In My Kitchen: March-Detox Veggie Stew

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Eep!  I guess the writing everyday thing isn’t really working out so far.  Partly because as Max pointed out this morning “No one comments on [Megan’s] blog anymore.” But when I was sitting here just now thinking about how to spend the next hour or so, I remembered that I started this blog for me, and so it shall continue on at whatever speed makes me happy.

I’ve been devoting all my time (and most of my mental fortitude) recently to dealing with our puppy, Roo’s, separation anxiety.  It started out mild and has steadily gotten worse.  It is impossible to leave him alone now.  We are working with some professionals because apparently dog separation anxiety is a big deal.

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Poor Roo. (And poor me for having to clean up after an anxious pup)

It is rather consuming of my time and energy with so much at stake, so I haven’t been going to the gym.  I even put my membership on a one-month hold.  Because of that, I’m extra conscious of what I’m putting into my body right now.  When the only exercise I’m getting is via copious dog walks, I need food that will minimize the damage I’m doing with my more sedentary life right now 🙂

So this family soup recipe seems appropriate.  I hesitate to even call it a recipe when the entirety of it is comprised of stewing down every veggie you can get your hands on in a giant pot with chicken broth, but it is thing of beauty that should be shared so that everyone knows how delicious this non-recipe is.

Now, it is a soup (aka hot), and I did make this in February after my mom left as a way to sort of detox from all the deliciousness we consumed together, but I think it works for any time you need to jumpstart a new period of healthier eating.  My mom used to make this for us regularly, and when I found out you can eat for a week off one pot I started making it regularly, too!

All I can say is that this soup/stew is more than the sum of its individual veggie parts.  When all are combined and time and heat have worked their magic, you have a surprisingly hearty and satisfying meal.

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Step 1: Chop all your veg.  The only veggie I don’t recommend throwing in is spinach.  Somehow doesn’t work.

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Step 2 (and Last Step): Stew in a giant stock pot for many hours until all the veggies are cooked down and soft.

Add a swirl of ketchup on top for the acid if you want to do it old school.

In My Kitchen: February-Asparagus Soup FTW

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This past week I made a really dope chicken shawarma-esque recipe out of the NY Times in an attempt to create my take on Max and my favorite chicken shawarma plates from Al Wazir Chicken in LA.   When Max lived in Hollywood, we used to go there just about every other day!  Aaaand now I’m homesick and craving Al Wazir.

I healthied it up a bit by adding some extra veggies and made a Greek yogurt-garlic-lemon juice-mint sauce.  Anyway, that was fun. Max and I both crave chicken shawarma on the reg, and we are constantly saddened by the total lack of shawarma up here in SF.  If you have any leads on places we should check out that might change our mind and rival our beloved Al Wazir (or even Zankou, if we’re slummin’ it), PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do tell.

Ya know, I try to keep this from becoming a total food blog, because I could do that.  It would be pretty boring, but it could be done. And I have another post (another freakin’ soup post at that) that I plan to create this month, but I absolutely could not not tell you about the asparagus soup I made to go with my chicken shawarma because it is NUTS good.  Like restaurant-good.  And it is ridic healthy and stupid easy and quick to make.  I definitely emailed the recipe to my mom, so you know it’s the best of the best.

So let me just direct you to the recipe, which has approximately 3 steps, but is basically sauté onions in butter, add asparagus and chicken stock, boil, remove from heat, add cream cheese (or Greek yogurt, which I used and works like charm), blend with hand blender.  The end.

Also, you should probably check out Skinnytaste and see what’s up.  I haven’t had a chance to go browsing, but I will when I’m looking for my next meal inspiration for sure.  Looks like a goldmine!

 

Other People’s Posts: How to Add Greenery to a Space

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A tiny greenhouse in the back garden of General Store in Outer Sunset

It is only within the last two years that I’ve even begun to learn how to keep plants alive.  I’m still only so-so. But plants in home decor is the.thing right now, and I totally love the effect plant life has on a living space.  This extends to restaurants and hotels, etc., by the way.  I’m always so envious when I see it done artfully somewhere.  I want my house to have that look.

So, of course, I was super intrigued when I came across this little piece about using greenery in your design.  I have it bookmarked for when we get a permanent place, and I can make real some investments in our space.

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The back garden of General Store

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A Coffee Lover’s Walking Tour of San Francisco

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Even though I’ve been in San Francisco for a good 9-1/2 months now, I still feel like I’m just getting to know the city.  I still haven’t ventured into half of the neighborhoods or found my favorite-well, just about anything (though I have found my favorite pizza delivery, Village Pizzeria Restaurant on Van Ness).  I know LA like the back of my hand having lived there for 28 years and miss that familiarity a ton, but I want to know my new city with that same kind of intimacy.

A common thing I’ll do with a free half day is walk to a destination coffee shop in a neighborhood of San Francisco I haven’t explored.  Coffee is a great time suck because (a) it’s freakin’ delicious and (b) it isn’t super costly.  I won’t say the going rate of $4.50 is exactly cheap for a latte, but the way things are in this city, it isn’t on the high end, that’s for sure.  And the walking is a bonus, too, it keeps me feeling active, and I end up getting to see even more of the city by strolling through it.  I’ve discovered the cutest neighborhoods this way, like Presidio Heights and Alamo Square.

Below are a few of the coffee shops that have warranted a walk.

Blue Bottle in Hayes Valley:

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This one is less of a destination than a habit, actually.  The Blue Bottle Kiosk on Linden Street is just a few blocks from my house and in one of my favorite walkable ‘hoods, Hayes Valley.  I took my mom here when she came to visit and it was the start of her love affair with the San Francisco latte.

Honestly, I’m not even sure why the lattes (and probably the coffee, too, but I’m a pussy and like to drown my coffee in milk) are so, so, so much better here than they are in LA.  I want to say it’s the milk, but correct me if I’m wrong here.

Interesting fact-This was the first Blue Bottle location in San Francisco, I believe.  It began as a kiosk run out of a friend’s garage in the Linden Street alley, and is still totally quirky that way.  Click the link above for the full scoop.

The Mill on Divisidero:

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You know I’m not from around here because I say Divisidero and not Divis.

Anyway, right away upon moving here, any women who wanted to make a plan with me always suggested we have our date at The Mill.  However, as is the way of things, none of these well-intentioned plans ever came to fruition, and I found I still hadn’t been to The Mill until two weeks ago.

Like a few other places around town, toast is the jam.  Ha! Toast is the jam.  But, ya know, it’s the thing you go there for.  I thought it was really neat that you can watch them making the fresh bread right there while you wait for your coffee.  And you will wait.  The line is always super long.  When I went in the late afternoon on a Friday, the line was almost out the door.

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I loved the interior, so spacious and airy, but I generally do like coffee shop interiors.  Basic bitch here, all the way.  And speaking of, don’t wear your sweatpants to The Mill, as there is a decent chance you’ll run into someone you know, ‘cus it’s super hip and trendy.  I hardly know anyone up here, and still had the misfortune of not being recognized at first because I “looked different” in my sweatpants than I did when we had dinner together at her house.  hahaha!

Sight Glass in SOMA:

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SOMA is actually an area with which I’m pretty familiar.  Max works there, so I often drive him to work or meet him there for a meal.  And no, I didn’t walk to this one.

On one of my return drives from dropping Max at his restaurant, I fell in love with the exterior of Sight Glass.  I tried to take my mom there when she visited, but we couldn’t find parking and ended up at Jane in the Tenderloin, which is practically my second home here and where you’ll find me just about every Saturday morning.

After being thwarted initially, I made it there by making Max get up early-ish on a day he worked, so we could go for coffee and share a pastry.

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And you can tell he was beyond thrilled to be there in the morning.

This place really reminded me of the LA coffee shops we had in our neighborhood like Bar Nine; very sparse in that cool industrial way.  Excellent use of negative space.

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I mused with Max about how great it would be if I were one of the many people we saw who could do work in a place like this.  I could never do it because I’d want to eat all the goodies and drink coffee constantly, so I would be broke and fat.

And there you have it!  There are a few other places I’d like to mention, so maybe I’ll do another post like this on another day.  But I think I’ve probably inundated this page with enough coffee shops and pictures of coffee shop interiors for a minute.

The Pop-Up

It has been a little slow around here lately.  Rainy winter weather and work have kept me rather isolated.  I’ve been doing quite a lot of cooking, but because this is not a food blog, I will spare you the details.

I’m no food-writer, and since I know people that are, I’m aware of how inappropriate any kind of restaurant review or blog post would be.  Besides that, Max has forbidden me from ever going public with my thoughts about any particular restaurant in any other than the most lay of fashions.  Which is totally appropriate, I think, since we are so encircled by the service industry these days.  That said, being that we are constantly surrounded by San Francisco food culture, almost everything we do involves a food component these days.

Last weekend we attended the pop-up restaurant project of a young chef who used to work with Max. He and his girlfriend will be moving out of state soon, so he is using this time to refine dishes and concepts for his eventual brick and mortar restaurant.  He is testing his vision without the investors and the risk and seeing if it works.  He serves a multi-course menu at his home with his girlfriend and two others working service with him.

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Photo credit to Andrew Cheng.

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Photo by Andrew Cheng

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Of course, this is not a new idea.  Max and I have been going to pop-ups for years.  Though, it wasn’t the first of its kind, one of the innovators of the pop-up restaurant was Ludo Lefebvre.  We got in on it pretty early when he first appeared at Bread Bar on Melrose.  Oh man, we thought we were pretty cool!  We’ve rightly kept up with Ludo as he went on to host several more pop-ups and then, more recently, to open his brick and mortar restaurants Trois Mec and Petite Trois in Los Angeles.

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At one of the later pop-up dinners with Ludo and some friends.

We next starting taking interest in a pop-up in Downtown Los Angeles hosted in the chef’s loft.  It was a lottery system to get invited, but as it turns out, you kind of needed to know someone.  We fell-in with the LA food crowd and attended quite a few of Chef Craig’s dinners.  Eventually, I hosted Max’s birthday at a dinner of Craig’s, which was a really neat thing to be able to do.

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Me and some of the ladies at Max’s pop-up birthday dinner.

And the friendship eventually spawned a work-relationship, which involved Max hooking Craig up with my mother-in-law’s museum for his first museum-based pop-up event.  I was lucky enough to attend. He later went on to host his pop-up all over the country in some very high-profile spots.

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Craig’s first pop-up at SMMOA

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What a cool space to eat!

Max has even had a pop-up of his very own!  It was called BRK Dining, and Max and his friend also named Max hosted dinners out of other Max’s condo in West Hollywood.  It became quite successful and continues on today, obviously without husband-Max.  I would often help serve or do dishes.  BRK was a really fun project for Max, and it introduced him to the concept of curating guests and to the art of service.  (FYI-if you ever go to one of these fancy-shmancy restaurants, know that they have Googled the shit out of you.  They know where you work and have probably checked out all your social media accounts.)  It even ended up getting them a little press!  Pretty exciting stuff!

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A BRK dinner prep

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Max getting mic’d for an interview about BRK

Through BRK and Twitter, Max connected with a VERY young chef in his teens, but already quite accomplished, named Flynn.  Love Flynn.  He offered his sous chef services to BRK and started putting on his own pop-up out of his parents’ house in Los Angeles and other restaurant spaces.  Max worked with him as his wine dude whenever possible.  Flynn went on to work at some great LA restaurants, then traveled to Europe and staged at some of the greats, before heading to NY, where he resides currently, to open his pop-up there.

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At one of Flynn’s dinner at his home.

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From one of Flynn’s dinners at the restaurant space, Tiara.

I guess I know a thing or two about pop-up restaurants.  If you follow food and ever have the opportunity, I think going to these types of events is an awesome way to find a chef you love and get to follow them from day-one.  I, myself, have watched as some of these pop-up chefs go on to great notoriety, and can say I was there “back when”.  We certainly have had a lot of fun following some of our favorites around to all these different locations over the years!

P.S. This post spans a lotta years! I had a lot of fun going back through the photo archives looking for all of these pictures.  Know that this is a mere sampling! haha!

In My Kitchen: January-Detox Enchiladas

 

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The last few months, or rather the last third, of my 2015 was a mess.  I thrive on order and routine-it keeps my anxiety at bay, yet I disregarded every single schedule I had put in place in favor of taking lots of naps and watching way too many hours of TV.  And I LOVE TV, so that is really saying something.

The holidays are just one more reason to throw up your hands in defeat when you realize you’re in for days, if not weeks, of straight partying and there is no escape from the aftermath in the form of leftovers.  You can’t really fight it, so you just give in.

In my case, I had let go of all of the things and controls I instituted in my life that kept me feeling on-top-of-it.  Things I don’t really “like” doing, but I do because I like the way I feel once I’ve done them.  Things like exercising regularly and cooking healthy meals for myself. Even writing consistently in this here blog!  I was bloated, yet empty, yet full of excuses.  And no one likes to be bloated AND empty.  Not cool.

So I guess that’s why so many people press the reset button come January.  It may be possible clear your social calendar a little bit so you can actually focus on treating yourself right with the holiday celebrations and entertaining finally over.

Look, I know there is no magic date on the calendar that makes it the right time to “do better” at life.  I mean, ideally we’d be striving for our best selves with each new day, right? But with a new year it does feel kind of right to make a new start or at least resume doing the things you know are right for you, personally.  Plus, everyone else is doing it and that makes it easier.  Jump on that bandwagon if it helps.

Since December 28, 2015, I’ve been a very good girl.  I’ve been eating well and going to the gym three times a week.  I even finally took that boxing class I’d been dying to take!  P.S. Boxing is so much fun!  I’m incorporating it into my exercise regime as a regular thing.  Hitting stuff rocks!

But on the culinary side, one of the first big successes of 2016 has been these detox enchiladas.  I’m not quite sure what makes them “detox” as opposed to just a healthy alternative to the ridiculously fattening regular enchiladas we all know and love, but I gave them a try because they sounded good and I like the word “detox”.  Makes me feel good. Plus-KALE.  So much kale.  It can’t be bad.

Big success over here because, not only did I eat and enjoy them, but Max did, as well!

I grabbed this recipe from a website called Joanne Eats Well With Others, so I will direct you there if you’re going to be taking this on. I am giving her and her site full credit for adapting this recipe and writing it down, and I hope that satisfies her requirement that I do so 🙂

In essence, the recipe just takes the unhealthy components of your tradish enchiladas with a green goddess dressing and replaces them with healthier alternatives.  I always like this method of preparing dietetic food because I like those familiar tastes and experiences, but clearly don’t want all the fat, calories, and processed carbs.  So it is along the same lines as cauliflower bread recipes and zoodles.

The filling is chickpeas, onion, corn, and Ro-Tel, plus herbs and spices.  I, however, misread the recipe before going shopping and forgot to purchase Ro-Tel, so I just used leftover salsa I had in the house, and it totally worked, though I’m aware this accidental substitution did add sugar that I didn’t need.  I also added half a chicken breast chopped up into super small bits to sort of lull my husband into submission.  Half a chicken breast spread throughout a 9 x 13 casserole dish, does not a lot of chicken make, let me tell you, so it was really just about the fact that it was in there at all.  Once you cook all that together, you let it cool and then add in a little bit of low-fat cheese, so the inside looks melty when you bake it.  That’s it-easy filling.

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You wrap those up in corn tortillas, which sounds easier than it is if you want them to look pretty at all, and then pour the “green goddess dressing” over the top.

I’m not sure if there’s a trick to this, but I found the wrapping process frustrating, and I cursed at those tortillas like a foul-mouthed sailor. I curse quite a lot in the kitchen, actually. Maybe it’s just me. The problem was that, even though I heated the tortillas in the over as called for, they kept cracking or wanting to unwrap and spill their contents all over the baking dish. I was dismayed at how ugly and unprofessional they looked when they were sitting there dry, but there is a happy ending.  No worries.

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The mess I made of things while I was trying to get these babies wrapped and tucked in there! 

 

A quick note on Green Goddess dressing. It is a salad dressing, typically containing mayonnaise, sour cream, chervil, chives, anchovy, tarragon, lemon juice, and pepper, so it is green and creamy.  Appropriately, it is said to have originated at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the early 1920s. There are now all sorts of bottlings and variations, but they tend not to be healthy because there has to be something really creamy in there like mayonnaise, sour cream, or sometimes tahini.

This recipe is like the green juice equivalent of Green Goddess dressing, as it uses kale, green chiles, veggie stock, scallions, and low fat greek yogurt. All good things.

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That’s a VitaMix full of kale, people.

Add a light sprinkling of low-fat cheese you used in the filling to the top of your enchiladas now covered in the dressing and bake it. You’ll see that no matter how ugly and cracked your dry enchiladas looked, this dish is very visually forgiving because when the sauce permeates the tortillas it all sort of smooths out.

The result is a very attractive dish that fed my family of two for a few days.  The inside is creamy AND spicy from that greek yogurt and the salsa and chiles.

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If you’re looking to start that diet in the new year, consider this dish as it is one of those meals that feels much more decadent than it is, and it will help ween you off the delicious, rich holiday foods you’ve probably now gotten used to.  I know I did.

Happy New Year!

Hosting Holidays: A Right of Passage

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Christmastime this year was extra special, as it saw the triumphant return of Uncle Wen’s Christmas party.

When I was very young, I remember being at his house that he bought with his partner in West Hollywood looking up at the giant tree decked in only purple and turquoise.  I remember ascending the walkway lined with luminarias, just like in Santa Fe. Uncle Wen would be in the kitchen cooking and coming out with trays of food over and over again.

I was so young that all these memories come to me from a child’s height with all the people, seemingly all in black, towering above me.  I remember watching Funny Girl for the first time at one of these parties in the back room when I had gotten too tired for the adult cocktail festivities.

As you can tell, it has been quite some time since Uncle Wen has thrown a Christmas Party, not because he hasn’t wanted to, but because he lost the ability.

But it came back this year in a beautiful way.  There were 9 of us, a respectable, but not out-of-control number of guests. Since we are all a close group, it was 100% comfortable.  The big tree was back up in full glory (though with a less formal color scheme), and we sat back, stood around, and ate and drank our faces off.  Uncle Wen cooked so much food! Salmon croquettes, two kinds of holiday bruschetta, baked brie and fig tarts, and desserts, desserts, desserts!

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Hosting a holiday or a holiday party is a right of passage.  It is “adulting” at the absolute highest level.  It requires resources, organization, and the desire to invite those closest to you into your intimate environment.  Not everyone is able or willing to do this.  I  have never hosted a holiday or thrown a formal dinner party or cocktail soiree, but it seems like things may be changing.

Traditionally, my mom and Max’s mother each host separate Christmases in LA, which makes it hard on us (though it does give us the perfect excuse to take the gorgeous winter drive down PCH and through Topanga Canyon every Christmas, which is almost a tradition of its own).  This year, the splitting of time coupled with my mom’s waning luster for hosting a large group, caused me to considered hosting the Christmas holiday at our house next season.

Maybe it is my youth or maybe I’ll just always be a silly fool for Christmas, but, while there is so much to do around the holidays to get ready, I adore almost every minute of it.  I enjoy making food for the people I love to eat (and honestly, who are we kidding? You know Max will be helming the kitchen.  But I bake.  I bake.) I enjoy putting on a Christmas movie and wrapping presents.  I enjoy decorating our house for Christmas even thought I know we are just going to take it down a few weeks later.  There’s definitely also a part of me that knows how much my dad loved Christmas and I feel obligated to bring that Christmas spirit, so we can have a piece of him with us.

This is the first time when I’ve even considered it possible that Max and I might host our families for the holidays.  Our apartment, though small in size, is an adult apartment.  I’ve hosted our families and friends when they have come to stay.  I have learned to buy fancy hand soap for the bathrooms and to have sturdy, luxe towels.  We have a housekeeper (life saving!) We have made a home that I’m finally willing to share, so I guess the next step is simply to offer it up to our families and share it.

One tradition I know we would keep is serving latkes and caviar.  It is everyone’s favorite part of Christmas Eve.

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We set up a little caviar bar with all the usual accouterment.

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But when the latkes ran out, Max taught everyone how to do caviar “bumps”.  Moms doing bumps! 

Stay tuned for some mature changes in the Coane household in 2016, maybe I’ll even host Christmas next year!

A few pictures of the AMAZING giant gingerbread men that my Uncle Brian personalized for each couple this year.

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