Monthly Archives: December 2010

Savory Christmas Bread Pudding!

Feeling nostalgic for Christmas yet? That’s where I come in – to take you back to that magical time, four whole days ago, so you can live in the peaceful, magical feeling that Christmas always brings.

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
     Christmas Eve always brings the reading of “The Night Before Christmas“, viewings of “A Christmas Story” and the prepping of foods for Christmas Day. It’s been a tradition in our family, since before I was born, to have Eggs Portugal on Christmas morning. This savory bread pudding has tender pieces of sausage, strings of cheddar cheese, delicate mushrooms and nutty whole wheat bread.
 Eggs Portugal – Printable recipe HERE
8-10 slices whole wheat bread, cut into cubes
3/4 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb sausage, browned
4 eggs
1.5 tbsp prepared mustard (aka yellow mustard)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
5 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
2.5 cups milk (I use soy)
1/4 cup apple juice
     1. Butter a 9×13″ casserole dish.
     2. Place bread cubes in bottom of dish and top with cheese, then sausage.
     3. Beat the eggs with milk and mustard and pour over the top.
     4. Refrigerate overnight. (VERY IMPORTANT!)
     5. Before baking, stir together soup, apple juice and mushrooms and pour over the top of the casserole.
     6. Bake at 300 F for 2 hours, uncovered.
     7. Enjoy with a glass of apple juice or cider. (Also VERY important to enhance enjoyment!)
NOW it feels like Christmas!


Filed under recipe

Brewing My First Beer!

     Merry Christmas!!! I hope you had a wonderful day full of family and love and food and happiness! I’ll try to recap the foods sometime soon, but first, I need to recap a very important gift!

     One of my presents was from my brother and his wife (aka “the vegans”, now to be known as “the brewers”), and I got to utilize that today! I’ll give you one guess…

If you still don’t know, the brewers took me to pick up a homebrew kit! 
     We stopped by The Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills to get supplies and ingredients for my first ever homebrew
Carboy fermenter and fermenter lock and stopper.
The home brewer’s bible.
Pitchable yeast.
6.5 pounds of amber extract.
     I’ll do a basic glazing over of the steps we took to make my beer so I don’t bore you too much. First off, and the most important step:
Try an amazing beer that you’ve never had before – this one was made with Nelson Sauvin hops that are only grown in New Zealand. The aroma is very familiar to apricot and pineapple, and the taste has a slight similarity to orange juice, with plenty of hops aftertaste. 
Me likey!
We boiled about 3 gallons of water, then added the extract and brought it back to a rolling boil.
Stirring like crazy!
Boiling sugar. Yummmm!
We added an ounce of Hallertau hops and boiled the wort for an hour, then added another ounce of hops for aroma and cooled it in an ice bath.
After the temperature had been brought down to about 75 degrees, we sanitized the fermenter and the siphoning setup with Star-San.
After draining the sanitizing fluid, we siphoned the beer directly from the boiling pot into the carboy.
Afterwards we topped it off with filtered water to bring it up to five gallons, put the stopper and air lock on, then stowed in my closet to ferment for two weeks.
I don’t have any clothes left in my closet, but I think beer is more important anyway!
     Now I just need to think up a name – any suggestions? It’s an amber ale, so I’ll probably include “amber” in the name. Maybe Dec-Amber? Too corny? 
C’mon, I need help here!


Filed under airlock, amber ale, beer, carboy, extract, fermenter, Hallertau hops, home brewing, Joy of Homebrewing, Nelson Sauvin, The Home Wine Beer and Cheesemaking Shop, Woodland Hills, yeast

Christmas Eve at Ladyface!

     Merry Christmas Eve!!! My brother and his wife (whom shall now be referred to as “the vegans“) are in town for the holidays. They’re home-brewers and total beer snobs (that’s where I learned my beer-snobbery), so we went to Ladyface for an early lunch and beer tasting.

Ladyface Mountain!
We all started off with different beers. Starting from the top left and going clockwise: Picture City Porter, Ladyface IPA, Blind Ambition Amber, La Blonde, and the seasonal “O Smokey Night”.
I was very happy with my Blind Ambition – I’ve always been partial to ambers.
 Blind Ambition post-swirling.
It’s always necessary to start with sweet potato fries, especially if they come with red ale ketchup! The taste of the ale was actually present in the sauce and added a malty depth to the ketchup. I could’ve sipped it straight from the cup!
Having “the vegans” in the house always makes me crave meat to compensate for the overload of tofu and legumes that they use to fill our fridge. I ordered the grass-fed, free-range burger with white cheddar on a pretzel bun. It came with sliced red onions bathed in balsamic vinegar, organic tomatoes and butter lettuce on the side.
Dessert consisted of dreamy, delicate chocolate crepes stuffed with slightly-sweet chantilly cream and drizzled with raspberry compote.
They suggested that the crepes be paired with Liefman’s slightly sour lambic brewed with cherries.
It actually had small fragments of cherries in it!
 Obviously we weren’t satisfied with the dessert, OR the beer-pairing.
We were so unimpressed that we bought another bottle to take home for post-church enjoyment.
Such suffering 🙂
After a long lunch, we ventured back to the brewery section of the alehouse and brasserie.
They were in the middle of boiling their La Blanche Witbier, and we got a chance to talk with the brewmaster, David Griffiths, as well as the owner of the restaurant, Cyrena Nouzille.
Some of their seasonals were being fermented in French oak barrels.
     It was a really tough way to spend Christmas Eve, but we felt it was our duty to help support the local business. We’re off to attend Christmas Eve service, and then we’ll be spending the evening sipping fine brews and enjoying some quality time with our little family. I’m feeling extremely blessed this season.


Filed under Agoura, blonde ale, brewery, burgers, IPA, Ladyface, Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie, Liefmans, O Smokey Night, Picture City Porter, sweet potato fries, vegan

Molasses-Spiked Sirups Kager!

Sirups Kager are Danish spice cookies that are overloaded with butter, sugar and spicy goodness. This year, I attempted to recreate an old family recipe and make it a little healthier. They turned out delicious, but I think from now on I’ll let Christmas cookies be fatty and overly sweet the way they’re supposed to be. However, if you’re looking for a semi-healthy alternative to the fat and sugar-laden cookie, read on!

Molasses-Spiked Sirups Kager – Printable version HERE
1 cup (2 sticks) vegan butter, softened
1 cup LOOSELY packed brown sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 tsp water
3-4 cups whole oat flour, as needed
     1. Cream vegan butter with sugar, molasses and agave nectar.
     2. Stir in cinnamon, cloves and baking soda mixture.
     3. Add oat flour a little at a time, mixing well after each addition until a stiff dough forms.
I recommend only using 3 cups of oat flour, otherwise the cookies will taste powdery.
     4. Roll dough into a log in wax paper and refrigerate for at least one hour.
      5. While waiting for the dough to firm up, take a spatula, scrape out any remainder of dough from the mixing bowl and consume – it’s vegan and safe to eat!!!
     6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
     7. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap and slice into 1-inch thick segments.
     8. Bake until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.
     I was pleased overall with how these turned out, but I still prefer the traditional version. The oat flour made the texture a little powdery, but the flavor was amazing! The combination of molasses and agave in place of corn syrup (as the original recipe asks for) really adds a powerful aroma of spice, and an added benefit of healthy iron, calcium and potassium (plus MUCH more!) to each crispy little cookie.
What’s your favorite Christmas/holiday cookie?


Filed under recipe

Not Your Standard Mall Fare!

     Have you ever been to the food court at your local mall? If you haven’t (which is doubtful), let me be the one to break this to you: it sucks. It sucks unless you’re looking for nothing but deep-fried, mechanically separated meat that has been sitting under heating lamps for hours – if you’re into that, then please, close this page at once!

     If you have GOOD taste, however, let me introduce to you what mall food can really consist of:

MALLS have this stuff? It’s true!
Ahi tuna stack with Ponzu sauce and fried wontons.
Sweet potato fries with garlic aioli.
Crispy beef with garlic, balsamic, cherry sauce and hot chili peppers.
(This stuff will literally melt on your tongue!)
Garlic-orange chicken with tempura peppers.
Chopped garden salad with lime vinaigrette.
Lemon-garlic roasted chicken over arugula and grilled corn.
Lemony shrimp in Amazing-Heaven-Sent Sauce (I named this one myself).
Dessert. Nothing better than teeny chocolate-mint sticks!
     As you can see, mall food doesn’t have to be painful and gut-wrenching. My parental unit took me out to this delicious feast at Nordstrom’s restaurant “Blue Stove“, and completely made my Christmas season. There is nothing better than spending quality time with your loved ones over a glass of red wine and a delicious array of tapas-sized dishes. We were past stuffed and full of joy and love after this feast.
     On a second, and even better note, I’ll be turning in my two-week notice tomorrey! I’ve never been more happy to leave a job in my life! I am so sick of retail, and ready to move upward with my new job as an artist’s assistant – more details on that coming up soon!
What are your favorite family-oriented meals during the holidays?


Filed under ahi tuna, Blue Stove, chopped salad, Christmas, family, grilled shrimp, mall, Merry Christmas, Nordstrom, orange chicken, Ovation, red wine, roasted garlic chicken, sweet potato fries

Santa Barbara Boyz!

     I spelled boys with a Z. I hope you forgive me.

     Grayson, Sitler and Frank were seniors when I was a freshman at UCSB. They took me and my friends Joelle and Christina under their wings (and into The Brew – their awesome, yet slightly disgustingly dirty house) the entire year. Every time we get together is a wonderful overload of happiness and joy!

On Tuesday I drove up to Island Brewing Company in Carpinteria to meet with Grayson for a beer.
A glass of Jubilee and a view of the beach? Okay, if I must!
Gray decided to grow a beard to keep his chin warm for snowboarding season!
(His actual words)
     Whilst at the brewery, Grayson surprised me with the news that our friend Sitler was in town, and that I was being kidnapped. I would not be going back home that night. I didn’t resist, although my toothbrush was missed.
Grayson, mistletoe and Sitler?
Sitler looks slightly creeped out… Just a bit…
Apparently they sell this tequila for a few bucks in Mexico. We all stared in awe and fear at the bottle, but no one had the guts to consume any.
Frank the Tank sterilizing his keg.
Got guns?
Closet beer! Frank, when do I get to try this??
     We spent the night testing out freshly tapped homebrews, eating homemade eggplant parmesan and debaucher-ing (not a real word, but accurate) to our hearts content, just like old times. Then we all ended up crashing on the couch around midnight and watching the BBC, not like old times. Sleeping before 1am? I think we’re getting old!
Becki and Grayson circa 2006
Becki and Sitler (and my lovely roommates Joelle and Christina) circa 2006.
Becki and Frank the Tank circa 2006.

I love my boyz!

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Filed under beach, beer, brewing, Carpinteria, Frank the Tank, Grayson, homebrewing, Island Brewing Company, Jubilee, mistletoe, ocean view, Sitler, UCSB

Tucson: Part Four!

     Last Sunday, I did something I’ve NEVER done before… I purchased a beer, drank a quarter of it and LEFT THE REST! I know, I don’t believe it either!

At lunch, the waiter recommended Old Monkeyshine by Nimbus. This is a VERY potent beer. I didn’t leave it because I didn’t like it, I left it because after a quarter of it, I was feeling quite fuzzy around the edges – not good when you have to go back to work.
I also had half of a roast beef and cheddar sandwich on a french roll from Delectables. I LOVE it when restaurants use white cheddar. It makes me feel a bit healthier not having all that artificial dye weaving its way through my system.
In an attempt to get back to my booth, I had to take on a powerful force of nature: crowds at a stoplight.
Aaaaaaah, here they come!!!!

     I barely survived. I hid away in the booth until it was time for dinner.
After we broke down the booth (in a record hour and forty-five minutes!!!), we went to Caruso’s for some massive portions of pasta. And bread.
Since I didn’t finish my brew at lunch, I decided to give it another go. This time I got Dirty Guera by Nimbus – nice and smooth, with a much lower ABV than Old Monkeyshine.
I ordered the “spinach ravioli” which ended up being green ravioli stuffed with cheese. Not quite what I had in mind…
     The next day we rose at 6am and headed back to Cali. We stopped for lunch at Hadley, which is apparently famous for its date shakes. I know, I’ve never heard of it either.
The place is covered with autographed headshots…
…which begs the question, do these people carry around headshots with them, just waiting for the opportunity to pass them out?
I got a small date shake – if they’re famous, you gotta try!
I was not impressed. However, if you like gritty vanilla milkshakes, these are for you!
I ordered the vegetarian sandwich topped with blended avocado and cream cheese, sprouts, lettuce and tomato. Again, not impressed.

     I finally made it back after a NINE HOUR drive and collapsed in a happy heap on the couch with a book, a cup of tea and a blanket.
It’s so good to be home.


Filed under blonde ale, Caruso's, date shake, David Carradine, Delectables, Dirty Guera, Hadley, Hadley Fruit Orchards, Nimbus, Old Monkeyshine, Smallville, Tucson, white cheddar

Tucson: Part Three!

     My mornings in Tucson consisted of lunch for breakfast. Every day. I fell in love with the beautiful Sabine’s Cafe Passe, where I grabbed panini every morning.

Roasted bell pepper, avocado slices, fresh tomatoes, lettuce and a slice of pepperjack cheese piled on top of nine-grain bread and pressed until melted.
Something else I may have to recreate at home!

     During the festival on Saturday, I had some time to go and explore a little more. I stumbled across a dance studio that was advertising a free dance show. How could I not check that out? FREE!

     All the dancing made me ravenous! I visited a local college hangout for lunch.
“We love your bum.” Definitely a college hangout.
It was packed inside, so I grabbed a New Belgium Abbey and grabbed the first seat I found.
I placed my order and spent AN HOUR waiting for it to arrive. Luckily they had plenty of photography on the walls to check out, and all of the patrons were incredibly trashed and rowdy and fun to watch.
This is the HALF-ORDER of their “Lady Madonna” sandwich. It is PILED with turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. I ate a quarter of it and was stuffed. I also demolished most of the sweet potato fries.
     We had an amazing day of sales and decided to celebrate with dinner and drinks at the hotel.
There were no complaints about the view.
We were nestled in a corner outside where we enjoyed the incredible scenery and were serenaded by acoustic guitar.
How could I not? Cadillac margarita with a sugar rim!
We started with guacamole, prepared fresh tableside with a mortar and pestle, that was full of avocado, fresh tomatoes, lime zest, jalapeno and onions.
I also can’t say no to salmon!
This nears the top of my “favorite salmon entree EVER” list. The salmon was delicate and crispy on the outside, set atop a bed of rich, flavorful steamed lentils and spinach, and covered with tangy Peperonata – caramelized bell peppers.
I might be drooling as I remember this right now. Or that could be the novocaine from my visit to the dentist…
We also split a vegan tamale pie that was filled with corn, black beans and elbow macaroni, and topped with a tamale dough, cabbage and tomatoes. This wasn’t quite as worthwhile.
I filled my plate and then cleared it completely. I also got seconds (and possibly thirds) of the salmon.

Becki was a happy girl.

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Filed under Abbey, Arizona, Bumsted's, Cadillac, grilled salmon, guacamole, Madonna, New Belgium, Sabine's Cafe Passe, Tucson, vegan

Adorable Puppy Attack!

     This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except for the fact that I miss my little Buddha (her actual name is Sonoma, but her name changes with my mood: when she had that swollen face, I called her “Puffer“. When she’s yapping away for no good reason, I call her “Shaddupyadangdog!“. When she’s being adorable, I call her “Ooooohlookatthebaybeeeeee!“).

I’m strange. We all knew this.
“Hey Buddha, wanna play?”
That is all.


Filed under Buddha, ooooohlookatthebaybeeeee, pomeranian, Puffer, puppies, Shaddupyadangdog, Sonoma

Tucson: Part Two!

     We’ve had a busy two days here in Tucson! The 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair received a record number of visitors on Friday! Luckily, I still had enough time to escape the booth and wander around.

This street fair is referred to as the “flea market” by the fine artists who attend. I definitely noticed that the majority of the sales here are random trinkets that have no use.
Three dollar bracelets, anyone?
TONS of clothes!
It always bothers me when I go to a booth that sells clothing and the tag says, “Made in Nepal.” Why can’t these people sew their own clothes and sell them? I want something authentic that I can’t order online from a production factory located overseas!
     After we wrapped for the day, my cousin Stephanie came by to show me the not-so-dirty-and-ghetto part of Tucson. I’ll be honest, didn’t think such a place existed.
I was wrong! Steph took me to a local barbecue place, Daisy Mae’s, nestled in the hills of Tucson.
When you enter, there are dollar bills signed and stapled to the walls. Once a year, Daisy Mae’s donates all these dollars to a charity.
My beautiful cousin and the host promised me that the ribs would rock my world.
My world was ROCKED. These ribs were so tender that when you touched the fork to them, the meat just melted off. I demolished the entire plate and didn’t regret a single forkful!
It was a struggle to lift myself out of the chair after consuming eighteen thousand pounds of ribs, but I eventually rolled myself back out to her car.
Afterwards we headed to the University of Arizona campus to check out the area.
We also visited the A-FRICKIN-MAZING games/lounge area. This place was decked out with pool tables, DDR, ping-pong tables and random video games.
If you didn’t know, I am a billiards FANATIC! I used to play every weekend with my family when I was still wearing overalls, and am still in love with the game!
     Afterwards, Steph drove me back to the hotel where I ended with a nightcap and Skype-d with the family.
I have no complaints about anything in life at this moment.


Filed under 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair, Arizona, billiards, Concannon, Daisy Mae's Steak House, flea market, Nepal, Skype, Tucson, University of Arizona