Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Thanksgiving Week Hikes

I am thankful and very very full.  I spent the last 10 days hanging out with family and terrific friends and ate way too much good food.  

My Thanksgiving week began with a camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park.  Something about being in nature makes me hungry.  On my night to cook, we made marinated flank steak, rosemary garlic red potatoes, Brussels sprouts and apple salad, black beans and cocktails.  I brought a homemade German chocolate birthday cake because I believe everybody should have cake and beer in honor of their day! 
After climbing, we walked the Barker Dam Nature Trail.
The dam was constructed by early cattle ranchers in the 1900s.
On Thanksgiving Day I went for an early hike up Iron Mountain before heading over to my sister's for the feast.  This was my sister and her girlfriend's first time hosting Thanksgiving and as first timers do,  they planned for an over-abundance of food.  I filled half my plate with salad and thought I was being healthy, that was until dessert was served ... pumpkin pie and chocolate peanut butter squares.
Iron Mountain peak looking southeast.
Sierra Madre, or as Sara calls it "Mayberry," is a picturesque town near Pasadena and is the starting point for the Mt. Wilson trail which was established in April 1864.  The summit is 5,715 feet in elevation and a mere 7.0 miles from the trailhead.  Every spring Sierra Madre sponsors a trail race to the summit.  I think I'm in for that.  On a lovely Saturday morning, The Doctor Professor, the Mrs., Baby Emma, Jack Jack, Joe Frazier and myself set out for the first post appropriately named First Water. Afterwards, we lunched at Casa del Rey where I sucked down two margaritas and an afternoon nap ensued shortly thereafter.
First Water - Mt. Wilson
Sweet potato gnocchi to ward off Monday
morning blues.
 Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I am feeling a little melancholy and thought making a comfort food dish would help ease me into tomorrow.  

2 large sweet potatoes
1 1/2  to 2 cups gluten-free flour ( I used a mix of brown rice and quinoa flours)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon organic maple syrup (I use Trader Joe's Grade B)
3-4 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade (big fancy word meaning to cut into thin strips)

Sweet potato gnocchi
1.  Bake the sweet potatoes in a 450° oven for 40 minutes.  Allow potatoes to cool completely before handling.
2.  In a large bowl use a hand-held potato masher  (a forks works just as well), mash the sweet potatoes until they are smooth.
3.  Then add the egg, parmesan cheese, cinnamon and salt/pepper  and about 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix with a spoon.  Once mixed well, knead until dough forms.  Then gradually add more flour until the dough is not sticky and can be rolled out.
4.  Using your hands divide the dough into four equal section and roll each section into a long thin strand (think rope diameter), then cut strands 1/2 inch pieces or pillows and with a fork from the top of pillow, press or roll down and away to form the classic gnocchi look.
5.  In a large pot bring water to a boil and gently add gnocchi.  Cook until they float to the top, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove with a mesh strainer and serve with maple syrup sage butter.
6.  While gnocchi is cooking, melt 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter is a saute pan.  Once the butter has melted, add maple syrup, sage and a bit of fresh ground pepper and pour over gnocchi and top with parmesan cheese.

To freeze the uncooked gnocchi, place "pillows" on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer.  Once gnocchi is frozen, transfer to plastic bag.  To cook frozen gnocchi follow the same cooking instructions above.

Sadly I cannot take credit for this beautiful dish or picture
but I imagine this is what mine would look like.  - Gourmet

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homemade Mozzarella and Da' Club

Me: Cheese Dick and Lady Julie, I'm ready to make more cheese, what about y'all? A blue perhaps?

Fred: CheeseBeeoch, I've been a little late replying, sorry. Was dealing with a raging cold all weekend and otha shee-ot.  I'm down to make some cheese m'lady.  Blue cheese would be rad.  I have some gouda doses in the freezer too.  No recipe, tho. CheeseDickie

CheeseDickie: yo yo YO CB, I've been in touch with the owner of Alesmith (he be makin cheese too) who told me about these foo-s.  I think we should branch out and make our own damn club just so we name our members.  String-cheese, Cheese-whiz, Queso-what?, etc. Then have meetings at different brewpubs-wine joints every month and sample our damn sheet-ot.  We gonna need a name and t-shirts. Cheese Dick out.

CheeseBeeoch:  Love it!  Our own club!! Let's do it!!  I'm already thinking that my Friday nights are cheese making nights since I'm a singleton. ... Re: Beer Week ... let's get something on the books so y'all can get a sitter, etc.  xoxoxo Cheese Beeoch out.

CD: Alright! Well we're going to need a name fo' Shawna fo' Da Club.  At some point we're going to need a Louise to join the club so that we can also have a Cheese Louise.  I see the names as being a driving force, if not the very reason, for Da Club.  #2 is cheese. #3 is beverage. ... I think we should plan our meetings to correspond with one of the thousands of beer and wine events going on each month ... if the tasks grow too large I will have to change my name to Big Cheese Dick and take on a Little Dick as as assistant.  Right now we only have a Dick and Bitch, so let's get crackin'. CD

CB: I'm peeing my pants right now. ... Re: Beer Week, my vote is for PPOB on Friday.  

Shawna: CD & CB, Friday night we could do the PP one and then Urge [later on..].  Cheesy Pleasy

CD: Cheese Dick and Baby Swiss are down with PPOB on Friday night.  What time are you making like toilet paper (& rolling out).  We were thinking about hitting it early 5:30pm or whatever ... easy cheesy .... I'm going to bring a lil' slice of homemade parm and my gray-ta to supplement that pizza pie. CD
Insalata caprese with homemade mozzarella and home grown basil.
My first venture into cheese making with Fred (aka Cheese Dick) was this easy 30 minute mozzarella, which is the perfect mate to home grown basil and tomatoes.  We convened on a summer Sunday afternoon and in no time had made not only mozzarella, but a sharp cheddar that would need to age a few months before we could taste it.
Fred aka Cheese Dick cutting the curd.
Curds after draining the whey.
"Processing" the mozzarella.
Quick 30 Minute Mozzarella
by The Greening of Gavin

1 gallon and a splash (4 litres) of whole milk 
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1/4 teaspoon de-ionized salt (if you can find cheese salt - use that)
1/4 teaspoon rennet (where to buy cheese supplies in San Diego)
1 1/2 cup bottled water 

Stainless stock or soup pot
Microwave safe bowl
Slotted spoon

Step by step instructions here.

The original recipe and steps with pictures from Ricki Carroll here.

I encourage you to read Gavin's post and review both sets of instructions before beginning. Not because this is a difficult recipe or takes a long time to make, but because between the two of us - Cheese Dick and Cheese Bitch - we were a bit excited and our steps got out of sync a little bit.  The mozzarella still tasted better than anything store bought.

Me and "Cheese Dick" goofing around.
Best summer foods.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Homemade Coffee Creamer and San Elijo

Birthdays are special and growing up my Mom made every effort to make sure that my sisters and I had amazing birthdays.  She orchestrated fantastic pool and beach parties, made amazing homemade cakes and organized unique games to keep the kids busy.

I remember one year she made a pink Barbie cake, layers of pink frosted cake with a Barbie sticking out of the top - I think the cake was suppose to represent her dress.  I also remember her greasing up a watermelon with Crisco and throwing it in the pool and we had to heave it out onto the deck, which sounds easy enough right?  You try it...slippery little sucker.

This year some of my wonderful friends joined me at San Elijo to celebrate my birthday with cocktails and crudite (which included homemade cheese and brew!), a beautiful sunset and late night smores.  I'm a lucky girl.  Inside my birthday card, Dad wrote "Last one before the big 4-0!" and included a tissue. And to that, I said bring it!  In this 39th year, I have grown and become more of the person I want to be and I am grateful for the journey thus far.
A few friends and I enjoying a beautiful birthday sunset.
Before the invasion of corporate coffee, Nicoletti's Coffeehouse on the UCSB campus was the spot to grab a cup of joe.  Most afternoons I would get a mocha and a slice of zucchini bread (umm ... hello freshman fifteen).  After paying dues working at other food service places on campus (such as the food truck before trucks got all gourmet), I finally got the opportunity to work at Nicoletti's.  Thus began my love affair with coffee.

As an addict of the processed coffee creamer, I thought I would never find an alternative that would satisfy my desire for a rich creamer until I came across this recipe on Deliciously Organic. Since I am trying to eat fewer processed foods, I thought I would give Carrie's homemade creamer a try.  I admit at first I wasn't crazy about the homemade creamer.  It lacked something ... although I could never put my finger on what was missing. I went back to the processed stuff once and realized how fake tasting it is and since then my love of the homemade creamer has grown and become a full-fledged affair.
Homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer

1 cup organic heavy cream
1 cup milk (I use Trader Joe's Grain Milk, but use whatever milk you like.  If you like super creamy creamer, then I encourage you to use whole milk)
4 Tablespoons of real maple syrup (I prefer Trader Joe's Grade B dark amber)
1 vanilla bean

1.  In a medium saucepan, warm milk and whisk in maple syrup.  While the milk simmers, split vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds and add to milk.  Whisk again to distribute the seeds throughout the milk then add the vanilla bean to the milk.

2.  Turn off heat and cover and steep for 30 minutes.  Pour creamer into glass jar and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quinoa Corn Cakes and Soccer

I sat on the sofa peeling peaches for canning and kept an eye on the Women's World Cup final game.  In retrospect, yielding a knife may not have been such a good idea as I sat there with a pounding heart, jumping up and down at every missed opportunity and occasionally screaming obscenities at the television.  Thankfully the peaches and my fingers are fine, however I can't say the same for Team USA.  Good game ladies ... next time!

My soccer career started when I was a young girl and ended prematurely due to tearing my ACL in my early 30's, which required surgery and a long and tedious recovery (once cleared for exercise, I promptly went and broke my 5th metacarpal, which required surgery.  Two of 'em within 6 months is not fun! )

Me - I think around 6 y.o.
The defensive line of my high school's team was known as "The Curb," as we stood tall and proud at 5'2" and under. I still remember the last game of my senior year and the tears shed when the game was over much like Team USA.

"The Curb": Terra, me, and Jessie

Breakfast.  The most important meal of the day and often the most difficult for me.  A gluten-free bowl of cereal is some-what tough to come by and I can only eat so much oatmeal.  The gluten-free cereal options are getting better, but these cereals tend to lack natural fiber and are less filling, so by mid morning I'm hungry ... again.

On a recent episode of Giada at Home, she featured grilled corn cakes and I thought with a few modifications those would make a great gluten-free breakfast!

Quinoa Corn Cakes

1 heaping cup quinoa, cooked and cooled (I usually have quinoa leftover from dinner)
1/2 -3/4 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1/2 cup shredded, light mexican cheese blend
1 egg
Handful of garlic chives, chopped (I found these at the Farmer's Market in Golden Hills and absolutely fell in love with them.)
Pinch of salt and pepper

1.  In a food processor, add quinoa and corn and pulse for 30 seconds or so.  At this point you will want to check the consistency of the mixture and add more quinoa if too moist or more corn if too dry.

2.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse again until well combined and forming a loose ball in the processor.

3.  Lightly spray frying pan with oil and form 3" diameter cakes and cook until heated through.

4.  Serve with a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and fruit of your choice.

Quinoa corn cake, non-fat Greek yogurt and raspberries

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gluten- Free Lemon Bars and Rock Climbing

Many years ago, "my favorite mistake" (Doesn't everyone have one of those? An ex that was good but terribly wrong for you?) took me rock climbing.  I am fairly athletic and playing sports comes naturally to me.  I enjoy a good soccer match or ultimate frisbee game, so I thought after a few sessions at the rock climbing gym I would be ready to tackle rock outdoors. Not so much.
Outcrop near Lunch Rock
This time around, a different boy (... mind you I had a crush on this boy in high school. He had a crush on me but never asked me out.  Thanks to FB we've reconnected after 20 years and finally went on that first date).  Anyhow, this boy is addicted to climbing.  It is his life.  I'm curious.  What is the draw to rock climbing?

One of my health coaching clients and I met at a local rock climbing gym for a belay lesson and a 3-hour clinic.  I was not hooked yet, but thought I would meet up with some folks at Mission Trails to see how climbing outdoors differs from the gym.  There were eight of us that met up at Lunch Rock for Rock Climbing 101. Paul and his lovely wife, Raquel, set up the top ropes, offered helpful suggestions and were incredibly patient as I worked my way up a 5.4 route.  Success.
Dave contemplating his next move.
In my early 30's, I developed an intolerance to gluten.  Some of my favorite foods - like Pizza Port - would cause me such gastrointestinal distress, I would feel bloated, crampy, and well ... be a little gaseous.  Ok, ok, Tane, alot gassy.  I was tested for allergies and while I not *allergic* to gluten, I am sensitive to it.

What does that mean?  Well, I lack the enzymes to properly digest the gluten composite proteins but luckily for me, gluten free products are popping up in major grocery chains, so I can make my own gluten-free pizza at home!

Everyone loves lemon bars.  The smell of lemons always reminds me of early summer.  I made these for a potluck party and they were a huge hit!
Gluten-Free Lemon Bars
from Annalise Roberts, Gluten-Free Baking Classics

Gluten-free Flour Mixture for Cakes, Pies, Muffins and Cookies
2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 cup gluten-free flour mixture
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in center of oven.  Grease bottom of 8-inch baking pan (I used 9-inch because I needed more bars) with cooking spray or butter and dust with rice flour.
2.  Put flour, sugar, xanthan gum in mixing bowl and whisk to blend.  Cube butter into small pieces and add to mixture in small batches and mix on low speed until crumbly (I found that using my hands worked much better). Pour dough into baking pan and press down to cover the bottom.
3. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from oven.

Lemon Filling:
3 large room temperature eggs
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour mixture
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (I used two lemons ... which is probably more than 2 teaspoons, but I love a strong lemon flavor)
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
powdered sugar

1. Beat eggs in large mixing bowl until foamy, then add the remaining ingredients through lemon extract and beat until well blended.  Pour onto partially baked crust.
2.  Bake in oven on center rack for 20 minutes or until set.  Cool on wire rack and cut into 16 squares. Remove squares and place on serving plate.  Sift powdered sugar over the top.  Serve at room temperature.  Store in refrigerator.
Samples. :) 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Camping and Good Eats

My family's camping trips to Bow Willow exposed me to the joys of campfire, Smores, and sleeping under the stars.  The adults would host frisbee golf tournaments while the kids hiked up the river ravine at dusk looking for gourds or played hide and seek among the desert landscape.  My favorite memory of those trips is of me introducing myself to a lantern.  I burned the shit out my palm and had a nasty blister for days.  I was definitely not friends with the lantern.  Back then, the campgrounds were primitive. Since my childhood, the area been designated for dune buggy and 4-wheel use and the campgrounds have been developed but I would like to think that I would find my way to the rock formations that I explored in my youth.

Later on in my childhood, Mother Mary, Mother Jean, Mother Patty (because you could never just yell "Mom", you had to say their first name too to get their attention) and all us kids - me, my two sisters, Linda, Steph, John V., John R., Susie, Karen and various childhood friends - would pack up the vans and motorhome and take off for exotic places like Lake Mead, Picacho State Park, Martinez Lake and Fisherman's Landing.  These places became known as "The River" and provided me with life lessons like how to swear, how to apply Sun-In to lighten my hair, how to moon the Coast Guard chopper, and how the ratio is always one beer to one water to one aspirin.
Steph, Jani, me and Linda on our way to the "Jungle Cruise"
Every morning, we would wake up in the "Hilton" (a gigantic green Coleman tent) to Mother Jean saying, "Who wants to ski?"  The lucky first one got to ski when the water was at its best - glass.  There are certain foods that I equate with these childhood camping trips. Captain Crunch cereal.  Grape Crush soda.  Doritos with ranch dip.  Maybe because Mom only allowed us to eat that crap while camping because at home it was Cheerios, milk and grapes.

Fast forward to many years later and we're camping for the Doctor Professor's birthday at Big Sycamore Canyon (which is a great little spot north of Malibu) and as the sun hits our tents in the morning, it was Emma calling out "Aunt Allie" that happily forced me out of my cozy tent.  Now as a grown-up, my camping food has become more gourmet - ostrich egg scramble and good strong Kona coffee, a firm distinction between day beer and night beer, and a Friday night dinner that is fit to serve at a dinner party ... under the stars of course.

Doctor Professor prepping the breakfast egg

Best damn bloody mary mix!
Spiced Rubbed Salmon, Rice and Lentil Pilaf, Mixed Green Salad with Berries and Maple Leaf Cookies

2 1/2 lbs. wild salmon, fillet with skin on
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

1.  Make several 1/2 inch scores on the skin side of the salmon to ensure even cooking.  Flip salmon over and drizzle with EVOO.  Rub 2 or more tablespoons of spice rub on salmon.
2.  Grill 10-12 minutes depending on temperature of the grill, amount of salmon and desired doneness.

Spiced Rub Salmon

Rice and Lentil Pilaf:
1 package of Trader Joe's Jasmine Brown Rice (Green box in the freezer section), cooked (4 minutes in microwave)
1 pint of organic cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of dry roasted, unsalted pine nuts
Sprinkle of goat cheese crumbles
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Dash of sea salt and pepper
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dried green lentils

1. Before camping trip, combine first 8 ingredients through EVOO, in a tupperware container and pack in cooler.
2. Night of dinner, boil 2 cups of water and add 1 cup of lentils, cook 10 minutes and drain.  Add cooked lentils to rice mixture, stir to combine and reheat the other ingredients.

Mixed Green Salad with Berries for Rome (Rome calls this my special salad):
2 packages of Trader Joe's Organic Spinach
1/2 small red onion, sliced
Sprinkle of dry roasted, unsalted slivered almonds
1 cup organic strawberries, sliced
Balsamic vinaigrette

Maple Leaf Cookies from Trader Joe's (these are so addicting)

Friday Night Dinner a la Allie

Friday, March 11, 2011


Winters in San Diego tend to be mild and the change in color is ever so slight that you may even miss it.  Normally I make one pot of chili and homemade gluten-free cornbread during the first rainstorm, then the weather turns warm again as winter fades to an early spring and my soup making days are over.   But every few years or so we have an El Nino event and we get our fair share of rainy, stormy weather.  I'm not sure if this is one of those years or not, but this week it rained on Monday and by Thursday it is back to our typical warm, sunny days.  I ain't complaining ...

During the winter, even our winter, I yearn for warm hearty soups.  Down home comfort in a bowl. This winter I have been experimenting with swiss chard and came upon this wonderful hearty soup on Pork, Knife & Spoon penned by Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl & the Chef.

Chard and Sausage Soup with Chickpeas and Tomatoes 
adapted from Pork, Knife & Spoon by Shauna Ahern

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Sweet Italian Sausages*, casings removed
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15-ounce can organic diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can of organic chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups of organic, low sodium, gluten-free chicken stock
4 large chard leaves, stems removed and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium size dutch on medium-high heat, add extra virgin olive oil and when the oil starts to ripple add the sausage and cook stirring occasionally until the sausage is thoroughly brown.  Remove the sausage and put onto a plate covered with a paper towel. Discard most of the fat from the dutch oven.

Add the onion and garlic to the hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent.  Then add the tomatoes and garbanzo beans and cook until they are heated through, around 5 minutes or so.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Then turn down the heat to medium and let the soup simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Then add swiss chard and cook until they are wilted.  Turn off heat and serve with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

* Alternatively, you may wish to use chicken or turkey sausage.  I made this one night on a whim and could not remember if the recipe called for sweet or hot, so I use a link of each and the heat brought a new layer to the soup that I really enjoyed.

Next up ... guest blog by the Doctor Professor on brewing beer ... looking forward to tasting his next batch from Emma's Bliss Brewery.

Friday, January 28, 2011


During the summers of my childhood, my parents would pack up the van for our annual trip to Indiana to visit family.  The long, dry, flat Texas road stretched on for miles as my sisters and I played Old Maid, slug bug, name the states and capitals or some made up alphabet game.  Two days in the van seem like forever when you are only eight years old. One incident sticks out clearly in all of our minds - little Alexis sitting by herself in the back of the van lighting matches and throwing them out the window. We would relentlessly ask our parents "When are we gonna get there?" Yet somehow these trips spurred my love of the road and I no longer ask when are we gonna get there, but when are we heading out on the road.
A young Bassett family.
Kiersten and Tyler - Santa Monica to Connecticut
Kiersten and I met while working for a small environmental non-profit in Santa Monica called American Oceans Campaign.  I shared a small one bedroom with her and her dog, Tyler.  My "room" was in the dining room and most nights Tyler slept with me on that little twin bed.  I miss him.  He was a great dog.  After working and living in LA for a year, and never going east of the 405, the organization went broke and both Kiersten and I lost our jobs.  I moved home to San Diego and Kiersten headed back east.

The roadtrip began in Santa Monica on one sunny day in late January.  Our drive across the country to Connecticut took five days, with stopovers in Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City, Nashville, and someplace in West Virginia.  I had travelled on I-70 (Utah, Colorado, Kansas) several times before and highly recommend taking a roadtrip through that part of the country.  The red rocks of Utah and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado will amaze and inspire you.

Somewhere between California and Utah.
Tane  - San Diego to Denver
She always said she would move home.  I never believed her.  Until she did.  After weeks of packing up her place in San Diego (she had like 11 boxes of kitchen stuff!  I guess if you worked at William & Sonoma, you would own every kitchen gadget), we loaded up her Civic and hit the road, each taking a turn driving or playing DJ.  Our roadtrip was short and sweet.  We wanted to get to Denver and have some fun!  I do love that town.

Me and Tane on our way to see my boyfriend, Keith.
After 10 short days of living large in Colorado, she dropped me off at the airport ... we hugged and cried (and in true Allie fashion, I continued to cry through the security line and most of the flight home).  Life in San Diego without my best friend would be ... well not the same. I mean who am I suppose to call on a Tuesday night and say "I need to have some vino, let's go out!"

Helsa - San Diego to Davis
Helsa and I met at Salk where we worked in a research lab together.  She was moving her stuff from San Diego to her father's house in Davis.  She, herself is going to be bi-coastal for awhile, traveling between DC and Davis.  I think her father and mine would get along splendidly.  They both flirt with the waitresses.  San Diego to Davis is approximately an eight hour drive and is best done at night to avoid seeing the multiple cattle ranches dotting the highway.  Unfortunately, the darkness does little to mask the smell of what we couldn't see.  Davis is small bike-friendly University town, so ditch the car and take to the road on two-wheels.   

What road is next?  Santa Monica to Seattle?