Monday, November 28, 2011

Rustic Thanksgiving Tablescape

My parents have hosted Thanksgiving at our house for the last 10 years.  While my mom stresses over the menu, I stress over the decor. A few weeks ago I asked my family what the tablescape should look like.  After some blank stares and a logical response from my mom  (we have 14.5 people coming this year and a 14 foot table. Don't make any flower arrangements too tall or fragrant), I came up with a simple rustic theme using burlap, pumpkins, twigs & moss.

The Inspiration
Inspired by a tiny pumpkin I found at the Berkley Bowl called Lil’ Pump-Ke-Mon  
(doesn't the name sounds like a Japanese cartoon character?) I decided to create a tablescape using brown, cream, orange and green.

 Not wanting to spend a lot of money on flowers I used white hydrangeas.   Hydrangeas are great on a budget, because you get a lot of flower for a bargain price. (Each steam cost me $2.00 and I usally only use one steam per vase.)

Hydrangea Floral Arrangement
For a fresh but rustic look, I cut the hydrangea steam short and packed them it into a small vase.  I accented the arrangement with twigs and moss I found at a local park. To conceal the vase, I created a liner using leftover hydrangea leaves.

Herb Center Piece  
As an alternate floral arrangement, I bought a few herbs and dressed the bottoms with burlap and grosgrain ribbon.  The herbs were a great rustic accent to the table.  The natural aroma from the plants also complimented the food we were eating.  
Each plant cost me $2.59. 

 Thanksgiving Tablescape 
Finding a runner long enough for a 14 foot table was a challenge. For a  cheap solution, I bought 2 yards of burlap for $3.99 a yard and cut the fabric into 10.5" wide by  72" long stripes and layered them on top of each other.  For a splash of color I found these great orange and white napkins that remind me of a David Hicks print.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours was fantastic and mighty tasty. Good luck in your holiday preping.  I know the countdown has begun for me and I'm sure it has for you too!



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice

St. Louis Style BBQ Ribs

Berkeley Bowl West
October 23, 2011

As  previously mentioned in this post, I hate grocery shopping.  I hate it so much, I'm willing to drive over a bridge and into the woods to try something new.  The hubby and I were responsible for cooking Sunday's dinner and decided to venture to the Berkeley Bowl.  Holy moly was this an overwhelming and very cool shopping experience.  I felt totally overwhelmed (like the time I tried on 100 pairs of jeggings at Bergdorf Goodman), but walked away with some great things (unlike at Bergdorf's).

First up on Sunday's menu:  St. Louis Ribs!
The hubby loves BBQ!  We decided to go with the St. Louis style rib instead of the traditional baby back, because you get more meat for your money (honey)!

The Sugar and Spice BBQ Rub (recipe for 12 ribs)
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Paprika 
  • 1/4 Cup Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Red Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Cumin 
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Mace (or use nutmeg)
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt 
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly cracked Pepper
In a bowl mix ingredients together.

After removing the membrane from the meat, cover in garlic olive oil. Massage the dry rub into the meat.  Let meat marinate for 2 - 24 hours.

An hour before you cook your meat, get your BBQ ready.  My dad taught my husband to cook with charcoal not propane (real men use matches)!  Because my dad cooks on a high wood / charcoal heat, the boys were a little worried about  maintaining a heat of 300 degrees for 90 minutes. After much strategic planning they put together the below fire.

After looking more closely at this picture, I would suggest the following: 
a. Do NOT barbecue so close to a wooden deck.
b. It's probably not safe to have a sun umbrella so close to an open flame.

My dad is practically a professional barbequer and that's the only reason why he was allowed to bbq so close to our deck.  Grasshopper on the other hand (aka my husband), is still a little to green to do this.
After 90 minutes on the BBQ with an indirect heat, this is our final product. The beauty about using a dry rub is you don't need to slather on a sauce!  Now some you may feel your ribs are naked without sauce, but the only way you can truly appreciate the sweet, spice and smoky flavor is to eat them as it.
Try it.  You just might like it.   

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Devil Went to Mexico

A spicy take on a traditional Deviled Egg Recipe 

Spicy Deviled Eggs 

 6 Eggs
1/3 cup Crème fraîche
1/3 cup Smoked Bacon (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons Serrano Pepper (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons Siracha
2 tablespoons Cilantro (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard 
2 tablespoons Lime Zest
3 teaspoons Lime Juice
Pop out (remove) the egg yolks to a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add crème fraîche, smoked bacon, Serrano pepper, siracha, dijon mustard, lime zest and lime juice and mix thoroughly. Add pepper and salt to taste.  Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture.  

Tip: For a professional finish, use a pastry bag to fill the empty egg white shells.  

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day before serving.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Football and Apple Pie

A strange thing happens to my husband when football season starts.  He suddenly loves to cook.  So imagine my surprise when Nick announced we were going to make an apple pie from scratch (including the crust)!  See my pictures and Nick's step by step commentary below.

 "The Forbidden Apple" Pie begins.
The Spiteri Apple Tree, planted in 1996

 Paula Dean closely monitored the making of this crust, with chunks of frozen cubed butter, teaspoons of cold water, flour, sugar, salt, and good ole' Southern love.

 Paula actually let my husband knead the dough, because of his rather picturesque model hands.

 Again, I am not sure if this shot is more of the apples or of my husbands beautiful hands.

 After a  brief introduction, the apples and dough meet and get married.

 Once again, as Paula was holding my husbands wrist, Nick and Paula detail the outer edge of pie.

 Before leaving San Bruno, Paula took this last picture of Nick.  Paula insisted on having doubles made of this picture, since she had to catch her flight back to the Food Network.

As part of the contract, Paula insisted on a third of the pie being shipped to her, before anyone got any.

If you're up for the challenge and want to make your own "Forbidden Apple Pie" click here

Easy Apple Pie Recipe. 

Fall Flower Revamp

October is my favorite month.  Here in San Francisco we experience warm summer days and cool nights.  Although most of our summer flowers are in their last blooming stage, it's too early to say goodbye to great landscaping.  Below are a few pictures of what I did over the weekend to add some texture and color to our front yard.

  Organized chaos:  Utilizing our front lawn as my workspace. 

Fall Rustic Flower combination (full sun)
African Daisy, Ipomoea (twining vines), Lemon Thyme, Purple Annual Flowers.
Tip: Know your climate.  The death of a plant often happens because we choose a plant because it looks great, but we don't plant it in the right climate.  Pay attention to the climate tags and make sure you select the best plant for your garden.

Fall Rustic Flower combination (full sun):  
Ipomoea (twining vines), Scottish Moss, African Daisy 
Tip: A classic terracotta pot is always a timeless choice. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

City by Foot

It's always exciting and slightly stressful when friends and family come to visit. Even in a city like San Francisco, sometimes you run out of things to do (you can only visit Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf so many times.)  Momma Carrillo came  into town a few weeks ago and we decided to try something new and signed up for a walking tour by San Francisco City Guides.  Founded in 1978, City Guides is a non-profit organization with more than 200 trained volunteers who lead FREE history and architectural walking tours in San Francisco. They are sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and are a a San Francisco Parks Trust Park Partner.

Let's just say this is one of the city's best kept secrets. I signed us up for the Alamo Square Painted Ladies tour and the husband (who was a little reluctant about this idea), had us do another tour the next day (it was that good).  We even had my San Francisco native parents join us on the tour and they both were impressed with the sights they saw and the knowledge they learned.

  An upward view of a building in Alamo Square.

 Fancy Wood Work in Alamo Square, San Francisco

 Tourist take a picture of the Painted Ladies.

 Nick and his mom Andi

Hearts in San Francisco is an annual public art installation started in 2004 by the San Francisco General Hospital.  There are 130 hearts through out the city.  This heart is located outside the home of  Diane Feinstein.

Good to KNOW:  Although they are called "Walking" Tours, you really aren't walking for a long period of time.  Wearing comfortable shoes is recommended, but you certainly don't need a walking stick to do this tour.  Lastly, although the tour is free a cash donation is encouraged.  For more info and to view their October calendar click here