Golden beet, carrot, celery, fennel
Sunday night – staring at Friday night’s carcass in the fridge. We bought an organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and only ate half of it. Now it’s time to make the rest into chicken salad. So what else do I have in the fridge that needs to be used up quick? Some celery, green onions, plain yogurt, half a lime, one Gala apple. Perfect. I think this is going to work!
This is a no-mayo recipe; not that I’m against mayo, I just rarely have it on hand. Fortunately it’s possible to make tasty chicken salad without it. So let’s get started:
2-3 cups pulled or cubed chicken
1 green onion
1/2 c celery
1/2 c apple
1/4 c walnuts
3/4 c plain yogurt
juice of half a lemon or lime
2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 TBSP mustard (dijon or spicy)
Salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil
Mix everything together in a big bowl. Yessss! All those random about-to-expire items are now attractively reassembled and ready to serve. Love when that happens.
Come Monday, I’m going to have one delicious lunch!
The best part about living in the big city is the all the workout walking. How better to end an indulgent dinner out than by having to schlep up steep San Francisco hills to get back home? Did I mention I never wear heels? For fear of tumbling down (or up) the block?
Ok, so walking city streets = good. If it’s your first visit, trust me, you will feel muscles that you never knew you had (as in “my shin muscle is on fire”). In addition to all the cross-town traversing, I invite you to follow me to the edge of the city for some stunning natural views and my absolute favorite Golden Gate hike.
I usually pick up the Batteries to Bluffs trail from Immigration Point in the Presidio (there is room to park along Washington Blvd, even on the weekends). I like this little-known starting point because you can avoid the bridge traffic and get right to it. And it makes for an easy return to your car after the hike.
If you don’t have a car, you can take the California 1 bus to Arguello Blvd, then walk into the Presidio to Inspiration Point. (Better yet, stay at the beautiful Inn at the Presidio and follow the short path behind it up to the Point.) Take in the city views, then continue on Arguello until you reach Washington (forks to left). From here you can stay on Washington or dip into the trails to catch a glimpse of the bridge towers at the National Cemetery Overlook. Eventually you will find your way to a campground that leads to Immigration Point. You can see a good color map of Presidio trails here.
Now that we’ve made it into the heart of the Presidio, let’s take that stair-step trail on the left down to Lincoln Blvd below. Here you will find many trail head signs. Follow the one that says Marshall Beach. This leads you to the “backside” of the Gate – basically you’re hiking all the way down to a tiny nestled beach that looks like the mythic home of a troll living beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
Speaking of trolling, this secluded spot has a reputation for being a nude beach. Why on earth someone would want to expose their bits to the frigid weather here is beyond me, but it does happen. You may spy one or two nudists near the rocks – or even get lucky enough to have Naked Guy photo-bombing your pic of the bridge!
Hike back up (staying left at fork) then head left on Lincoln until you get to the batteries and Golden Gate Overlook. Take a seat on one of the new stone benches (built in 2012) and see the cars and people maneuvering below. Here the Golden Gate Bridge seems so close – as if we were seagulls hovering just above.
After a rest and a snack, explore the earthwork batteries to the left, built for seacoast defense after the Civil War. Climb the ladders, stand on top and take in the stunning views of the sea. Congratulate yourself on traveling a less-touristy-laden path to the Golden Gate, and imagine what it looked like over a century ago (long before the bridge was built in 1937).
All right, my trolls and seagulls! It’s time for our post-hike rewards, into the belly of the tourist beast! Pick up the car on Washington, turn south on Lincoln, wind through Seacliff past the Legion of Honor and keep heading west until you reach Lands End. Park in the Visitor Center lot or along the Great Highway.
Enter the Cliff House with some trepidation (this prime tourist spot is perpetually crowded). I often get lucky and snag one of the small tables in the lounge area to the right. This is perfect for happy hour – drinks/apps only – and the views of the sun-sparkled ocean are blindingly gorgeous. You may even see a whale swimming by Seal Rocks, as I did one afternoon.
After hanging out at the Cliff, you may feel revived enough to explore the ruins of Sutro Baths (in view of the restaurant, below the Lands End Visitor Center). Bonus hike: take the Coastal Trail east to discover the Lands End labyrinth. The labyrinth is well hidden, but also well worth it!
That’s about it for the hike and the hang. So tell me, did I whet your appetite?
I love making dinner out of whatever bits and pieces I can find in the kitchen. Most of the time this works quite well, especially with accessible internet recipes and my favorite cookbooks on hand.
Last night I opened up my Alice Waters’ Vegetables book to the chapter on cauliflower and tried a new recipe: Cauliflower Soup with Salmon Caviar. Did I have salmon caviar on hand? No. But I had a beautiful cruciferous head of yummyness and some fresh Italian parsley from the CSA farm box. What could go wrong?
The soup was lovely to look at, but without the contrasting tang (and salt) of roe it was rather dull – even when topped with green onions and the divine butter-fried croutons that I whipped up in the sauté pan. I did not have the recommended dollop of crème fraîche. A few shavings of cheese helped, but….eh.
Today I brought out the leftovers hoping for improvement (homemade soup does usually taste better the next day). It was thicker than the night before, more like porridge than soup. I nuked it for only a minute (the recipe said to serve tepid or room temperature). I tasted the same blandness. Doctored it up with a drizzle of olive oil, more salt and pepper, and a heavy sprinkling of Parmesan. Suddenly it had the consistency and flavor of grits. I invented faux grits.
Vegetarians, rejoice! Just what you’ve always wanted! But wait, aren’t regular grits already vegetarian? Who needs faux grits? No one, I guess – unless there are no grits in the kitchen.
- Boil one head of cauliflower in salted water until tender.
- Roughly purée in food processor with some of the reserved pot liquor.
- Return to pot and thin with milk to desired consistency. Simmer 5 minutes.
- Add some Italian parsley and simmer 2 minutes more.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve with green onions, butter-fried croutons, and something far more exciting than a few shaves of cheese, please. Get original recipe here.
We welcomed in the new year with a Calvin Klein bed set in deep purple (a radical change from our other-end-of-the-color-wheel butter yellow). I loved the new comforter and pillows, but felt a bit overwhelmed with all the purple. So I set out to find the perfect throw pillow to add the right pop.
I wanted to tie in the colors from the painting above our bed (a lovely pastel by Bob Richey), which narrowed down my choices quite a bit. After hitting every home store in SF, I had nothing to show for all my searching. Luckily the most fabulous fabric store imaginable is right in Union Square. Britex Fabrics has four floors of eye candy for the fabric enthusiast. I headed to the home decor section and soon became overwhelmed by all the choices. It’s hard to see what you’re seeing in there.
I had just about given up when I spotted this bird print draped on a display way up high. “Where do I find that?” I asked the sales clerk. She dug through bolts until she uncovered it. Half a yard later, I headed out the door and down the block to Crate & Barrel – my go-to spot for pillow inserts. They have a large selection of sizes (in both down and down alternative) for an excellent price. I got an 18 x 12, which seemed just about right for my new bird.
I have made many, many pillows (read my Make a Pillow Out of Scraps post) – yet this one presented a new challenge: I had to measure carefully to have the image centered just so on the pillow. I was terribly afraid of cutting pretty bird’s head off. Yet I wanted to keep his tail on there, too. What’s a girl to do?
I draped the fabric over the pillow insert many times, pinning the approximate place where the seam should be. I made my first cuts, but I was too cautious. Pillows should have a seam allowance of half an inch on each side. That was cutting it close to my feathered friend, but it had to be done (the pillow cover must fit snugly over the insert). In the end, I decided it was better to err on the side of the head than the tail. I left more head room and trimmed the bottom very close to the tail feathers.
I folded the fabric inside out, used the sewing machine for three sides and left room to stuff in the down insert. Then I sewed up the rest of the seam by hand (note: I used an invisible ladder stitch, but a simple whip stitch works as well; it’s very easy to learn how to do this by following one of the many tutorials online).
I’m so happy with how it turned out! It’s exactly what I had envisioned and it cost much less than a fancy store-bought pillow (total cost, including $9 insert: $36). Plus the whole project took a fraction of the time it took me to shop for pillows. The custom fabric is just perfect. Hello, beautiful bird!
My favorite local gift gems! Ok, so most of these are food. Or food-related. Nothing wrong with that! Consumables are an excellent gift idea, since most of us have too much stuff. All of these goodies are made right here in San Francisco, and these five companies have certainly won my heart.
I have many local faves when it comes to chocolate (see my post, Confessions of a Dark Chocolate Snob), but this is the current winner. A $5-8 bar may sound extravagant, but oh so worth it as a slowly-savored treat. So far I have tried the Dried Fig; Shredded Coconut; and Sea Salt varieties. With over 20 bars listed on their website, I cannot wait to discover more! Candied Pomelo Peel, anyone?
I just love going in this store. A feast for the senses. Cleanly stacked glass jars with white labels and lids line the walls. And inside these small jars? Pungent, fresh and delicious spices, salts, herbs, extracts. There are tester jars for each, so you can whiff away (and even taste, if you like). I find the prices to be very reasonable – mostly cheaper than what you see at the grocery store. My favorites so far: San Francisco Fire Pepper (pictured), Herbes de Provence Sea Salt (Sel Gris), Black Truffle Parmesan Seasoning, and the exotic Dukkah (an Egyptian blend of “Hazelnut, Sesame Seed, Pistachio, Coriander, Cumin, Sea Salt, Black Pepper”). And you gotta get the Bacon and Onion Smoked Sea Salt!
Around the corner from Spice Ace is another neighborhood wonder: Song Tea. I do love my tea. I’m usually buying good-quality teas, but this place really steps up the game. At first I was taken aback by the hefty prices (some upwards of $100 for 8 ounces). Whoa! I took a chance and bought the Gold Peony White ($22/2 oz) then went back and got the deliciously fragrant Longzhu Jasmine Green ($16/2 oz). I’ve been keeping track – because I can steep these leaves 2-3 times, I’ve been able to yield more than 45 cups each. So it works out to be about the same cost per cup as a $5 box from the grocery store. Score!
I first discovered Molinari salami last year when I was looking for holiday treats. Someone posted on Facebook that Molinari Delicatessen had to-die-for ravioli. I had to investigate, of course. Bought the ravioli for myself, and a couple of links of salami as a gift. My taste buds have never been the same. I never cared one whit for salami, but that’s because I’ve never tasted the good stuff until now. Yes, now I know. I even dug up this LA Times article that explains why San Francisco is the salami capital of America.
At last but not least, my only non-food item to make the list. You may not be able to eat or drink these products, but you’ll sure be tempted – with heavenly scents and textures such as those found in the Grapefruit Cardamom Body Scrub, the Bergamot Ginger Body Lotion or the Citrus Poppy Seed Soap. I love the simplicity here, both in the packaging and substance. As soap maven Alana Rivera states, “My soap is made with real natural ingredients like Lavender and Coconut Oil, rather than irritating chemicals like Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Trisodium Etidronate. And it’s handcrafted with care by a human being, not created by a machine in a factory. The choice seems pretty simple to me.” I agree.
So there you have it, my Top 5. If you’re not a local, you needn’t worry – all of these SF companies are available online! Now tell me, what are your top five local favorites?
Time to use up that Swiss chard (it goes bad pretty quick, you know). Let’s see, what else do we have? Why, a sweet little sugar pumpkin makes the perfect pairing. So here we go: Swiss chard and lentils with a side of mashed pumpkin. Delicious!
Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this job). Add a dab of organic raw coconut oil in each half and bake cut side up in 375 oven for 45 min (can turn over halfway through cooking). Meanwhile, put half a cup lentils and one cup water in a small pot and gently simmer until water is mostly gone (around 30-40 min), then turn off heat and cover.
Saute a minced garlic clove in 1 TBSP olive oil for 1 minute, then add chopped Swiss chard stems. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add another TBSP of oil and the chard leaves and stir over medium heat until leave are bright green and barely wilted. Turn off heat, add the lentils. Salt and pepper. Squeeze of lemon.
Remove pumpkin from oven and let cool slightly. Use that ice cream scooper to transfer the pumpkin flesh to a bowl. Add a pat of butter. Salt and pepper liberally. Herbes de Provence sea salt from Spice Ace really puts the flavor over the top.
The timing is very easy here; it all comes together nicely. The colors, textures and tastes are in perfect balance. It’s bitter-sweet, and just right!
Note: This pairing can easily be made vegan by substituting more coconut oil for the butter.
This is first in a series of posts where I’m sharing what I call my strange afflictions. I guess all afflictions seem “strange” when we face something that we consider to be “not normal” in our own bodies. They can be congenital (from birth) or be the result of an injury, or sometimes just inexplicably appear, like Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
This is my experience: In 2005, I started a part-time job working as an usher at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. I couldn’t wait to be on my feet, showing people to their seats while listening to incredible live music. I was in my mid-30s; it had been awhile since I’d worked a job like this (standing for several hours straight), probably not since my days as a waitress in college. I was thrilled to be out from behind a desk. I wanted action!
I forgot that “on your feet” jobs can sometimes include long periods of standing in one place, which is tough on the knees, feet, back. And I wasn’t 20 anymore. The very first week, I noticed something strange going on with one of my toes by the end of my shift. My second toe was red and swollen. I was convinced it was a spider bite (a painful, itchy blister forming at the tip). The next night I had to wear hiking boots to work, as these were the only shoes wide enough to fit over my swollen toe.
I figured, like any bite, it would subside in a few days. It did. But then my middle toe “caught the bug.” That’s when I knew this was no spider bite. But what could it be? I went to the foot doctor, who promptly said, “I think you have lupus.” Ack! What?
He referred me to a rheumatologist who thankfully did not concur. He said, “You have Raynaud’s, but I don’t think you have lupus.” Ok, good. Now, what was that again? What is this thing I have? And how do I get rid of it?
The doc gave me a few maintenance suggestions to avoid chilblains (the itchy swollen toe problem that is a common symptom of Raynaud’s) and sent me on my way. I supplemented that with internet searches. It’s common for Raynaud’s sufferers to see their extremities (especially toes/fingers) turn patriotic colors (red, white, blue) during colder weather. It can feel similar to frostbite, though the temps do not have to dip too low to cause a reaction. I figured out that wearing socks that are too thick (which in turn make my shoes too tight) will trigger it. Baths that are too hot will trigger it. Sometimes my entire feet will turn blue or red without much provocation. More than once (in yoga class) I’ve had someone say to me, “Um, why is your foot blue?” It’s not cool having smurf feet.
I’ve been living with Raynaud’s for nine years now. I’ve been able to keep my toes fairly in check; not many flare-ups lately, though I still see tale-tell signs of poor circulation (puckering of the skin and dry, brittle toenails). Then the other day I noticed what looked like bruising on the lower part of my index finger. Very bluish – as if the blood vessel underneath had burst. Hey wait a minute, didn’t I see the same thing on my ring finger a few weeks ago? Oh….
It’s not as if circulation problems in my fingers are anything new. I’ve had issues with RSI (repetitive strain injury) for years. Repetitive motion and connective tissue diseases are linked to Raynaud’s. That bluish discoloration I’m seeing in my fingers seems to be a result of a recent pinched nerve (literally someone pinched my hand trying to steady me from falling). And by recent I mean three months ago. It didn’t hurt much at the time, but since then I have felt weakness and numbness in that hand. The Mayo Clinic mentions RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a secondary cause of Raynaud’s: “This condition involves pressure on a major nerve to your hand (ulnar nerve) producing numbness and pain in the affected hand. The hand may become more susceptible to cold temperatures and episodes of Raynaud’s.”
It’s important to see a doctor to find out if you have primary or secondary Raynaud’s. While the primary version is benign, there are several more serious conditions that can lead to secondary Raynaud’s (scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome, as well as diseases of the arteries). In addition to a doctor’s visit, I recommend reading about it on the Mayo Clinic site, Wikipedia and this Q & A article from the New York Times.
And here are my own personal tips for keeping Raynaud’s episodes to a minimum:
1. Exercise – this is a circulation problem after all; target range-of-motion exercises in the fingers/toes; yoga is an excellent choice (going barefoot brings circulation to the toes).
2. Wear proper foot gear – most importantly, avoid tight shoes. Thin socks with minimalist-soled shoes works well for me when I’m walking around the city (again, allows for more circulation). I love my Brooks.
3. Avoid standing for long periods of time. If you cannot avoid it, then use pressure-relieving mats and shift your feet often (back in my ushering days, I developed an ants-in-the-pants sort of jig when I had to stand on the hard tile floor).
4. Keep joints comfortably warm (socks, gloves) indoors/outdoors. Fingerless gloves when working on the computer can ease discomfort in the fingers. Avoid quick temp changes (such as grabbing something out of the freezer – use a mitt or dish towel).
5. Ease yourself into a bath instead of jumping into a full tub – allow your toes to warm up slowly under lukewarm water from the faucet before increasing the temperature.
6. Use a Rubz ball on the feet and hands – a small rubber ball with acupressure points. It can help break up scarring/adhesions of the fascia (connective tissue that surrounds the muscles).
Hey, I’ve been nominated for the Writer’s Blog Tour!
I’m thrilled to share my own writing process while highlighting some worthy and interesting fellow bloggers (see my two nominations at the end of this post).
Now on to my Writer’s Blog Tour interview:
What am I currently working on?
I’ve always got a lot of writing projects going at once. I write new songs when the muse inspires – lately a dirge called Kindness is Fading Away. It’s about communal mourning and celebration; you know, the ebb and flow of life. I’m also working on a new music/art collaboration entitled Figure 8, which is a sequel to my book/CD project, Peace or Drama: A Journey Through Music and Art. When I’m not writing music, I write about my life as a singer-songwriter-performer and also write about more personal stuff here on the Alice blog. I started Alice and the Rabbit Hole as a way to share my interests in food, health, home and leisure.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
So I’m quite new to this genre of blogging about home life; I guess it’s different in that it comes from my own unique experiences as a “forty-something, married, no kids, two cats, small apartment in the big city kinda gal.” Living in San Francisco plays a big role in the writing, which may be different from other health and home type blogs.
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve been wondering why I feel so compelled to write. I see it as a welcome challenge and always savor the feeling of accomplishment, whether I’m crafting a song (much like a poem, searching for that perfect rhyme) or writing a piece of prose. I know my role is to entertain, but it’s also about connecting with my fellow human beings.
How does my writing process work?
Sometimes it hits like a lightening rod – must write now! Other times it has to be coaxed (I have set a deadline and it’s time to get busy). Usually one is a catalyst for the other. I do think it’s like sculpture – you keep whittling away until you have only the best bits left. It’s what’s meant to be there. I can work like a madwoman for hours, and then have to leave it for awhile before it’s time for revisions. Taking a walk (especially in nature) often leads to writing revelations.
Continuing the Tour
I nominate Tracy Baetz and Margaret S. McGraw to continue the tour. These are both prolific and gifted writers, so be sure to check out their blogs!
Tracy is a nature enthusiast, avid traveler, longtime museum professional and amateur photographer…who—whenever possible—is accompanied by her incredibly personable dog, Tavish. Tracy’s award-winning website and blog, IntrepidPup.com, are standing invitations to vicariously accompany them to national parks, natural wonders and cultural attractions. Eager to take on the seashores, the mountaintops and all the woodland trails and urban jungles in between, they promote lifelong learning and an active lifestyle, make exploring fun, and inspire us to realize that it’s as much about the journey as the destination. It’s pure enjoyment: part wonderment, part discovery, and all about being out and about in the world with one Intrepid Pup. Come! Adventures await.
Margaret S. McGraw’s writing includes the prompt-writing blog WritersSpark.com, several short stories currently in circulation for publication, and two novels in progress: Mira’s Children is a YA science fiction adventure, and OceanSong is a fantasy begun in the 2012 NaNoWriMo challenge. She’s gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2014, to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Her imagination draws on her lifelong love of science fiction, fantasy, and anthropology. Her education and experience range from anthropology and communication through web design and IT management. Margaret lives in North Carolina with her daughter and an array of cats, dogs, Macs and PCs, and too many unfinished craft projects. For more details on her writing, follow Margaret on Twitter @margaretsmcgraw or visit her blog at WritersSpark.com.
Here is my Saturday ritual: teach a morning yoga class, walk the Lyon Street steps, reward myself with pastry. Whether or not you’re into yoga, the latter two actions are a true San Francisco treat. Here are the deets:
Lyon Street steps are heavenly or gruesome, or both – depending on your level of fitness. Let’s say the 288 steps spanning two city blocks can be a gruesome workout with heavenly views. But please don’t shy away, dear tourist! You can find your way here and merely take in the stunning views without having to leave level ground. If that’s your pleasure, head west on Broadway until it dead ends at Lyon (this is the at the top of the steps). There is usually available parking in this neighborhood, home to many mansions known as Billionaire’s Row in Pacific Heights.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, head halfway down the steps to a plateau and garden in front of US Senator Dianne Feinstein’s house. Feinstein, born and raised in SF, once the mayor of our fair city, bought her current home with the stunning views of the bay in 2006. When in town, she also has views of the scores of runners and fitness buffs that stop to catch their breath on her front patio. But hey, it’s still a far cry from those who live with the touristy mob scene on “crookedest” Lombard street!
In fact, the Lyon Street steps are relatively unknown outside the fitness crowd, even among locals. This is why it’s such a gem. On a clear day, you can see the beautiful dome of the Palace of Fine Arts, sparkling blue bay waters and the hills of Marin. Not only that, but you’re literally standing at the edge of the Presidio, where you could waltz right into the forest and hike to your hearts desire. But let’s get back to these steps, shall we?
The good news is, there are many more plateaus along the way. The bad news is, it gets seriously steeper and narrower as you reach the second half of the steps (from Vallejo St down to Green St). Get to the bottom and you’ll be huffing and puffing, but try not to look back up – the steepness of these lower steps can be rather daunting. Distract yourself for a moment with the sprawling pinkish stuccoed house on the right that served as the setting for the high school in the Princess Diaries movie. Yes, that will take your mind off your burning calves and shins.
So I’m painting a picture of my personal preference here: I like to start at the top, go all the way down and come all the way back up. That way, I get the grand view on either end. And of course, my reward of pastry on the other side. I suppose that drives my eagerness to hike back up all those steps. If there really are 288 (accounts vary, and I’m in no mood for keeping track in the throes of stepping), that means 576 round trip. Yes indeed, guilt-free pastry awaits!
You’re back at the top, you’ve sated your appetite for gorgeous views and now it’s time to satisfy another appetite. Walk a few blocks over to “Divis” (that’s Divisadero Street) to find the hopping b. patisserie. Another local gem that you may not hear about – unless you’re one of those “foodie” sorts. I was traveling recently and read in one of those inflight magazines that a top Parisian food critic claimed b. patisserie in San Francisco had the best croissants in America.
That may be true, but I’m partial to their signature pastry: the kouign amann. I’ve never had this anywhere else; it took me a long time to figure out how to pronounce it (coo-ine ah mahn). But man, oh mahn – this is the stuff! Flaky crust with oozy sugar syrup in the middle. I drool just thinking about it….