Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Then and now this is who I am...


I got brave and decided to enter the first Project Foodbuzz Challenge. The prompt for the first Challenge in this contest is: "What defines you as a food blogger..." It is a contest and to tell you the truth I am not very competitive. I am afraid that I just don't have the killer instinct to promote myself all that well. On the other hand, I am approachable and I think people can identify with much of my hijinx in the kitchen. This is why I think I should be the next Food Blog Star. Let me tell you what prompted me to write this blog.

Moving away from Northern California where everything was available to me was hard. The move to New England was full of expectations of adventure and hopes for new experiences, but also dread at leaving California behind. It was where I had lived my whole life. I was leaving my kids and entire family behind. What I left behind tore at my heart.

Then Victorian

Now Colonial

So many food things that I was leaving. There was the sourdough starter that I had for years that I couldn't take with me. There was the best produce and any kind you could think of. Most importantly we had access to every kind of ethnic food and ingredients imaginable (ok, I tend to exaggerate a little bit but not much). Then there were Oysters! Ok, yes they have oysters here too. I will get to that. But HOG ISLAND OYSTERS!

Tomales Bay

Wine? We were an hour away from Sonoma. We went wine tasting often. We belonged to several wine clubs and had bottles delivered to us every month. I even got to bottle wine in the wine country with my favorite winery people at Eric Ross winery. Here are my hands to prove it.

Did I mention that my new state doesn't allow shipments of wine from other states?

Canning was done all year round. In California I did it to to be quaint. In Massachusetts I do it so that I will get to remember what fruit and vegetables sorta taste like come winter.


So enough of the whining. My whole intent is to not take things too seriously and to prove that good food and cooking all sorts of ethnic things is possible to do anywhere you live. Not only THAT but as Dr. Food once told me (he moved around a LOT as a boy) that there are good things and bad things about everywhere you move from and to. Not only that but I didn't have a choice and so I am being a good sport.


So lets take this Cassoulet that we made for example. Could I find the confit duck legs? No, not really (I didn't want to buy them from D'Artagnan online) . We had to confit duck legs. Could I find saucisses de Toulouse (particular type of sausage)? No, I had to make them, but it was all ok and a learning adventure. It was totally worth it. Toulouse-Style Cassoulet by Paula Wolfert was amazing and you too can make it when it isn't so easy to find the ingredients.

I want to focus on the wonderful things that I do find in New England. Taking a brief look back in the 2 years I have lived here I have chronicled as best I could our cooking adventures, stories of finding ingredients, and all the good, bad, and ugly we discover in the food world here. It will make you laugh... it will make you cry....

First off, I got a new Kitchen that I got to design myself AND a 6 burner stove (ok, Dr. Food bribed me to move but it was SO worth it)

New Kitchen

I discovered that in New England you can cool chicken stock quickly outside in the winter.


Amazing lobster dinners that wow our West Coast friends (it is like a stupid party trick to boil a lobster but they love it)


We have done lots since we have gotten here and still have much more to explore. For instance, there is the excitement of getting a lychee tree to grow (lets see how it does through the winter with the keffir lime tree as they get to live IN the house). I get to find out if Shiso comes back after a winter of snow.


The SNOW. I had never seen snow and didn't know about keeping wine out there when there wasn't enough room in my refrig because I was having a big party.


(oh yeah, and snow angels).


There is Leyden Glen Farm where I buy a whole lamb that is grass fed and local and from a friend. I have the honor of cooking lamb dishes with something I feel very close to.


You HAVE to try this recipe:

Lamb stuffed with goat cheese, tomatoes, and basil
Pure and simple cooking by Diana Henry

6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
6 oz sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, and coarsely chopped
2 oz (about 3/4 C) basil leaves, torn
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil

1 (3lb) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat
salt and pepper

1. Mix everything for the stuffing together gently - break up the goat cheese but don't turn it into paste.

2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Open the lamb out like a book. Cut some pockets in the thickest parts of the meat - this just gives you extra places into which to stuff cheese mixture. Season the flesh of the lamb with salt and pepper and spread stuffing over it, pushing the cheese mixture into any pockets you've created. Roll up, tie with string at intervals, and season well.

3. Place in the roasting pan and roast for 15 minutes. Decrease the temperature to 375F and roast for another 50 minutes. Transfer lamb to a carving board, cover with aluminum foil, and insulate with clean kitchen towels. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Cranberry Bog

Cranberry bogs. I never got to go to a Cranberry bog in stupid ole California. Take that California. I don't really miss you at all. Ok, who cares about the sun. Sun is overrated.


Foodie friends. Did I mention my new foodie friends? Well there was the Great American Food and Music Festival that we got to go to as VIPs where I met my new BFF Mitch Omer from "Hells Kitchen".


There was the Meetup group that we joined and then hosted the first dinner at our house where we met new friends (well, one.... Hi Al!). I got to make a great paella and make people happy.


Oh, this recipe is incredible.

from the Spanish Table

½ cup uncooked Valencian Rice per person or 1/3 cup if using Bomba
1 cup chicken stock per person
5 threads saffron per person dissolved in a little white wine
4 tablespoons, or more, olive oil, to cover bottom of pan
1 piece of chicken, such as a thigh, per person
½ to 1 soft chorizo, such as Bilbao or Palacios, per person
½ teaspoon Spanish sweet pimentón (paprika) per person
1 clove garlic per person, minced
¼ cup chopped onion per person
⅛ cup grated tomato (cut in half, grate and discard the skin) per person
2 shrimp or prawns per person
2-4 small clams and/or mussels per person
red piquillo peppers cut in strips
artichoke hearts, green beans or peas
cooked white Spanish beans such as alubias de la granja or judión
lemon wedges for garnish
salt to taste

Heat stock in a separate stock pot. Crush saffron and add it to stock or a little bit of white wine. Heat paella pan over medium heat, add olive oil and fry chicken until it begins to brown. Next add garlic and onions and saute until translucent. Add chorizo and cook until heated. Add the rice, stirring until well coated with oil. Add the paprika and grated tomato. Stir while cooking for a few minutes. Add saffron flavored wine and hot stock. Bring to a boil while scraping the bottom of pan. Now the rice should be level and you will not need to stir from this point on. Adjust heat to maintain a nice simmer. When the rice has absorbed a good amount of liquid but still has a soupy appearance add the mussels or clams. Once the rice is cooked add the shrimp or prawns tucking them down into the rice, then the piquillo peppers, artichoke hearts, green beans, beans and peas. During this time the rice should be caramelizing on the bottom of the pan or creating what is called the socarrat. It will make a faint crackling sound and smell toasty sweet but not burnt. Set aside to “rest” for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Shhhhh. Don't tell that I got it from the Spanish Table in Berkeley, CALIFORNIA. We will pretend that I discovered it here in New England.

Janis with sheep 3

Farms. I love the farms. I love them even though they close down in the winter. I love that I can pick berries and apples and not have to drive far to do it.

I love that I got to go to my first clam shack.


There was the Oyster festival that Foodbuzz sent me to as an ambassador. It was amazing. There was food and fame and and and OYSTERS! I am telling you all this even before I do a formal post about the event (just don't tell anyone).


I even ran into my friend Ming. You know "East Meets West" Ming. "Simply Ming". So, I was standing there and we just happened to run into each other. Ok, not exactly but he put his beer down on MY table so I felt justified asking to take a photo with him. I did it just to blog about otherwise I never would enter someones personal space like that. See what you made me do? I used to be all Californian and aware of people's personal space. No more!


So, the Oyster Festival in Duxbury was incredible. Not only did we get to eat all kinds of crazy good food, but the view wasn't bad either.


I love New England. I love it in a different way than I loved California, but I love it and it is where I live now. I have learned that it really isn't about where you are but about friends and food and fun. I don't mean to get all tear jerky here but it really is true.

Why do I have what it takes to be the next Food Blog Star? Because I know how to laugh at myself and I always remember that cooking is FUN. It is just food and not something that is going to explode.

I leave you with my ecclectic tongue in cheek culinary point of view good or bad it really is who I am. (You can speed it up so it isn't like sitting through someones home movies).

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

September 20th voting opens. I will let you know how. Vote for me? Ok?


  1. Awesome post Janis! Love your story and all the photos. Glad you're 'adjusting' to New England ;-)

  2. oh snap girl you left your starter? i dont know that i could do that!!! Brave sister, very brave. :) Can't wait to see which classic you do, they have to put you through!

  3. Janis,you are much more brave than I. I've never lived in California,but I'm glad that it sounds like you love The Clambox as much as I do!..Thank you for the delicious looking recipes, I can't wait to try them...I need to look up your lamb source!

  4. What a great story! Even though your life has changed a lot from the move, it looks like you've found a lot of new things to enjoy in New England. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Where in MA is home now? I am a long-time New Englader now living in NH. I work down in Boston, which might offer a chance of a meetup. I love all things New England but having never had the "other" experience who knows what I would like best!!

    Great PFB intro. Can't wait to see what is next.


  6. Janis, this was a joy to read. I feel your pain on moving from Northern California to a complete opposite kind of place. We moved from there about 5 years ago and we were about an hour from Sonoma too! Hmmm...maybe my parents did adopt you! Anyway, it's hard moving from somewhere so beautiful and abundant to somewhere...well, just not as. Houston is so hot and sticky. That's the worst part of it for me. But New England looks gorgeous! I mean, the fall leaves and the snow. We have two seasons here, summer and cooler summer. That's it. I would be impressed with the lobster party trick too. Great job and good luck!

  7. wonderful post!nice to meet you!:)

  8. Love your contest submission - so very touching as well as funny. You will never have to ask me to vote. I really relate to you moving and starting all over – you are so brave. LOVE that kitchen-so lucky - looks like you are making due. As always, enjoy your writing, pics and spirit – I come back and read often #1. One last thing - I really can’t believe that it took so long to make your first snow angel – It is so amazing. Be careful though, you can still get chapped with pants on – trust me.

  9. Wow, that was a fabulous post...so much stuff...so much fun!! Good Luck!!!!!

  10. Great post! Love the personal stories about the move and the things you missed in your hometown. Your pictures are awesome, really great job. Good luck with the competition!

  11. Fun read and great introduction to your blog for newcomers like me. Good luck in the challenge.

  12. Sent a happy ♥ vote your way. See you in round two Janis!

  13. You got our vote!

    Come check out our PFB post:


    Cheers and aloha.

  14. Thanks so much everyone. Don't tell but you all got MY vote too.

  15. Janis, this is such a great entry post...I always love your energy and humor :) Have fun and good luck, voted :)

  16. consider yourself voted for!!! an no, I will not swap out my angelic faces for your votes...sorry! muahhhhh!!! (mechanical laughter!)hugs!

  17. I love paella!

    Voted for you and good luck with PFB :)

    I would like to invite you to participate in my giveaway

    Here is my entry for PFB http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/668

  18. From a new yorker, who married a new englander, I am kind of in the same boat as you! What a lovely entry and best of luck in the contest! My favorite picture is you in the SNOW! :) Alex@amoderatelife

  19. hey ya! you have a lovely blog here. Stumble upon your blog through foodbuzz. :) I voted for your blog. hope that helps. feel free to drop by!!

    have a lovely weekend
    jen @ www.passion4food.ca