Homemade Preserved Lemons

Image

The latest in the Ben’s Bitichin’ Kitchen series – Preserved Lemons!

There are endless ways to flavor and prepare preserved lemons for making marinades, salad dressings, seasoning rice pilaf, or just adding the brine to flavor some yummy Bloody Marys.

We have several lemon trees on our property, and the two Meyer lemon trees produce the most delicious citrus. The trees, however, seemed like they hadn’t been pruned in years, so Ben took his pruning shears outside and went to town on those trees. He picked every last lemon off the branches, and you could feel the trees taking huge sighs of relief.

That said, we found ourselves with more lemons than we could use. If you find yourself in this position, or you’re just looking for a fun activity, get out your spices and start playing around!

Here’s how we did it:

Start with your bowl of lemons. Pick out the best ones for the preserving process – the others will be used for their juice.

Grab some empty mason jars.

Separate out the ‘pretty lemons’ and quarter them – but don’t slice them all the way through!

Ingredients:

Salt & Sugar.

Rose petals and green tea.

Dried chilis.

Tellicherry peppercorns.

Cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

Long peppercorns.

Dried habaneros.

Juniper berries, bay leaves, and star anise.

Begin by salting the surfaces of the ‘pretty lemons’ that you just quartered. Put some salt and spices (whatever combo you choose) at the base of the jar. Add two or three lemons, then layer more salt and spices. Add more lemons and layers of salt and spices until the mason jar is full. Squeeze about 3-4 ‘ugly lemons’ worth of juice on to the top of your creation. Seal the jar and keep them in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. Turning the jars a couple of times a day.

We played with a bunch of different spice combos. Here are 3 of my favorites:

#1 – Rose petals, juniper berries, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, salt, sugar.

#2 – Green lemons, habaneros, chilis, star anise, long pepper, extra salt, bay leaves.

#3 – Chilis, tellicherry peppers, bay leaf, juniper berries, salt.

This was so much fun, and the fruit of your labor will be delicious!

Bakesale Betty

Image

This is a post I’ve been afraid to write because it features my absolute favorite lunch spot and I’m worried that if I let the not-so-secret secret out it’ll be so popular that the line will wrap around the block. Today, I HAD to write about Bakesale Betty. If you’ve ever done a Google search for the best chicken sandwich in the Bay Area, you probably already know about this place.

Open Tuesday-Saturday, Bakesale Betty opens up shop in a nondescript location in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland, California. You’ll know the place by the long line that always forms just after opening. The ironing boards for tables outside are also a dead giveaway that you’ve found the right place.

We go here at least three times a week for the incredible fried chicken and coleslaw salad. The chicken is mildly spicy and the cabbage slaw is every bit of the crunchy, vinegar goodness it looks to be.

My sweet tooth rules my life and Bakesale Betty has my favorite cookie…ever. The Ginger-Molasses cookie is TO DIE FOR. All caps are absolutely necessary here. Go get and I’ll await your freak out.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed a new, sweet item on the menu – a homemade banana nut bread. I’ve always loved banana nut bread, but they go for gold with the sandy, sugar topping. The top is a crusty brown sugar mixture that they lovingly refer to as ‘sand’.

The banana nut bread was so good that we went back for a full loaf the next day. Ben made a big deal about it being amazing and lo and behold THE Bakesale Betty overheard him and lit up, “Thank you! I made that.” We couldn’t stop gushing about how good it was and what idiots we were for not getting more.

She remembered us because when we saw today’s new menu item – Rhubarb Orange Pie – we knew we needed to try a slice. Betty overheard our order this time and pulled us aside to give us a full pie because she knew we were going to die and go to dessert heaven. Meeting Betty was how I imagine meeting the Pope might be – a holy, divine culinary goddess.

Now you know my best kept secret;)  Bakesale Betty is Oakland’s finest.

What to Know

Bakesale Betty is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11am-2pm. The line moves faster than it looks!

They offer fried tofu for our vegetarian friends – it’s equally amazing.

Check out their Facebook page for more enticing photos.

Birthdays in Sea Ranch, California

Video

Once we realized that our birthdays were on the same weekend this year, we knew we had to do something special. We lucked out HARD with the home we rented in The Sea Ranch, CA. All the homes in Sea Ranch are mid-century modern architecture which Ben goes gah-gah for. Our spot was tucked away on a bluff over-looking the Pacific Ocean. We were surround by giant redwoods and the pack of turkeys that lived in the woods around the house kept Sammich and her friends busy.

I’m obsessed with that feathered wreath! It was one of the first things I saw walking up to this incredible house.

I’m not a brilliant photographer but I love the design of this home.

The sunroom was my favorite spot in the house! It was so bright and relaxing…for me, anyway. Sammich barks at skylights so she realized quickly on the first night that this was her least favorite room.

I couldn’t capture the beauty of the outdoors. The yard was full of beautiful flower varieties and, everyone’s favorite, a hot tub. Sitting in the hot tub at night, under the stars, with the ocean as your sound track, is a pretty magical experience.

I was sad to be leaving on our last day so I took a video to capture the absolute pleasantness of this place.

The pups were so excited to be together and the only thing that could have made their experience even better were long hikes to tons of different beaches – so that’s exactly what we did. Ben’s birthday is April 7th and mine is April 9th so we always look for ways to celebrate our #betwerthday.

We began a hike along some beautiful, rolling, grassy hills that eventually led us to a bluff with a steep – and I mean STEEP- set of stairs down to the beach. I took this video half way down the stairs. We were the only people crazy enough to actually go down to the beach and quickly learned why nobody else did when Sadie almost got washed away by high tide.

We found another beach were the Gualala River dumps into the Pacific Ocean. It was incredibly beautiful. Our friend’s dog, Sadie, ran after some pelicans and didn’t realize there was a river until she was fully immersed in river water. She’s a nut and we love her for it.

We tried to go tide pooling but found the tide a bit too high for it. That didn’t stop Ben from walking on water. I told him he should make this his new LinkedIn profile picture.

On my birthday, we took a day trip up the coast to Mendocino. It’s an adorable little town tucked on another spectacular bluff on the coast. After some brunch, we headed over to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. Ben was so excited when he found out they allow dogs on leash. Sammich was in hound heaven with all the intense smells here. There are endless paths with bright pops of color everywhere you look. We took the path that lead us to – wait for it – another insanely beautiful bluff with a view of the ocean. Paradise.

We tried to get Sammich to pose in front of the Elephant Ear plant but she was…distracted.

Said beautiful bluff.

Happy Birthday to us!

Hard Nights, Better Mornings

I have posted a lot about mornings lately which is unusual because my whole life I have been incapable of operating in the early hours of the day. Getting up to go to a 9-5, or early call time, often involved a set routine whereupon I could zone out and just go.

Ever since moving in with a morning person and adopting a puppy, I have found myself awake (whether I like it or not) with the sun. Recently, our little Sammich has been sick with a full-blown puppy cold. She has been coughing and wheezing and while the vet assures us she just needs to relax and sleep and let it pass, it’s been hard hearing her up at night coughing. The other night was especially hard and none of the household got any sleep. We were all up before the sun, and after a little puppy breakfast (and coffee for this human) everyone was starting to feel better.

Sometimes it takes a rough night to be able to wake up and meet the morning with gratitude.

Our tummies are sympathizing with Sammich so we kept it light – d’Affinois cheese on sesame toast, avocado, hard-boiled egg.

She’s been having to work for full naps since coughing fits keep waking her up. I caught a moment of rest for this little one – some morning routines (like puppy naps) never change.

What to know

Any time we have a pet emergency after our normal vet has closed, we always head to PETS Referral Center in Berkeley, California. They have a top-notch staff that treats every dog with love and kindness.

Fort Funston

Video

Even though we live close to San Francisco, the traffic usually makes it too much of a hassle to get to. This past Sunday, we woke up early to go meet up with our best human and canine friends.

On the coast of the Pacific Ocean is a beautiful hiking and beach trail that is perfect for taking a restless pooch…or three. Fort Funston lives up to it’s name. Sammich was nose to the ground the entire time except when she spotted her two besties – Daisy and Sadie.

Daisy and Sadie are trustworthy enough to chase balls out to the horizon and come running back. Sammich…not so much. We have to keep her on a leash because there are too many steep cliffs and she can run way faster than us. She still managed to have the time of her life. From the parking lot arrival, to spotting her two friends, to all the new ones she made along the way. The sweeping ocean views weren’t so bad on these human eyes either.

What to know

Fort Funston park is a great spot to take your pup in San Francisco.

Short Box Series for Pilates Reformer

Video

The short box series on reformer can be used as essential level preps or full-blown intermediate exercises. Feet pulling the foot strap taut as you utilize the strength of your core to articulate your spine. The movement of your arms create longer levers which increases the difficulty of this exercise. The arm movement and spinal twist are assisted by engaged obliques.

Below are three exercises for the short box followed by a full video:

Round Back for Short Box:

Start sitting up straight, feet pulling strap taut, neutral spine, palms on top of one another in your lap. Inhale to prepare, exhale to tuck your pelvis and roll onto your back pockets.

Inhale to lift your arms over head, maintaining that round thoracic spine.

Turn abs on even more, pulling belly toward spine, and roll over your thighs – maintaining that c-curve of your spine.

Exhale to stack back up to a neutral spine from tail to head.

Straight Back for Short Box:

Begin by sitting upright on your box with a neutral spine, feet pulling strap taut. With bar overhead, pull on opposite ends of the bar to engage your arms.

Inhale to prepare, exhale to hinge at your hips and tilt back with a straight back.

Inhale to maintain this position. Exhale to engage your obliques to help you hinge at your hips to pull you back up to straight.

Twist With Round Back for Short Box:

Beginning with the photo above, sitting straight up, arms overhead pulling bar.

Inhale to prepare, exhale to tuck your pelvis and roll back onto your pockets as the bar comes down in front of your shoulders.

Inhale to maintain that c-curve of the spine as you lift the bar overhead.

Exhale to twist to one side. Inhale to return to center. Exhale to twist to the other side. Inhale to return to center.

Continue the inhale to pull belly towards spine as you round forward over your thighs – keeping bar level with shoulders.  

Exhale to keep the bar still in space as you stack back up to a neutral spine from tail to head.

Inhale to lift bar back up over head with neutral spine.

Here’s what that looks like:

Mikkeller Tasting Room and Bottle Shop

My brother and his wife were in town for a quick visit this weekend so we headed down to the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, California. Rockridge is a friendly neighborhood with a busy main street, College Avenue, that runs through the middle. There is everything from Irish dive bars, to Pilates studios, to ice cream parlors and ramen shops.

My brother and his wife are big beer drinkers – which is something I know nothing about. Fortunately, a new specialty beer shop and tasting room just opened up next to my favorite coffee spot. Walking in to Mikkeller Tasting Room, you immediately feel like you are walking into the lobby of a brewery gearing up for a tour.

The space is narrow but designed to draw your attention to the fully stocked cooler and shelves. There you’ll find a vast and impressive spread of specialty beer and, in our case, mead. It is like a library of interesting flavors. You could easily spend a half hour just perusing the selection.

The walls have really rad art tying the space together. The register is also a tasting bar where you can find even more delicious draft beer. The bartender was extremely knowledgeable about every unusual product on the shelves and was happy to talk about what made each special.

Jake & QianQian ended up going home with the EvilTwin Brewing Imperial Biscotti Break stout and the D.O.T.D. Chili Chocolate Black Lager. Ben picked up the Simcoe Mead Kitchen.

What to Know

Mikkeller Tasting Room and Bottle Shop is open from 11:30am-11pm daily. Check out their website for selection and upcoming events.