On our outing he picked broccoli for himself and dinosaur kale for his mom. See…his hook, his tipping point, was that he could pick ANYTHING for Mom to eat. The uglier the better, I suspect. He chose Dinosaur Kale for Mom. Broccoli for himself.

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We decided that trying it in three different preparations would give us a good idea of what broccoli would be. Raw, steamed and sauteed/seared is what we went with.

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I was sure to have him help cook.

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In the end, he had a preference.

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With all the business this year, we haven’t journaled very much since this first experiment (we’ve only added purple potatoes to the list), but looking forward to more. I assume that as a result of this project, he now will eat broccoli in any simple form but preferred it to be a little bit roasty/toasty.