Beef & Eggplant Ragu

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Hello Pasta Loving Friends– We were talking about–“If you had to eat just one ethnic cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you pick?”  There were Vietnamese fans (those noodles!) and Chinese (so much variety!), but I was torn between Italian (pasta & gelato, of course) and Mexican (just because that’s what we eat in So Cal).

So for you who love pasta as much as I do, here’s a rich, thick, savory sauce to pour over the top of your favorite angel hair or rigatoni.

And thanks to Suzanne from A Pug in the Kitchen for this recipe — been reading her warm and friendly posts for years…

BEEF & EGGPLANT RAGU
2 tab. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground sirloin
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 Chinese, eggplant, cut to small pieces
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. finely minced rosemary
16 oz. pasta
garnish: parmesan romano, grated

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Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and then add in the chopped onion.  When it starts to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Then add in the beef, chopping it in the pan with a wooden spoon, until it is all crumbled.  Cook until it is browned and then add the eggplant.  Cook 4 minutes more.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and rosemary.  Leave it uncovered on a low simmer or 20 to 30 minutes until the flavors are melded.

While that’s simmering, cook your favorite pasta according to the directions on the package.

Drain the pasta and layer it on a large platter, topped with the ragu.  Sprinkle on the parmesan romano and serve it steaming hot.

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Rain and Shine in San Francisco

 

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Hi friends– Back from a week of pounding rain followed by glorious sunshine in San Francisco.  Went up to watch little grand-girl Lois, while her mom trolleyed off to work, and to help pack a few boxes to empty the house for a remodel.  Funny — I have dozens of pictures of that Lois and not one to show you of boxes!

Loveable Lois and I read books, sang songs, danced around the living room and had long talks about all she has ahead…
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photos: Off to visit the pediatrician check-up, tummy-time!  & on the changing table.

And we spent a day with Mae & Eero (more grand-kids in SF).  That is always loads of lively fun fun!
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photos:  Mae absorbed in her new book, stop at the bookshop, Eero checking on his new cousin.

And in SF we usually find our way to good places to eat.
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photos: family fills the window seat at Smitten ice cream shop, a festive birthday dinner for Ani at Outerlands, Mediterranean roasted chicken wrap on the back patio at Souvla,  afternoon tea and desert at Tartine Manufactory.

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Thank you AA & Jessica, Ani & Brian for a best time talking and eating and walking with you and those sweet grand-kids.  Loved it.

Pina Colada Cake with Rum Cream Cheese Frosting

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Hi there–  I have to say when we pull out a cake fro friends after a big long meal, most people say– “oh oh, just the tiniest slice” or they might even skip dessert.  But this cake almost disappeared!  People took big slabs and then asked for more!  I had one ragged piece left to send you off a picture a slice.  They liked it! I think you would too…

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PINA COLADA CAKE WITH RUM CREAM CHEEE FROSTING

Cake:
1 white cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2 tab. rum
1 cup shredded coconut

Toasted Coconut:
2 cups shredded coconut

Pineapple Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. conrstarch
14 oz. can crushed pineapple

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound box powdered sugar (3  3/4 cups)
2 tab. rum
garnish: stemmed cherry!

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Mix the cake mix according to the directions on the package (mine used 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oil & 3 eggs).  Then stir in the rum and 1 cup shredded coconut.

Spoon the batter into three 8″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until it is firm to the touch.   Let the cake layers cool completely before you frost them.

While the cake is baking, spread the 2 cups of coconut on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil (for easy clean up) and put it in the oven along with the cake.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes until half of the coconut has started to brown (be careful, it’s easy to burn coconut!)

To make the pineapple filling,  combine the sugar and cornstarch in the small sauce pan.  Stir them together until there are no cornstarch lumps.  Then dump in the crushed pineapple and stir on medium heat until it simmer for a 1 or 2 minutes and thickens.   Set aside to cool.

To make the frosting, Put the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and rum into a mixing bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it is smooth and creamy.  If it seems too dry, add another tablespoon of water.  (Be careful, it’s easy to add too much water and it turns to mush!)

To put it all together, set one cake layer on a plate and top with half of the pineapple filling.  Add the second layer and pile on the rest of the filling. Next set on the 3rd layer.

Then frost the cake top and sides with the cream cheese frosting.  Pat the toasted coconut around the sides of the cake (this is a little trickier than it sounds– be persistent!)  And pop the cherry on top.  It’s ready to serve!!

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Mandarin Pomegranate Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

 

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Hi all–  A couple weeks ago we had friends in for a wintery night dinner.  There was honey crusted pork loin, wild rice and Brussel spouts– and this bright sweet salad to start us off.

The real hit of the evening was after dinner, when our friend Mark pulled out his little bag of tricks and did an amazing magic show!  How did the nine of hearts jump from that stack of cards to the other?? Or the coin go right through the table??  You had us totally mystified Mark.

MANDARIN POMEGRANATE SALAD WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING

Salad:
4 cups of your favorite greens*
3 mandarin oranges
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1 avocado, cut to neat chunks
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. orange vinegar**
2 tab. honey
1 tab. poppy seeds
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel and break the mandarin oranges into neat segments.  Then layer the greens, mandarin segements, pomegranate seeds, avocado and almonds onto a pretty platter.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the oil, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds. salt & pepper until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad when you are ready to serve it up.

*I used baby arugula– spinach, green leaf lettuce, bib lettuce are all great.
** Love love Trader Joe’s Orange Champagne Vinegar, but red wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar would be terrific too.

 

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To China and Back

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Hello all– Our three grand-girls and their amazing mom have been off to China for about 6 weeks.  They traveled to Hunan Province for Chinese New Year with their other Grandparents there!  From all I heard it was a sweet time– here are my favorite photos:

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The girls with their grandparents in China.

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Jodi and the girls sitting down with her parents for the sumptuous New Year’s feast!  (Jodi’s mom is an amazing cook!)

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Twelve amazing dishes for the feast! –my favorite  rice coated meatballs–and the crabs!!

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Welcome Home at LAX.  Missed these girls and their mom, so glad glad they’re home.  Love that big smile Jobay!!!

P.S. Thanks Jodi for all your beautiful photos!  xox

Sour Cream Chocolate Pecan Bread

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Hey there friends– Maybe you know what I mean. Sometimes (think 4:00 in the afternoon) I just need a little taste of chocolate and nuts.  In an emergency there is always a handful of dark chocolate chips and a few pecans from the cupboard to see me through.

But this is really a much better solution– moist and rich and the sweet crunch of pecans.  Add a mug of tea. Perfect.

SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE PECAN BREAD
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1  1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 sleeve (1 tsp.) instant coffee*
1/2 cup Hershey’s dark cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk**
3/4 cup sour cream
1  1/2 cup flour
1  1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sal1 cup pecans, chopped
garnish: handful of mini chocolate chips & pecan bits

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In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and oil.  Then mix in the vanilla, coffee, cocoa, buttermilk and sour cream.  Next stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally mix in the pecans (you can keep a few aside to sprinkle on top of the loaves)

Spoon the batter into a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan*** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips and extra pecans on top and then bake it all in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until a small knife inserted comes out clean.

Let it sit a few minutes before cutting into slices.

*The coffee doesn’t show up in the flavor, just makes the chocolate taste so much richer.
**Buttermilk substitute– 1 tab. cider vinegar added to milk to make 1/2 cup
***I used two smaller half size loaf pans.

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Valentines Day

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Happy Valentines Day All– It’s around the corner and I’m thinking it’s big fun to make cheery cards for kids and grand-kids.  (maybe it’s the old elementary school teacher in me –Valentines cut & paste crafts!!)   But who doesn’t like to pass out candy and little heart shaped notes to people they adore??!

And to help celebrate the day here’s a favorite little love poem:

Because we do all things together,
All things improve, even weather.
Our daily bread and meat taste better,
Grass is geener, rain is wetter.
–anonymus

Hope your Valentines Day includes a little chocolate, a lot of hugs and time with  people you love.  xox

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