Monday, September 29, 2008

September Daring Baker ~ Lavash Crackers

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread cookbook, and also to create a dip/spread/salsa/relish to accompany it as long as they were vegan and gluten free!

Our hosts this month are alternative Daring Bakers, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and Shel, from Musings From The Fish Bowl. Please refer to their blogs for the Lavash cracker. They have non gluten free and gluten free versions of the recipe posted.

I followed the non gluten free version, and created whole wheat herb crackers, using fresh rosemary and thyme from my garden. This was the first time I made crackers, and they were fun to make, and fun to eat!

I decided to make three easy dips to accompany the crackers -- Roasted Sweet Red Pepper Dip, White Bean Dip, and Fresh Tomato Salsa.

First, I roasted four red peppers on a cookie sheet in my oven at 375 degrees, turning them from time to time until they were wilted soft and the skins were charred. I also roasted three large cloves of garlic at the same time.

After the peppers were roasted, cooled, the peels and seeds were discarded, and I whirled the red flesh in my food processor along with one of the roasted garlic cloves, a little dash of salt and about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Pour into a container to serve. That's it!

Then I opened a can of cannelini ( soft pre cooked white beans), drained it, added it to the food processor without even cleaning it from whirling the red pepper, and added second clove of roasted garlic, and some fresh rosemary, oregano, and basil and a dash of salt and pepper and a 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil --gave it all a whirl and pored it into a container to serve! It couldn't be easier!

The Tomato Salsa is four chopped fresh tomatoes from my garden, a chopped red onion, the third roasted garlic clove chopped, chopped fresh basil, oregano, a dash of salt and a chopped red jalapeno pepper from my garden. Mix well and add 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or to taste. Place all in container and enjoy!

Buon Appetito!

If you would like to see wonderful versions of the crackers and dips on other Daring Bakers web sites today, check the Daring Bakers blogroll! There is also an open forum for general baking discussions here, but you have to be a member of Daring Bakers in order to register to log in for each month's challenge and discussions regarding it.
If you think you are up to taking the monthly challenge instructions are on the blog as to how to join! Don't delay, as there is only a 24 hour time limit to join evey month for the next month's challenge!

There is even an "Alternative Daring Baking group for gluten-free, lactose intolerant, allergy, vegetarians, vegans and bakers who use alternate ingredients due to other health concerns or life styles."

I hope to see you all doing the October Daring Baker Challenge!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My First Pink Saturday

Beverly, at How Sweet The Sound has been hosting Pink Saturdays on her blog for quite awhile now, and I've always felt bad I never participated in it, as I love Beverly's blog.

Honestly, pink has never been my favorite my color, as I'm more of a primary color admirer of blues, greens, and reds. I was looking through my photo files this week, however, and I realized I have some lovely photos with the color pink that I could share. So this is my very first Pink Saturday post! Thanks for the encouragement, Beverly.

Please make sure to drop by Beverly's blog to see a large and growing list of participating Pink Saturday blogs!

First photo is a lovely wedding in which my daughter was a bridesmaid. She is the tallest girl on the right, and the photo was taken at the lake in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY last summer. I loved their pink bridesmaids dresses!

Next, is a funny photo of someone wearing a squid costume in the famous Mermaid Parade held each summer on solstice day along Mermaid Ave in Coney Island Brooklyn, NY. Click on the link to see more photos in my blog post about it!

A beautiful pink Montreal rose in the Denver Botanical Garden, in Denver, Colorado. I visited with my daughter-in-law a couple summers ago, as that is where she and my son live. It is a wonderful place to visit!

A pink door in Dublin, Ireland! We've visited Ireland a few times, and if you are interested to see my many posts about that beautiful country, click on the link.

Some more beautiful pink roses in a bouquet given to me on my last birthday. They smelled so divine!

My sweet cat Bo, who has pink ears and a pink nose, and yes, two different colored eyes!

Some pretty pink hats that were on display in a tea shop in San Diego where I visited recently, and met two wonderful bloggers! Click on the link to see more about that fantastic day.

My buddy Bo again, relaxing on two teddy bears left behind by my daughter in her former bedroom. My daughter's room was all pink when she was a little girl, and then she switched to the color lavender when she was a teenager. I just painted the now converted guest room a cool mint green, but don't have the heart to give the teddies away just yet, as Bo loves to sleep near them!
This was fun, and I'm going to begin looking for more PINK in my life to join in of future Pink Saturdays!
Off to read your blog ... thanks for looking at mine!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pumpkin Fun!

Is she not the cutest thing?

I think all babies seem to be called "pumpkin" because they just look happy and bright like one.

I got her photo in e-mail today in my "Better Home & Garden Magazine" newsletter which was about their feature "100 Days of Holidays," which was full of fun Halloween ideas. I've been hanging on to summer up to now, but I think I'm finally ready to embrace autumn and all the fun it brings.

The magazine's web site had carving ideas galore!

If you'd like to practice caving a pumpkin they have a virtual pumpkin you can carve and save to send as an e-card. There is no messy seeds to remove, and if you make a mistake you can start over, a fun activity that kept me busy for awhile!

Aren't the monogrammed pumpkins shown above an elegant idea?
I thought of you when I saw this Mrs B, as I know how much you love monograms!

This effect was interesting. They used an apple corer to core out pieces of three different colored pumpkins and them mixed the plugs that are removed for and replaced them into the holes for a polka dot effect. Some other ideas on how to use a corer, and also a metal biscuit cutter and rubber mallet, to make special effects are at this same BH&G link.

The very best idea I thought that BH&G had, however, was etched black painted pumpkins. You can watch a video that describes how to do this (after a short commercial).

This idea could be saved for Thanksgiving to make an unusual centerpiece.

Do you have some fun pumpkin ideas that you'd like to share? Please let me know if you blog about them.

Cori over at Gingerbread Crumbs and Company gave me this cute award! Thank you so much Cori! It was so sweet of you!

I am supposed to pass it on to five bloggers who comment on my blog. I could never choose just five as so many of you are nice enough to leave a comment here so often, so to try something different I'm going to say that the first five people that comment on this blog post can please consider it yours!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Polenta with Cauliflower

My husband grew up eating "Polenta," which is an Italian word whose translation means "a thick mush made of cornmeal boiled in water or stock." His mother usually added cut up broccoli to the water as the cornmeal cooked, and then when it was thickened, but still soft, she would pour out a large soup bowl size serving for each person in the family and then added a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top. It was often their whole meal for the evening! It was inexpensive, nutritious and filling.

When I received my October 17, 2008 issue of Family Circle Magazine this week I saw a feature article called "Amazing Grains," which had a recipe for "Polenta With Cauliflower," which I immediately knew I'd make for dinner as a special treat for my husband.

It was delicious! It was a nice, low cost and satisfying vegetarian meal, perfect for a crisp autumn evening.

Polenta With Cauliflower

Makes: 6 servings Bake: 50 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes Prep: 5 minutes


1-1/3 cup instant polenta (white or yellow ground cornmeal)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 2-pound head cauliflower
1 jar (28 ounces) marinara sauce
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


1. Heat oven to 375°F. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. In small bowl, combine polenta and 2 cups cool water. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the salt and pepper. Stir polenta into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook 5 minutes, stirring. Spread in prepared dish

3. Cut cauliflower into equal-size florets. Spread half over polenta. Top with 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs and half of the mozzarella. Repeat layering, ending with mozzarella. ( *if you like you cauliflower very soft you might want to par boil the florets and drain the well before using. When I made this recipe the cauliflower was semi soft)

Cover with foil. Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes. Uncover, top with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan and bake 10 more minutes. Let rest 15 minutes.

I served it with extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on each serving, and we had a green salad as a side. My husband loved it, and it brought back some of his childhood memories.

That's comfort food, Italian style!

Buon appetito!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Port of San Diego and The Big Bay

San Diego is a wonderful US Navy town! Where else can you look out your hotel terrace and watch a air craft carrier sail by? (all photos enlarge when clicked on)

The Port of San Diego was created by the state Legislature in 1962 to manage San Diego Bay and surrounding waterfront land. The Port is made up of Imperial Beach, National City, Chula Vista, San Diego and Coronado waterfront properties.
On my husband's and my last day in San Diego we walked from our hotel along the Embarcadero and Harbor Drive to find a harbor cruise to enjoy.

Along the way we passed Tuna Harbor Park, next to Tuna Harbor, is a wide walkway which makes its way to Fish Market, at the point of the park. The north side has a narrower walkway with a grassy area, trees, two war memorials, and a great view of the USS Midway Museum.

Below - the statue “Unconditional Surrender,” which represents a famous photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a Sailor kissing a nurse in Time Square, New York City 1945, after the announcement of V-J Day. The statue is owned by the Sculpture Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif., and is on loan to the Port of San Diego.

U.S.S. San Diego Memorial by Eugene Daub & Louis Quaintance. This public artwork provides a commemoration of the distinguished service of the cruiser USS San Diego and her crew, serving as a reminder of their selfless contribution to victory in World War II. The floor of the monument features a large, colored terrazzo map of the western Pacific and the Asian and Australian coastlines, which proscribe the theater of operations in which the ship served during World War II.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial by Moon Kim. This beautiful monument is dedicated to the memory of Vice Admiral Clifton A. F. Sprague and the 13 ships and 7,300 men of Task Unit 77.4.3, also known as Taffy 3, which were under his command during the furious and heroic naval action fought off the island of Samar on October 25, 1944, during the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

We decided to take the 2 hour Hornblower cruise, where we saw both the north and the south ends of San Diego Bay. Some of the highlights we saw during the cruise were the US Navy ships and submarine base, the Navy Seals training base, the America's Cup harbor, the North Island Naval Air Station, the beautiful marinas of Harbor and Shelter Islands, Cabrillo National Monument area and Point Loma, and lots of wildlife, including seals and pelicans.

The USS Nimitz a nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Named for one of our nation's greatest military leaders, Fleet Admiral Chester W. NIMITZ , was under maintenance and repair in the harbor.

Shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO has been designing and building ships since 1959, specializing in auxiliary and support ships for the U.S. Navy and oil tankers and dry cargo carriers for commercial markets. Located in San Diego, California, NASSCO employs more than 4,700 people and is the only major ship construction yard on the West Coast of the United States.

Two views from the harbor cruise of shipbuilding and repair now in progress at NASSCO.

Two views, below, of the U.S. Aircraft Carrier, "USS Midway." The Midway served 47 years, from the end of WW II to Desert Storm. By the time the Midway was decommissioned in 1991, more than 225,000 men had served aboard. The carrier is now a naval museum, telling the story of life on board the ship, of the wars she fought, and of the records she set.

The Star of India, below, is a tall ship that sailed during the 1860s, which is still seaworthy today and is the world's oldest active ship. She began her life on the stocks at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863.

It is one of the ships in the San Diego Maritime Museum on North Harbor Drive.

In the photo below, on the right is the H.M.S. Surprise, another ship at the San Diego Maritime Museum. This ship is the very one upon which Russell Crowe and his colleagues filmed "Master and Commander," one of the hit films of 2003.

A submarine docked at Naval Base Point Loma. We saw many seals in the water and pelicans and other sea birds in this area as we sailed by. Naval Base Point Loma (NBPL) was established on Oct. 1, 1998 when Navy facilities in the Point Loma area of San Diego were consolidated under Commander, Navy Region Southwest.

Two views below of the North Island Naval Air Station, part of the Naval Base Coronado, where the U.S. Navy ports some of its large aircraft carriers and fighter jets.

Naval Base Coronado (NBC) is a consolidated Navy installation compassing seven military facilities stretching from San Clemente Island to the La Posta Mountain Warfare Training Facility.

We were lucky enough to see this fighter jet practicing its take off and landing!

There were remnants of the old piers when this area was home port for Pacific Fleet carriers. It was explained to us by the harbor cruise guide that they are now they are not all keep in one area for security reasons.

Our last look at beautiful San Diego from the great bay as The Hornblower heads back to its pier.

We had a wonderful time visiting the city of San Diego, and enjoyed its fine restaurants and entertainment venues, its wonderful shore front, it's beautiful parks, and learning about its history, and we especially enjoyed seeing the pride of the US Navy!

'Till we visit again next time .... anchors aweigh!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Day On The Town With Blog Friends!

I met two of the nicest bloggers last week while I was in San Diego, Cori of Gingerbread Crumbs & Company, and Joanne of My Cottage In The Making. They had both contacted me by e-mail when they read I was going to be in Southern California, and offered to drive down from Orange County, CA to meet me!

Joanne of My Little Cottage In The Making is on the left, and Cori of Gingerbread Crumbs and Company is on the right in the photo above.
Both Cori and Joanne live within 15 minutes of each other, but never met before or even read each other’s blogs, so this was a three way introduction of bloggers meeting for the first time!

We met on Wednesday, as I knew my husband was going to be in meetings all day from breakfast until dinner, and I would be alone, so it was a wonderful way to spend the day instead, by being with friends.

We met outside The Marriott and Cori offered to drive Joanne and I around to see some sights, as she once lived in San Diego and knew it well.
First stop was “Old Town.” Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. Father Serra’s mission and Presidio were built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego.
In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation established Old Town State Historic Park to preserve the rich heritage that characterized San Diego during the 1821 to 1872 period. The park includes a main plaza, exhibits, museums and living history demonstrations.

We saw just a small part of the town that morning, as we were there early, and so much was not opened as yet and we were having too much fun chatting about ourselves, our blog, people we knew in common, and just generally getting to know each other!

We browsed around as many of the stores as we could and saw many beautiful things, many with a Mexican folkloric flavor. I think I’d love a chance to go back someday to really explore this section of San Diego more as there was a lot to do and see
We stopped for an al fresco lunch at Casa de Reyes which had a lovely garden courtyard with lively cantina ambiance.
I asked the waitress to take our photo together. That is Cori and myself on the left, Joanne on the right.
We strolled along the courtyard and visited fascinating shops one called "Design in Shell" had exquisitely decorated bird eggs, many made into Christmas ornaments.

Another shop called Casa de Serrano had delightful Mexican folkloric figurines.

After lunch and shopping we had a short car ride to Heritage Park . This 7.8-acre county park is dedicated to the preservation of San Diego's Victorian architecture. Expansion downtown after WWII threatened these structures with demolition on their original sites. Public and private funds paid for the acquisition, relocation, and restoration of these buildings. Now owned by the county, the structures are leased to private and commercial entities responsible for interior renovation and operation in keeping with the park's Victorian theme.”

Temple Beth Israel, below, is San Diego's first synagogue, constructed by the Congregation Beth Israel, also became temporary quarters for many religious sects before they established churches of their own. This was a very sentimental place for Cori as she was married in a Christian ceremony here 14 years ago.

The McConaughy House, below, is named after it’s original owner who founded the first scheduled passenger and freight service in San Diego County. We stopped to take photos on the pretty autumn decorated porch and especially because the stone rabbit in the middle of all the flowers reminded us all of Dana of The Stone Rabbit blog!

Dana, did you know your stone rabbit took a trip to San Diego to meet us?
We also went into the Burton House, a Classic Revival home decorated with pediments and dentil cornices where the absolutely darling Mrs Burton's Tea Room is located! We spent a lot of time taking photos and looking at all the wonderful rooms and decorations and objects for sale. It looks like the most enchanted place to have tea!

Their are many different teas available, from Friendship Teas, to Red Hat Teas, and bridal and baby shower teas.

The view from the front porch:
Because Cori knew I loved lighthouses, from reading a “six things about myself” tag I once did, she drove Joanne and I up to see The Old Point Loma Lighthouse. This lighthouse was only functioning for 36 years, as there was a flaw in it’s location as it’s position was prone to low lying fog and clouds which covered the light, and a new lighthouse was constructed in in 1892.

The view was spectacular at 422 feet above sea level, overlooking the bay and the ocean and I was so amazed by the very blue San Diego water – very reminiscent of the Mediterranean sea.

We could see the skyline of downtown San Diego framed by the Cuyamaca mountains in the background. To the south, we could see Mexico across the shimmering waters of the bay and, to the west, the Pacific ocean extending to the horizon and beyond.

Can you see the three amigas in the photo below?
The interior of the lighthouse was refurbished by The National Park Service to its historic 1880’s appearance.

The Cabrillo National Monument, established in 1913, commemorates Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo's voyage of discovery, as he led the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States. A heroic statue of Cabrillo looks out over the bay that he first sailed into on September 28, 1542.

Finally, as the day wound down we all drove over the long Coronado Bay Bridge to the city of Coronado, CA. where we parked and went inside the beautiful the Hotel del Coronado. Del was built in 1888 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The beautiful wooden Victorian structure faces the pacific Ocean.

We entered the elegant lobby and perused the gift ships and boutiques. The hotel was originally designed to cater to the well-to-do, and attracted quite a notable legacy of guests. L. Frank Baum was said to have written “The Wizard of Oz” during his stays, and the Hotel Del was the setting for Marilyn Monroe’s comedy “Some Like It Hot”.

Look at these delicious pastries in the hotel coffee shop:
We decided to have coffee and sit under a table umbrella on the long porch outside where we spent an hour relaxing, enjoying the sounds of the surf, and each other’s company. The time flew by!

This was the view we had of the magnificent Pacific Ocean! It was a perfect day.

A last look at The Hotel Del in Coronado as we drove away to go back to The Marriott Hotel in San Diego, so I would be able to join my husband for a dinner we were both invited to by one of the companies at the convention.

It was sad to say goodbye. I felt as if Cori and Joanne were old friends that I've known for a long time! We had so much fun together!
I really appreciated that they both took the time to drive down for the day and that Cori drove us all over to show us the special sights in the area.
I hope to be able to return the favor and show you some sights in New York City someday, ladies.
There is nothing like having bloggers as friends, and sisters at heart!