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June 2009
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August 2009

Sonoma County Fair

Barring some sort of catastrophe (like the year the car died), I've gone to a county fair every year for as long as I can remember.

I love the funnel cakes, the regional ethinic foods, the livestock, and the exhibits. I can't explain why, but it's just an intrinsic part of summer for me.

Yesterday's trek to the Sonoma County Fair was my third trip to that particular fair. Last year, we weren't able to go until a weekend day midway through the fair, and missed out on most of the small animals. So this year, we planned ahead and went up on a weekday that coincided with some of the animal showing.

As my fair photo gallery shows, we saw lots and lots of cows and bunnies.

I had personally been excited about the fair's Sustainable Sonoma exhibit. As a slow food proponent, and frequenter of farmers markets, I was excited at the prospect of seeing some local growers and producers at the fair and giving folks some ideas on how to think more locally. Unfortunately, the reality of the exhibit however did not meet my expectations.

Set in a tent off to the side of the main entry hall, it featured a lot of unmanned booths (like the Sierra Nevada table that had some brochures and some keychains on it), a table with a little bit of produce and some olive oil, and a gentleman giving out samples of hummus and veggie spreads, some art made from recycled items, a booth on sprinklers, and a few other booths selling various art.

I had expected a vibrant and fun expression of the eat local scene, yet this felt more like a green themed extension of the entry hall concessions. I mean, there wasn't even a copy of the Sonoma Farm Trails map! If we lived in the area, I would be looking around now to sign up as a volunteer to curate the tent for next year in a way that made folks proud of their local purveyors and help them understand how they can grow fruits and veggies at home, etc.

But that is a minor complaint from an otherwise lovely day at the fair.

Seven-Layer Brownies

Since we are off to the fair today, I have snacks on the brain. Thus once a twitter friend was trying to decide on some brownies to make, I felt prompted to share my friend Carolyn's recipe, which I wheedled out of her when we did a holiday cookie exchange several years ago.

These are truly the most fabulous 7 Layer Brownies I've had, and so simple to make.

1. Melt 1 stick of butter in 9"x13" pan, then add the following layers:
2. 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
3. 1 cup of grated coconut
4. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
5. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of butterscotch chips
6. 1 cup chopped nuts (Carolyn used pecans)
7. Pour 1 can of sweetened condensed milk over the top

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for nugget style brownies.

I mean, how can any recipe that starts off with melting an entire stick of butter *not* be fabulous???

Muir Woods -- Too Popular for its Own Good

Muir Woods

I'm taking this week off and again not leaving the City. So we thought it would be fun to recreate the Muir Woods portion of our April staycation. But it was not to be.

We arrived around 2:15 on Monday afternoon and parking was a good 3 mile hike in from the shoulder of the road to the park entrance. I forgot completely that Summer weekdays are a lot more crowded than Springtime weekdays. I've clearly been out of school for too long and don't have babies to remind me of what I am missing out on over Summer break.

So we did what any other intrepid city explorers would do -- we popped down onto the nearest trail by where we parked, on Muir Woods Road. that's one of the cool things about the Bay Area's park system-- there are always a bunch of trails heading off from any of the parks. In this case, we took the Redwood Creek Trail, to the Heather trail.

California's budget situation has been in the news a lot lately so it wasn't surprising to see that we had a trail closed for renovations that didn't seem to be happening (Miwok Trail), and that both the main trail we were on and the offshoots were overgrown to the point of being nearly obscured by the weeds. I was not prepared for that level of contact with weeds-- I lacked both an allergy pill and a walking stick (for pushing past the weeds without touching them). I will be sure to have both next time. And to keep our two excellent trail guidebooks (with maps) in the trunk: Moon California Hiking (Moon Handbooks) and Golden Gate Trailblazer: Where to Hike, Walk, Bike in San Francisco & Marin

If we close down dozens of state parks and cut back on staffing and services for the rest, as has been reported to be the outcome of today's budget agreement, I do wonder what is giong to happen to our trail system. Will it become overgrown and eventually warrant millions of dollars in restorative funds? Or will local citizens take it upon themselves to keep the trails clear? It will be interesting to see what happens.

FOUND: Kinder Hippos in SF!

Whenever I travel to the EU, I make a point of bringing home a dozen Kinder Hippos so I can instantly transport myself back into vacation brain. And yes, whenever I hear a friend is traveling to a City where I know a place to buy them, I make sure to beg for candy.

But I shall no longer have to bribe travelers to make room in their bags for these hazelnut and chocolate wafer treats: Royal Market and Bakery (the awesome Russian grocery up the street) had them today!

I bought myself a box of five, and one for Lewis as well. But I'm putting my name on my box to make sure he doesn't think he can sneak an extra one when I'm not looking...


Potato Salad, Two Ways

Potato salad has been the quintessential summertime food to me for as long as I can remember. The highlight of any picnic as a child was cold fried chicken accompanied by my mom’s creamy potato salad.

So when the most recent heatwave turned our otherwise lovely apartment into an oven, I cracked open my 5 lb bag of red potatoes and got boiling.

After chopping about 3 lbs of the potatoes into bite-sized chunks, I tossed them into salted boiling water. I let them boil about 10 minutes until the average size pieces were cooked through (tested by spooning one out, cooling it with water, and tasting it.) At this point I tossed in some French green beans that I snapped in half and cooked for another 2 minutes.

After pouring the potatoes and green beans out into a footed colander and letting cool about 5 minutes, I split them into two bowls with roughly the same potato to green bean ratio.

In the first bowl, I added three heaping serving spoons of sour cream, 1/4 of a large red onion roughly chopped, and a teaspoon of grainy mustard, plus salt and pepper then stirred til combined. We used this as a side for our fried chicken.

In the other bowl, which had about a potato more in it, I added three heaping serving spoons of mayo, 1/4 of a large red onion roughly chopped, 1/2 cup of solid salami chopped into small chunks, 2 cups of shredded cabbage, a teaspoon of grainy mustard, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper then stirred til combined. I took this salad for lunch, and had small portions as an after work snack all week.

Sorry for the lack of photos on this, but potato salad is one of those foods that looks so wrong, but tastes so good.

Too Hot to Handle (Cooking)

The hot weather last week completely KO'd my desire to cook anything. We're on the 4th floor without AC, so the idea of heating up the house just to prepare dinner was a no-go. Hence all the eating out and ordering in that went on last week. And whenever I eat out too much, I rebound with a fury.

This weekend, at Trader Joe's, I must have piled every attractive looking fruit and vegetable into my cart. We dove into that treasure trove last night with stir fry featuring boneless beef short ribs (cooked with a drizzle of honey and some brown sugar) cut into bite-size chunks, cabbage, broccoli slaw, bell peppers, carrots, and summer squash over rice. I meant to take a photo of it but it was too yummy and we were too hungry so it was scarfed down in record time.
Trader Joe's produce section is an excellent pit stop for pre-sliced veggies for salads or stir frys. Just knowing that you can skip the chopping and clean up process makes it that much easier to motivate (and faster) to get a healthy dinner on the table.
Tonight, thinking about pan frying chicken breasts and serving them with a red potato and green bean salad.

P.S. After all my online searching, I just made brownies with my Baker's Edge Brownie Pan instead of anything fancy.