Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obsession: Spread Holiday Cheer, Great Gifts for All

The Mod City Mom’s are taking a brief hiatus over the holidays. Before we saunter off to eat, drink, and be merry, we wanted to recommend some of our favorite websites to purchase gifts. Many are from previous obsession articles, others are newly discovered, but all are sure to satisfy that special someone in your life. Peace and joy to all of our readers over this holiday season!

Gifts of Wine
This small vineyard makes quality wines from lush soil in the Paso Robles wine region located in California. Order 4, 6, or 12 bottle shipments.
Organic vineyard located in Napa delivering terrific wines, recipes, and cookbooks. Order a bottle or join the club.

Gifts of Yummy Eats
Delicious deli and bakery food gifts including their famous Reuben sandwich making kit.
Tasty salted pig parts…who wouldn’t like that? You will salivate just looking at their website. YUM!
Chicago pizza delivered right to your door!
Smoked Fish…delish!
Irresistible, creamy ice cream since 1870 delivered and packed on dry ice. Perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Gifts of Relaxation
Unique herbal remedies, homeopathies, and natural bath and body care.

Gifts of Clothing, Accessories, and Textiles
Darling, one-of-kind graphic shirts for the little ones.
Beautifully handcrafted tiles and tableware for the pottery enthusiast in your life.
Whimsical, practical, unique bags at mind blowing prices!

Gifts of Playfulness
Our favorite small press shop, delivering one-of-a-kind journals, zines, and prints.
How about a USB flash drive in the shape of Hello Kitty or C-3PO?
Pins, cufflinks, and barrettes for the digital geek! Don't miss out on the Yoshi and Pacman-featured items!
For the person who has everything but a mustache and a pint glass.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gastronomy: Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling

My husband's ancestors emigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany prior to 1800. When I found my partner, I didn't just marry a man, but an entire Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. My first Thanksgiving with my new family showcased the Pennsylvania Dutch specialties: Cope's dried, sweet corn; endive salad with a warm, bacon-kissed dressing; slow-stewed tomatoes; and, the prized show stopper, potato filling.

Instead of a traditional bread stuffing, many of the Pennsylvania Dutch filled their turkeys with a rich and buttery bread and potato mixture. My husband’s grandmother and mother never measured the ingredients, but were kind enough to estimate the quantities and let me shadow them a few times over the years. Because of its popularity in our family, we not only stuff the turkey with potato filling, but serve it as a side in a large casserole, baked to perfection. The filling provides a wonderful accompaniment to poultry, is brilliant left over, and can be made a day ahead of time or even frozen. To top it off, using this recipe means that you don’t have to prepare both potatoes and stuffing on the same day—the Pennsylvania Dutch managed to beautifully marry the two.

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling

5 lbs white potatoes, peeled, quartered
5-6 onions, delicately diced
1-2 sticks butter, + 2 T butter
6 slices of white bread, broken into small pieces
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c fresh, Italian parsley, finely chopped (or 4 t dried parsley)
Milk, if necessary (usually ½ - 1 cup)
Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in a large boiling pot for approximately 20 minutes, or until you can easily stick them with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, melt butter and add chopped onions. Cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until onions are tender and translucent. Set aside.

Drain water from potatoes; return potatoes to pot to mash. (For a chunkier texture, use a potato masher; for a fine texture, use a hand mixer, which I prefer.) To the potatoes, fold in cooked onion, broken bread pieces, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper. If too dry or stiff, add enough milk to create a light, creamy texture. Place in greased baking dish, dot with remainder of butter, and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until golden brown.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Style: Two Tree Designs, Something to Tweet About

We recently attended our local, artisan fair. Walking through the funnel cake eating masses and passing booth after booth of reggae paraphernalia, hair removal gimmicks, and hand-painted "this way to the beach" signs, I finally spied some light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel: Perched on a side street, away from the inflatable kids' toys and the kettle corn stand, was Two Tree Designs, standing like a beacon.

Two Tree Designs doesn't offer anything particularly fancy, but each item is whimsical, practical, and, well, cheap. I picked up the birdie bag with cellphone pouch and secret compartments for a mere $22.00. Use it as a school satchel, a travel carrier, a substitute diaper bag, or as a funky purse. Also offered are ol' school music designs, including turntables, microphones, and tape cassettes. Each design can be placed on a bag, laptop carrier, or t-shirt—buyer's choice. At these prices, why not buy one of each? Details:

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gastronomy: Dark and Stormy

It’s spooky, it’s creepy, it’s Halloween: How about a Dark and Stormy?

Last weekend, my wonderful, hospitable neighbors had us over for dinner after our local children's Halloween parade. While all of our crazy toddlers were running amuck from an overabundance of Halloween sugared treats, the adults decided to overindulge, too! The Dark and Stormy splendidly weather-proofed us from the noisy deluge of 10 overactive, rapturous children!

Dark and Stormy

2 c spiced rum

4 c light colored ginger beer

Orange sugar
Black gummy bat, spider, or worm

Mix rum and beer gently in an iced pitcher. Distribute evenly into six orange sugar rimmed glasses. Add creepy gummy worms, spiders, or bats and toast to All Hallows Eve!

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Obsession: Orange Chills Cocktail

Since Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, naturally our obsession is cocktails! Accompany your tricks with more than one, spooktacular treat!

Orange Chills Cocktail

1 part gin
1 part Cointreau
1 part orange juice
4 parts lemon-lime soda
Splash of grenadine
Orange slices
Yellow, black, or orange sugar

Coat rim of cocktail glass with orange juice; dip in sugar. Shake first six ingredients in cocktail shaker; pour into glass. Garnish with orange slice! Chilly!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Style: Got All Your Marbles?

Although I'm a pragmatist, carefully counting my indulgent purchases, always traveling lightly, and never drawing too much attention to myself, I'm also a big believer in a bit o' bling to spice up an outfit. When I stumbled upon a piece of jewelry that managed to marry practicality with style, I was sold.

Got All Your Marbles, started by an Arizona husband and wife partnership, offers a line of interchangeable earrings, pendants, and rings. Each purchase is accompanied with a beautiful bag filled with dozens of multi-colored marbles that can be switched-out to coordinate the jewelry with your look. Choose from a number of handmade designs that can be created in either sterling silver or gold—each piece affordable and stunning. Don't be alarmed by the too-busy website, the end-result will prove well worth it! Details:

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Obsession: Beautiful Baubles and Boxes Made from Nature

At a local art fair, I found Sandy James, artesian and “Of Nature” owner. Sandy takes pieces of nature and transforms them into jewelry and sculpture. She utilizes real leaves, acorns, and maple seeds (to name a few), dipping them into a copper patina bath. The end result is a collection of breathtaking earrings, barrettes, necklaces, and containers. Her creations are one-of-a-kind and truly stunning. Details:

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gastronomy: Chicken Potpie, an Ageless Classic

I love to try new recipes and experiment with flavor profiles. There is something incredibly gratifying about creating a new concoction that actually turns out, because, let’s be honest, many times innovation in the kitchen leads to a disastrous meal. Any home cook can relay a long list of first time recipes that turned out very badly. Even so, we keep trying.

In my opinion, however, only one kitchen activity rivals the trials and joys of experimentation: Making a classic dish—the kind of dish that has been tested, full-proof, and passed down through generations. A dish, that time-after-time, satisfies you and your guests. One of my all time favorite classics is Chicken Potpie.

Meat pies mixed with vegetables have been around since the Middle Ages. Potpies were described as a crusted pastry made with poultry or meat and, usually, chopped vegetables. These pies were an affordable meal for modest dwelling families and rural workers—providing comfort and nourishment to get through brutal winters. Sound familiar? That’s because the rules of making a potpie have scarcely changed. The traditional chicken potpie in America has also been around since the late 17th Century and today, over 200 years later, the potpie remains a family staple that brings sustenance and comfort even on the coldest of days.

Chicken Potpie

3 large chicken breasts, boiled and shredded into large chunks
4 large carrots, roughly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Russet potatoes, skinned and cubed
1 c frozen peas
½ stick unsalted butter
¼ c flour

8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 package frozen puff pastry
1 egg, plus 1 T water to brush over pastry
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take out puff pastry to thaw according to package directions.

In large pot, melt butter in a large sauté pan; add shallot and cook until soft and translucent. Add flour to create roux. Add chicken stock, making sure to deglaze pan. Add carrot and potatoes. Bring to a hard simmer until sauce thickens and vegetables soften. Add peas and chicken; cook another five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place mixture in casserole dish and cool down (about 15 minutes). Cut puff pastry to fit over pot pie and brush with egg wash. Bake for 45 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly. Serve with a robust Chardonnay.

Serves 6

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Obsession: Sunset Magazine's Apple Oven Cake

This month's Sunset Magazine (October 2009) featured a reader's Apple Oven Cake recipe. I've only had this magazine for a little over two weeks and I have already made this beauty three times. It's simple, fresh, delicious, and the perfect way to celebrate autumn's apples! I guarantee that you will be as obsessed as we are once you try it!

Apple Oven Cake

3 T butter
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/8 t cinnamon
1 sweet apple, peeled and sliced
3 large eggs
1/4 t salt
1/2 c flour
1/2 c milk
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a 12-inch ovenproof frying pan over high heat. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, swirling to combine. Add apple and cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, whirl together eggs, salt, flour, and milk. Pour egg mixture into pan and bake until puffed and brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar. Enjoy!

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Adventure Wisconsin: My Very Own Frank Lloyd Wright

I’ve become an armchair architecture buff after spending so much time in Chicago. When Mrs. O’Leary’s cow brought the city to her knees, the vacant, ash-singed lots provided the inspiration to rebuild Chicago in a new and glorious fashion. From the First Chicago School architects who perfected the fireproof metal frame of the world’s initial skyscrapers to the Bauhaus influence of the city’s skyline, Chicago manages to seduce anyone who crosses her path. My personal journey, however, didn’t start with Chicago’s beauty or size or influence, but rather with the Prairie School’s most famous pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Chicago and the greater Midwest provide a backdrop for Wright’s work—from his first studio in Oak Park to his Taliesin masterpiece in Spring Green, WI. It seems as though every other town plays host to a Wright beauty. I’ve been on every tour imaginable, attended every lecture possible, and snooped around enough privately-owned Wright houses to receive one-too-many evil eyes. You can study, dream, and covet for only so long before you start longing for more. That’s when I discovered Seth Peterson Cottage, nestled in Wisconsin’s Mirror Lake State Park.

Seth Peterson Cottage was not discovered until the early 1980s, when a lone-boater spotted its ruins from the lake. One of Wright’s last commissions, the cottage has been painstakingly restored and can now be rented out for a memorable wilderness get away. Perched on a wooded bluff overlooking the lake, this 900-square foot cottage manages to highlight Wright’s most important architectural signatures, including a soaring, suspended roof that frames the best views; the play of shadow and light; the use of natural, local resources (and, in this case, the clever use of inexpensive materials); and the illusion of vastness in a surprisingly intimate space. But, most importantly, this landmark can be solely and privately yours. The cottage is so hidden, that we didn’t see another living sole during our entire 48-hour stay. Its remoteness provided the perfect way to enjoy one of Wright’s works as intended: The union of nature and architecture at its best and most beautiful. Details:

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Obsession: My Moments with My Publisher

After writing the Seth Peterson article, I realized that all of our digital photos were stored, unseen and untouched, on our server. Our Frank Lloyd Wright escapades not only included our memorable cottage get-away, but his Oak Park studio, both Taliesins, and Falling Water, just to name a few. Remembering these visits were fun, inspiring, and downright enjoyable, but, better yet, browsing this photographic journey shook me out of my complacency and spurred me to action!

Now, with online publishing, it’s easy and inexpensive to create a handsome, personalized photo album. For less than it would cost to develop your film, you can create a coffee table-style book of your very own. My favorite of the online services is My Publisher. After downloading trouble-free, intuitive software, create your own book starting from $12.00 and receive it at your doorstep a week later or share it with your friends online! My Publisher offers a quick and easy way to store your memories in one gloriously accessible package. Details:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gastronomy: Pancetta, Rosemary Pork Roast

Cooking inspires me in a similar way the ebb and flow of the seasons do. The heartwarming meals that accompany the changing of the leaves and the rapidly dropping temperatures—a reminder that another year is ending in only a few short months. It is an opportunity to change my heart and feed my soul.

There's nothing quite like the first, crisp fall day—the kind of day that indicates it is time to pull out your sweaters, place an extra blanket on your bed, and modify your weekly recipe rotation. Creamy fall chowder replaces fish on the grill, bbq chicken is substituted with heavily buttered chicken pot pie, and oven roasted meats take the place of grilled ones.

The recipe below is an Italian-inspired variation of traditional pork roast. I usually serve it with creamy parmesan polenta and homemade sour applesauce. The smell of this rich, succulent meat cooking in the oven is enough to make you wish that the autumn lasted all year 'round. Serve it with a pumpkin ale or heavy amber to make your stomach rejoice.

Pancetta, Rosemary Pork Roast

5 garlic cloves
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 T olive oil
4 lbs (two pieces) tied, boneless pork loin roast
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz pancetta, thinly sliced
2 c chicken broth
2 c dry white wine
1 large shallot, roughly chopped

Mince garlic and finely chop rosemary; mix together with olive oil in a small bowl with 1 T salt. Pat roast dry to ensure rub will adhere to the meat. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground pepper. Rub the garlic rosemary mixture over the pork and wrap the pancetta slices around the pork. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of wine into the roasting pan. Add shallots to liquid. While roasting, add more broth and wine to the pan juices; baste several times. Roast the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F or 1 ½ to 2 hours. Transfer the pork to a cutting board; cover with aluminum foil to rest for 15 minutes. Separate pan juices to pour over the top once the roast is carved.

Serves eight.

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Obsession: It's Pumpkin Ale Time

Another beautiful thing about autumn is that the cold, crispy air provides a perfect occasion to indulge in delicious, hoppy ales and creamy stouts.

One of my favorites is a spicy, slightly fruity Pumpkin Ale by California microbrewery, Buffalo Bill's. They were one of the first brewery’s to boldly enter into America’s microbrew phenomenon over 25 years ago. As one of the nation's oldest brewpubs, they continue to make terrific signature beers including their celebrated creamy Pumpkin Ale. Along with fall, this beer is precious and fleeting so pick it up today! Details:

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Gastronomy: Tomato Basil Vodka Cream Sauce

My sister called me last week to borrow my Tomato Basil Vodka Cream Sauce recipe. I hadn't made this dish in a while and it wasn't until she called that I remembered how very much I love it. Autumn is the perfect time to make this dish: The basil is still growing, but the days are getting shorter and chillier. Although this sauce is incredibly easy to make, it's also richly satisfying and a wonderful way to ring in those crisp, fall evenings. Enjoy with a glass of Chianti, a garden salad, and your family!

Tomato Basil Vodka Cream Sauce

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 handfuls of fresh basil, chopped
1 T dry oregano
5 16 oz cans tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c parmesan cheese, grated
1 ½ c whipping cream
5 shots vodka
1 lb gnocchi or specialty pasta

In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic; sauté until garlic is light tan, approximately 1-2 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano, tomato sauce. Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat 1 hour. Add 1 cup parmesan, cook 1 hour. Add vodka and cream, cook low 45 minutes.

For a simple tomato basil sauce, substitute vodka and cream with ½ cup wine. Add 1 ½ tablespoons crushed red pepper for an arrabiata.

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Obsession: Rosy Rosenblum

Upon a visit to San Francisco, our dear friends told us to check out Rosenblum Cellars, a winery that specializes in big, robust zinfandels. After a visit, Rosenblum has become a favorite wine for house-warming gifts, for party favors, and for simply accompanying a great meal. You don't have to plan a trip to California to drink a Rosenblum wine, simply visit your local Trader Joe's or other specialty grocer to pick-up a bottle—Rosenblum is distributed in every state throughout the country, affordable and available. Details:

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Style: Irresistible Wood Creations

Summer in Chicago brings with it a season of free outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, and art fairs. There are several art shows that I attend every year in search of new artisans and unique finds. This year, I was fortunate to run into Sweitzer and Sweitzer, a father and son team who make exquisite shaker-inspired furniture. They specialize in custom tables, benches, and rockers—each piece warm, rich, and amazing.

Beyond furniture, what really caught my eye were their uniquely lovely cutting boards. Sweitzer and Sweitzer boards are made with a variety of midwestern woods, creating a beautiful, striped effect. Unlike most cutting boards that are made of a single wood, the utilization of several wood types enhances the color and distinctiveness of each piece. Boards and serving trays are available in different sizes and can be custom ordered to meet an individual’s personal requirements.

After purchasing a board for myself and a couple others as gifts, the father, Charlie, sat down to explain the different woods that made each of my purchases a one-of-a-kind. He had a glimmer in eye as he ran his hand over the wood and I understood why his work is so beautifully crafted—he and his son love what they do and it shows. Details:

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Obsession: Maira Kalman's Pursuit of Happiness

I fell in love with Maira Kalman through my son's bohemian library selections. Kalman's whimsical, colorful, and playful illustrations attracted him immediately and we soon found ourselves checking out each of the books in her series, thirsting to learn more about Max (a dog) and his dreams to become a celebrated poet in Paris. When Kalman later illustrated the most recent edition of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, it was then I realized that I was truly in love with this woman's work!

Most recently, Kalman has reinvented herself as one of The New York Time's resident bloggers. Her current series, And the Pursuit of Happiness, chronicles American democracy in the same, quirky fashion as her children's books. The last Friday of each month, learn about Benjamin Franklin, the Supreme Court, or American Soldiers. History lessons have never been so accessible or so much fun! Details:

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Style: Robots, Aliens, and Godzilla, Oh My—Doug Spalding's Colorful Ceramic Tiles

I am well aware that what I am about to say is a bit geeked-out, but I have always been strangely attracted to robots. Maybe this fascination can be traced back to my younger days sitting in front of the television watching Johnny Sokko, but, whatever the reason, I am always in search of artwork with a robot theme.

Doug Spalding, a Michigan-based artist, works with clay to create amazing, colorful, ceramic art. He predominantly crafts pop art tiles that are fun and entertaining (everything from yetis to corn dogs). Many of his pieces frequently get an audible giggle out of me when I see the playful images he conjures up.

One of his reoccurring themes are robots and, if you can't imagine a robot being striking, then you haven’t experienced one of Doug’s vibrant ceramics. He also makes quite a few tiles that focus on architecture and music (my sister's obsession)—each tile a unique story in itself. His art is always approachable, sometimes silly, and never takes itself too seriously. His tiles make terrific, surprising gifts for adults and kids alike. And even if your love for robots isn’t as fervent as mine, it's guaranteed that Doug has something for you, too. Details:

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Obsession: Find Everything Merz Online

Merz Apothecary is a family owned European-style drugstore located on the north side of Chicago. With their herbal remedies, homeopathies, and natural bath and body care, they have been lifting spirits and relaxing their clientele for over a century. Recently, I found out they have a wonderful website that carries their full line of mostly European products. Their site is chock-full of aromatic candles, soaps, creams, and lip glosses—many brands that are unique to Merz. Their distinctive selections make one-of-a-kind gifts or a special treat for you (God knows we all could use a little R & R). The only component missing from ordering online is the fragrant aromas that float in the air when you arrive at the store. You'll have to pay a visit to the Windy City to experience that! Details:

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Gastronomy: Limoncello, a Golden Labor of Love

The time-honored Girl Scout song persistently played in my head while writing this week’s entry. Even if you weren’t a Girl Scout, you know the song: “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold.”

Moving to a new place offers many rewards, but no reward is sweeter than spending time with new friends bearing a gift of homemade limoncello. Their daughter spent time in Italy and, while visiting, they made this sweet nectar of the gods together. With limoncello gaining popularity, it’s easy to pick-up a bottle from your local supermarket, but nothing (and I repeat, NOTHING) compares to the real deal.

After spending an evening enjoying good food, rousing conversation, belly-splitting laughs, and this love-laden Italian digestif, I begged to be brought in on the secret. My new, silver friends have already been upgraded to gold!


Phase 1 Ingredients

  • 1 glass, gallon container with air-tight lid
  • 17 lemons
  • 2 bottles of Everclear 151 grain alcohol (750 ML)

Phase 2 Ingredients

  • 5 ½ c water
  • 6 c sugar

Phase 3 Ingredients

  • Small bottles, that can easily be stored in the freezer, sealed with rubber stoppers
  • Funnel

Phase 1 Instructions
For the first phase, peel the outer skin from the lemons (the zest), making sure that no white is attached to the zest. Place peeled zest in the gallon container and cover with Everclear. Seal container and store for two weeks in a dark, cool place, shaking to agitate the liquid twice a day.

Phase 2 Instructions
After two weeks, make the simple syrup. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and remove from the heat, stirring until dissolved. Cover and let cool to room temperature. Place a colander on top of the saucepan and strain in the Everclear contents from the gallon container. Discard the lemon peel. Stir to combine the liquids, about one minute. Transfer back to the gallon container and store for three weeks in a dark, cool place, shaking to agitate the liquid twice a day.

Phase 3 Instructions
After three weeks, transfer the limoncello to smaller bottles that can be stored in the freezer. After a meal, serve limoncello in small, cordial glasses, directly from the freezer.

Limoncello offers a matchless host and hostess gift, a scrumptious dessert, and the best way to send-off a memorable evening. Enjoy!

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Obsession: Caramel Royalty

After our dear friends stayed for a visit, they sent us a royal thank you gift of King Caramels. Their life-long friend, Hedy Anderson, recently transformed herself from recognized handbag designer to queen of the kitchen. Her Vashon-made caramels are salt-kissed, buttery treats. Select the bag weight of your choice and order online to experience this rich indulgence, good enough for a king! Details:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Adventure Key West: Laid-Back, Luscious, and Lovely

Florida has not been my number one travel destination—it’s muggy, buggy, and my family's primary vacation spot every year of my life since I was four. When we recently had the opportunity to tour Key West, images of Jimmy Buffet and spring breaking college students stumbling, screaming drunk, spilling their beer in tow flooded my thoughts (drinking on the street, after all, is legal in Key West). The five-hour drive from Miami to the Keys is not what I would call scenic, either—it's desolate, swampy, and, quite frankly, a little depressing. Do I have you dying to go yet? With all that being said, the state does hold many unexpected treasures and Key West is one of those most-precious gems.

Recently, we took a week-long vacation to Florida, beginning in South Beach (another love of mine) and ending up in Key West—I was more than pleasantly surprised about how much I ended up liking this remote vacation destination. Somewhere in between Jimmy Buffet’s drink machine, jalapeño popper Margaritaville, the 90 miles to Cuba monument, and the congested cruise ship dock at Mallory Square are historical landmarks, artistic haunts, and culinary delights. The people who live and work there are some of the most hospitable, laid-back, and friendly folks you will ever meet. The views are spectacular and the food (especially the fresh Atlantic Ocean seafood options) is really wonderful. (I also have to admit that I even drank a couple beers while walking down the street.)


Louie’s Backyard: Culinary delights abound at this ocean-side eatery. Everything was phenomenal—fresh shrimp and mango appetizer, perfectly cooked scallops and chilled limoncello for dessert. The entire outdoor seating area extends over the ocean. The restaurant is geared towards adults but they were incredibly kind and accommodating to my two-year old. So much so that they brought him a pillow for his chair and made him a special entrée for his finicky palette. Details:

Blue Heaven: Nestled on a quiet street in an area called Bahama Village is the best southern breakfast I have ever had. Blue Heaven is an outdoor destination where you sit amongst roosters crowing while listening to a guitarist singing Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. Sounds dreamy? Wait ‘til you taste the food. Traditional French southern cuisine including shrimp and grits and five different Benedict's served in hearty portions. The homemade breakfast sandwiches are mouth watering, too. Details:


Besame Mucho: This store is an apothecary, clothing, and jewelry boutique all rolled into one small, wonderful package. It is located in an old Key West cottage house next door to Blue Heaven. Filled with simple, breezy linen shirts, one-of-a kind- jewelry pieces, small leather goods, and terrific perfumes and creams. Their philosophy, "old-world, tried and true, pure and simple," is all of those things and just about as close to perfect as a stop can get. Details:

Voltaire Books: This intimate, independent book store located in the heart of downtown Key West is a great destination for your vacation reading needs. They specialize in the authors who resided in the area over the years like Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. But they also have thousands of other titles that range from cooking to politics to teen literature (Judy Blume was scheduled for a book signing the day after we left). The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and incredibly helpful. Details:

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Obsession: Summer Sake Peartini

It's hot, it's steamy, and there's nothing to cure the dog days of summer like an evening outside with great music, good friends, and a refreshing cocktail. This recipe is light, fruity, and delicious.

Sake Peartini

2 oz sake
2 oz pear juice
1 chunk crystallized ginger

Combine sake and pear juice in cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously. Pour into a festive glass; drop ginger into glass. Cheers to summer!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Style: Righting Russel Wright Dinnerware Designs

For Mother's Day this year, I was presented with a gift from the modern master, Russel Wright. Wright's dinnerware made its first appearance in the late '30s; brought simple, unpretentious pieces to the masses; and became the most widely sold ceramic tableware of all time.

Although Wright passed away in the '70s, his ideas continue to live on. Wright's daughter has recently collaborated with Bauer Pottery in LA to recreate his dinnerware designs. Wright's water pitcher is still a beautiful example of streamlined perfection; the salt and pepper shakers, an exercise in stout playfulness; and the colors, vibrant, warm, and rich. Using these new gifts on a daily basis remind me that easy, informal living never has to be ugly. Details:

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Obsession: Cinema Under the Stars

Since moving, we've hungered for the old movie houses. The ones where you're greeted with a pipe organist, opening shorts sporting a marching hot dog reminding you to purchase a snack, an old-school candy selection, and, most importantly, a classic film. This year, we decided to stop reminiscing and start acting by hosting our own Cinema Under the Stars. After a quick e-mail invite and an afternoon making homemade carmel corn and a screen constructed out of a white sheet, we invited neighbors and schoolmates to join us at our pad for an outdoor movie. I can't think of a better way to spend time than sitting on a blanket under the stars, imbibing on fun snacks and drinks, and enjoying time with friends and the Marx Brothers.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Gastronomy: Bolognese, it's NO Beef-A-Roni

Growing up, I thought Bolognese equaled a can of tomato sauce plus a pound of semi-fatty grisly, ground beef. The only version that I was familiar with was not a far cry from canned Chef Boyardee Beef-a-Roni (my saliva production spikes just thinking about it). Somewhere in my culinary awakening (a journey that will continue for the rest of my life) I discovered that Bolognese (meaning Ragu) has many different interpretations—none of which are red, soupy tomato sauce paired with puréed ground beef.

This slow cooked dish is a layering of flavors that begins with finely chopped celery, onion, and carrots sautéed in olive oil. A combination of ground veal and beef (sometimes pork or sausage are used as well) is then added to the pan. Some people add milk, others cream, and depending on what region of Italy you are from, some argue for the addition of several other ingredients, including mushrooms, ricotta cheese, or chopped pancetta. But, no matter which ingredients you use, the dish is cooked ever-so-slowly until all the vegetable flavors and rich textured meats blend together making it other-worldly. Deglaze the pan with a heavy dowsing of wine and your palate will think it went to heaven and back.

Veal Sirloin Bolognese

1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground sirloin
2 15 oz cans whole tomatoes
2 15 oz cans chicken stock
1 c heavy cream
4 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
3 large carrots
5 celery ribs
1 c white wine
1 lb linguine or tagliatelle
10 oz ricotta cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano (for top)
Olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Finely chop onions, celery, and carrots. Mince garlic. Place large pot over medium-low heat with olive oil; add onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté until veggies are soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, stirring constantly to avoid burning, about 5 more minutes. Add meat and a little bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook until meat is browned and sweating liquids have dissipated. Deglaze with white wine and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. When the wine is completely evaporated, add drained tomatoes and chicken stock. Cook over medium heat 2-2 ½ hours. When liquids are almost gone, stir in cream and ricotta. Serve over pasta with a sprinkle of cheese and a glass of crisp white wine. Salute!

Serves 8.

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Obsession: Peloton Cellars

We recently discovered that old, family friends have their fingers in a wine venture, Peloton Cellars. After my in-laws had a reunion with these friends, they brought back a rich bounty of Peloton Cellar beauties.

Peloton Cellars, located in California's Paso Robles region, creates high quality wines at an affordable price. We were able to enjoy their full bounty, including a crisp and invigorating Sauvignon Blanc, deep and intense Cabernet Sauvignon, and a full-bodied Zinfandel.

Join their wine club, order individual bottles, or take adventage of their newly announced "Economic Stimulus Package" to stretch your wine-purchasing power a little further. Either way, it's easy to raise a glass to our new-found Peloton-obsession! Cheers! Details:

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Style: Immortalize and Personalize with Barbara Pollak

Barbara Pollak has gained recognition for her illustrations. Not until more recently, however, has she expanded her talents to include project commissions. Who knew? I found out by reading an old edition of ReadyMade. Thumbing through the advertising pages, I caught a glimpse of a 2” x 3.5” ad that included the ever-familiar Pollack-signature work: “Working with your ideas, Barbara will create an original portrait of your family or friends in a unique setting of your choosing.” After reading that, how could I resist?!

I worked directly with Barbara for four weeks. Although, at the time, I was situated in the 3rd Coast and she, on the Pacific Coast, we were able to easily work together to create a satisfying project for us both. After sending her a few family pictures and capturing our shared-hobbies in a simple e-mail, I was forwarded my first proof within the first week. I received the final product in time to frame, wrap, and place it under the tree with days to spare. (Later, she even made our very-cool Mod City Mom logo. We love Barbara!)

If you happen to be gifted with a bonus check or an extra large tip and want to document a special person or event in an over-the-top personalized way, e-mail Barbara. Your original Pollak will be sure to accurately showcase your mug, turn heads, and, ultimately, improve your walls. Details:

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Obsession: ReadyMade Online

I've been reading ReadyMade ever since it hit the shelves. Although I can sometimes be a little DIY challenged, ReadyMade has always been at the ready to inspire ideas and stir the senses for a little home-spun fun. Now, with ReadyMade online, it's easy to peruse their archives whenever and wherever the spirit leads. Whether you want to "eat it," "build it," or "sew it," ReadyMade online provides all the necessary "instructions for every day life." Details:

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Adventure LA: Down Home Comfort at Baby Blues BBQ

Recently, my sons and I had some unexpected time to kill around LAX. Since we weren’t in the mood to browse the pawn ships, peruse the triple-xxx stores, or dare to actually eat at a Jack in the Box, we decided to take a short jaunt north to Venice. Because my schedule is usually ruled by my boys’ stomachs, our little escapade was cut shorter than expected. Instead of finding our final destination, we made a quick stop at Baby Blues BBQ, an unassuming little dive on the corner of Lincoln and Rose.

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of barbecue in LA seems a bit of an oxymoron and stopping at an untried restaurant in an unknown territory seems a bit of a gamble. But from the first moment we caught a whiff of those roasted meats, Baby Blues, coyly sitting amongst the tattoo parlors and chopper shops, seemed like the perfect stop to satisfy our hunger.

Between the three of us, we were able to try the ribs, beef brisket, and pulled pork, all of which were lathered into a tenderly succulent perfection. These meaty main events were accompanied by a variety of house-made barbecue sauces (XXX or sweet); over a dozen sides (ranging from mac n’ cheese to creamed spinach); a cheap, ice-cold beer selection (including a bucket o’ PBRs); and homemade desserts (banana pudding, anyone?). Although the three of us didn’t storm in on a Harley or sport any tat sleeves, Baby Blues and their more-than-comforting food made us feel satisfyingly right at home. Details:

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Obsession: The Barbecue! Bible

My sister and her husband have been using Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible for years. So, when my mom bought my husband his own copy for his birthday, we were excited to get started. Raichlen's tome features beautifully colored pictures, helpful Q&As, and over 500 live-fire recipes for meat, seafood, veggies, and desserts. Also included are tips and tricks for making sides, sauces, and rubs. With the grill season fast approaching, The Barbecue! Bible will supply all your ideas for a summer of finger-lickin' el fresco dining.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Adventure San Francisco: Jukebox Breakfast

To stop and behold a classic diner is one of life’s little magical moments—chrome-laced linoleum counter-tops, tile floors, and an antique jukebox in the corner that still works! As rare as these encounters are, it’s even more unusual to find a meal that’s truly worthy to be served in one of these exceptional beauties. One of Berkeley’s crowned culinary jewels, Bette’s Oceanview Diner, offers both an ambiance evocative of the past and home-cooked fare that leaves you dreaming about re-visiting in the future.

Alongside a strong, steamy cup of joe, get your day started with a set of perfectly poached eggs on top of a bed of some of the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had. Perhaps you’re more in the mood for the rarely-seen-anywhere-but-Pennsylvania scrapple or, for the less adventurous, a stack of buttery flapjacks.

Not much of a breakfast person? Belly up to the counter and order a malt or draught beer to accompany your pan-fried fish fillet sandwich or your homemade meatloaf plate. Whatever your preference, put a quarter in that jukebox. As Etta James belts out her seminal classic, I’d Rather Go Blind, sit back, take a deep sip of your drink, and truly appreciate a culinary moment that’s reminiscent of a bygone era. Details: 1807 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA, 510.644.3230,

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Obsession: Prosciutto

I'll be the first to admit that I have an unhealthy love affair with Prosciutto, Italy's gift of porky-goodness. I've used this air-dried, salt-cured treat with veggies, fruit, or as a side to cheeses for years. But recently, I've become obsessed with it cooked, crunched, and crumbled on my side-dishes, eggs, soups, salads, or meats (chicken, fish, steak). (Well, quite frankly, almost anything I'm cooking.) Although this habit can be expensive, a little bit of Prosciutto delivers in a big way. Simply place 2-3 slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or, when cooled, the Prosciutto can be easily crumbled while still maintaining it's crunch. Warning: Once you've tried this taste sensation, it's a habit that may be hard to break.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gastronomy: Shrimp Scampi, a Bi-Weekly Classic

In my continued quest to cook all of the eight "classic" dishes that were featured on last season's Top Chef, I think I finally created a really great Shrimp Scampi. It is the perfect blend of acid, butter, garlic and fresh herbs. The best part about this dish is that it's fresh, delicious, and easy—even the clean-up is minimal.

Even though I wouldn't consider this one of the top eight "classic" dishes, the folks at Top Chef don't have to convince me to add this simple and tasty meal to my bi-weekly repertoire. Here's my recipe for the taking: Create, enjoy, and as always, drink a great glass of wine!

Shrimp Scampi

3/4 lb dry linguine
5 T unsalted butter
2 1/2 T good olive oil
2 large cloves or 4 small cloves of garlic
1 lb large, uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 T lemon zest, grated
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
1/2 c pasta water
1/4 c Parmesan cheese plus extra for top

Add linguine to a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Reserve pasta water.

Meanwhile, in another large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for about 2 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper; sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 7 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat; add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon slices. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is cooked, drain the linguine and add it to the pan with the shrimp. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well. Add parmesan and reserved pasta water, toss again. Serve hot with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

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Obsession: Wine Spritzer Bliss

When my sister came to visit, we spent long afternoons basking in the sun, spinning tales, giggling like we were young again, and drinking white wine spritzers. Now, when I manage to squeeze in a little r & r, my mind immediately wanders to this devilishly refreshing aperitif. Simply fill your favorite white wine glass half way with ice; 2/3 full of your favorite, crispy white wine; a dash of sparkling water; and a few citrus rounds. Let your lazy afternoon party begin!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Style: Shedding Light on the Catalog Gloom

My home had slowly turned into a standard catalog photo-shoot. I guess I can think of worse things, but it’s so incredibly cookie-cutter, sterile, and, let’s face it, completely lacking of any sort of individuality. Somewhere along the way, I forgot to surround myself with things I truly loved and managed to replace them with item number 264312, page 16.

During the once-a-year event of washing my pendant globes, order 485021, I realized enough-was-enough. First of all, I hate washing globes and, second of all, they were incredibly standard, catalog stock. After an evening of self-flagellation coupled with an online surfing session, I stumbled upon the answer: Meteor Lights—a product that promised to illuminate my home and my soul!

Located in San Francisco, Meteor Lights’ designers have created fiberglass lampshades and pendants that they recommend as replacement shades for mid-century modern design. I say, however, that a Meteor Light shade is so fun and playful, they can be used any where and at any time.

The entertaining site allows you to select your shade style, color, and pattern options. Using the Shade Selector, play around with the different shapes and combinations or test out the 25 different colors and half a dozen patterns that you can choose from. Whether you purchase a Meteor Light to hang over your kitchen table or as a replacement for your child’s outgrown infant-style lampshade, you can proudly glance around your home and remember that your possessions should be a reflection of you and not your bulk catalog. Details:

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Obsession: Radio, A 21st Century Cure

Haven’t listened to new music since The Smiths during a college party? Tired of circulating the same old tunes from your iPod, or, heaven-forbid, your tape cassettes and vinyl? Sign-up for For free, you can become a member of an online music community. Every track you play helps inform your profile—the more informed your profile, the more suggests great music that's custom-made to your taste. And, if you don't know the names of any of the hottest, new bands, go ahead and type in what you know. Soon, will be suggesting fresh and innovative tunes that introduce you to all those new sounds you've been missing and craving. Details:

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gastronomy: Elevated Grilling

I’m always searching for a creative twist on grilling. Since we cook outside so frequently, thinking beyond burgers, chicken, and steak is a proposal that is wildly embraced by my family and a welcome relief to their collective palates.

Browsing through my old Gourmet magazines, I found the perfect elevated grilling idea: Ziti with Grilled Gazpacho Sauce and Sausage. Based on the classic Spanish soup, this broth-less version is a modern marriage of warm grilled vegetables, robustly flavorful sauce, and sweet Italian sausage. With a few adjustments to the original, this simple grill-based pasta dish has managed to replace one of our many, standard meat meals to become a grilling family favorite.

10 T olive oil, divided
2 t salt, divided
2 t pepper, divided
1 medium onion
1.5 pints cherry tomatoes
3 bell peppers, orange, yellow, or red
4 medium zucchini
5 garlic cloves
½ c fresh, flat-leaf parsley, divided
½ c fresh basil, divided
3 T red wine vinegar
½ t sugar
6-8 sweet Italian sausages
1 lb ziti
½ c French feta or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

Stir salt and pepper into 5 T olive oil. Peel and quarter onion; separately thread onion pieces and tomatoes on metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers; set aside. Trim bottoms and tops off of bell peppers; half peppers length-wise and remove seeds. Trim and halve zucchinis, length-wise. Peel garlic cloves. Brush prepared vegetables and garlic with the seasoned olive oil mixture. Place oiled garlic on a double layer of foil and wrap tightly, twisting to seal.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking, medium, high heat. Grill vegetables and garlic covered, turning occasionally:

· Tomatoes, 3-5 minutes, or until slightly wilted
· Bell peppers, 8-10 minutes, or until skin is blackened in spots
· Onions and zucchini, 8-10 minutes, or until tender
· Garlic, 8-10 minutes, or until softened and caramelized in spots.

Transfer as cooked to covered platter.

Peel peppers. Divide tomatoes, bell peppers, and zucchini in half. In a food processor or blender, transfer half of the grilled tomatoes, 3 bell pepper halves, 4 zucchini halves, the entire onion, all of the garlic, 1 t salt, 1 t pepper, remaining olive oil, vinegar, sugar, ¼ c basil, and ¼ c parsley; puree until as smooth as possible, adding additional olive oil, if necessary.

Chop remaining peppers and zucchini; combine with the remaining tomatoes. Continue to keep vegetables warm on covered platter; set aside.

Grill sausages, 12-15 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

While sausages are grilling, cook ziti, according to directions, until al dente; drain. Add sauce and grilled vegetables to warm pasta. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and cheese; serve with sausages.

Makes 6 servings.

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Obsession: Tasty Salted Pig Parts

Back in December, we featured Boccalone in a short list of our favorite holiday merchants. But, like any true obsession, I can't stop talking, dreaming, and spreading the word about this tantalizing tidbit. Boccalone offers mail-order "tasty salted pig parts" that include a variety of cured, cooked, and fresh meats. When writing our Gastronomy article, my mouth started to water just thinking about accompanying my Grilled Gazpacho with some fresh-made Boccalone Italian Sausage. While you're at it, why not throw in some lardo or pancetta? What better way to celebrate the new grilling season? Details:

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adventure LA: Feeling Good in Silverlake

I'll be the first to admit that I once had a Woody Allen-esque LA-phobia. I'm not sure if I developed it by simply watching one-too-many films or by spending so many years in a city where I wasn't dependent on cars, stars, and bathing suits. Nonetheless, my phobia didn't subside until I moved to California and actually started to spend quality time in Los Angeles. Although an unhealthy attachment to a car is unavoidable, so are charming neighborhoods, incredible eateries, and inspired boutiques. Now, with many LA jaunts under my belt, no neighborhood offers a better way to spend a sun-kissed afternoon than combing the streets of Silverlake, LA's off-the-beaten path bohemian enclave.

Reform School: This is one of my all-time favorite shopping experiences. Reform School is full of home-spun household adornments, books, art, clothing, and personal accessories. Their website, set-up like a school office filing cabinet, is loads o' fun, too. Details:

Dean: Shop Dean for a fun assortment of purses, Unisex bags, recycled leather goods, and hand-made watches. Need I say more? Details:

Yolk: The design-obsessed owner of Yolk collects Scandinavian-style children's furniture and wares and combines it with adult "free range design" amusements. The collection includes everything from the globe's hand-made textiles to home-based designer skirts. Details:

Lamill Coffee: For a delicious cup o' really high-quality joe or for a refreshing iced spearmint tea, plan to please all your senses in this over-the-top beauty. Details:

If you're still in the mood for more creative gifting, check out the very fun and quirky A+R (, play a while in Monkey House Toys (, or try Silverlake's much-anticipated seasonally rustic dining edition, Reservoir (

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Obsession: Servin' Up Surfas

An LA staple since the 30s, Surfas has served the restaurant community and hard-core home cooks with restaurant-quality equipment, speciality food items, and hard-to-find ingredients. Not only does their website offer all of these incredible wonders to the home shopper, it also includes recipes, gift baskets, and an over-abundance of gourmet food finds. Details:

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gastronomy: Slow-Cooked Pork

Since moving to San Diego, one of the most notable revelations has been the accessibility to mouth-watering Mexican food—in particular, the pork of the gods. Whether visiting a street vendor, a take-out counter, or a sit-down venue, local Mexican chefs and cooks alike pride themselves on their pork dishes and brag that their offering is the best. They may have different methods and names like asada (grilled), al pastor (marinated), or carnitas (roasted in pork fat), but each one, in its own right, is always a meal to remember.

Although Mexican food in San Diego is both inexpensive and abundant, as an armchair cook, I desired to know the secrets that infused these memorable taste sensations. As a result, I embarked on a culinary journey of my own. After collecting and testing several asada, carnitas, and al pastor recipes, I finally mixed and combined my favorites to create a dish that rivals some of the best. The result? Tender, velvety, and rich pork—and always a family favorite.

Carnitas Roasted in Salsa Verde (green salsa)

2 lbs boneless pork shoulder (often referred to as pork butt); or 4 lbs pork shoulder, bone-in
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
½ t salt
½ t fresh ground pepper
2 T olive oil

1/2 c white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 ½ c chicken broth
3 t grated orange zest
1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, finely chopped
2 t fresh cilantro, chopped
1 t fresh oregano, chopped, or 1/2 t dried oregano
2 t fresh mint, chopped
2 t fresh basil, chopped
2 t lime juice
Green onion or chives, finely chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pork by rubbing with 2 of the minced garlic cloves and seasoning with salt and pepper. In large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork; brown on all dies, 12-15 minutes. Remove the pork to plate and set aside.

Deglaze Dutch Oven with white wine. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium; sauté onion for 6-7 minutes. Stir in remaining minced garlic clove, jalapeño pepper, and tomatillos; continue to sauté until all vegetables are tender, 5-10 minutes. Add chicken broth, orange zest, and oregano to Dutch Oven.

Return pork to Dutch Oven, coating with juices and vegetables. Cover and place in pre-heated oven; roast for 2 to 2.5 hours or until pork is tender.

Remove from oven and carefully lift pork to cutting board. If using pork shoulder, bone-in, separate meat from bone. Shred pork with fork (the pork should pull apart very easily); set aside.

To the remainder of sauce in the Dutch Oven, stir in cilantro, basil, mint, lime juice, and black pepper to taste.

Place meat in bowl and spoon sauce to taste over top; sprinkle with green onions or chives. Serve with warm tortillas or rice.

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Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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