7×7 has a series on their website titled “Ultimate Sunday Hikes.” I always find them during the week, when I’m most anxious to spend more time outdoors and making plans for the weekend. Fitting. This week, the feature was an East Bay trail, touted as the “hidden gem of Northern Contra Costa County.” I was sold. So today, Jon and I drove up to Crockett to follow the recommendation.
The trail was easy, dotted with cows and Eucalyptus trees, and ended in one of the cutest towns I’ve been to in such close proximity to San Francisco. If you live in the Bay Area and haven’t walked the trail from Crockett to Port Costa, now is the time. To get there, take the last exit off I-80 East before you cross over the Carquinez Bridge, then take a left onto Pamona Street. Follow Pamona through downtown Crockett until you reach the Bull Valley Staging area. Take a left, and park on the lower level. There are two trails that lead to Port Costa, so use the trip as an excuse to make the complete loop- both sides are gorgeous. Already looking forward to going back, and staying at the The Burlington Hotel.
Day hikes are one of my favorite ways to explore the Bay Area, so I am hoping to spend more time documenting my favorites here.
Happy new year! This January marks two years since I gave up eating gluten, and my baking life hasn’t really been the same since. There have been a few successes, most notably this cornmeal almond cake, some brownies, and a few other things here and there, but for the most part my forays into gluten-free baking have been far from successful. Sunken loaves of banana bread, and several dozen variations of cookies which began with a lot of hope and twelve spoonfuls of dough on the cookie sheet, yet somehow always became one thin, crumbly mess. I know there are gluten-free baking mixes out there, but I haven’t found one that works for me- either it contains dairy (off limits), has a grainy texture, or still leads to the aforementioned pancake cookie.
And then, about a month ago, one of my co-workers at Williams-Sonoma gave me the recipe for gluten-free cinnamon swirl raisin bread from The How Can it Be Gluten Free Cookbook (America’s Test Kitchen). The bread was a huge success – (I’m still enjoying slices from the freezer) – but what was equally exciting was the leftover gluten-free flour mix I had ready to go in the pantry. I’ve been baking quite a bit using that blend since then, and the cookies are finally turning out! The recipe below is adapted only to make these cookies gluten- and dairy-free, but otherwise comes straight from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen.
Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup Earth Balance (soy-free), at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
3/8 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
142 g. America’s Test Kitchen gluten-free flour blend (you can find the recipe here)
1 tsp. salt
10g ground espresso / coffee
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and coffee. Set aside. In a larger bowl, combine the butter and two sugars. Beat with a hand mixer on high for 3 minutes, until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for one minute. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until incorporated.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat sheet, and drop by the Tablespoonful onto the sheets. You should get about 12 per sheet and 24 cookies total. Bake one sheet at a time for roughly 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set. Let cool completely before removing the cookies from the sheet, and store at room temperature in an air-tight container.
Rice Noodle Salad with Nuoc Cham | Inspired by Epicurious
If I could I would eat a variation of this every day. This salad has all of the same elements and flavors as my favorite lunch in San Francisco- spring rolls from Out the Door.
Summer Peach Crisp | The Year In Food
I have made this recipe over and over again since Kimberley’s cookbook was released earlier this summer. It’s so delicious (and gluten free)! I highly recommend picking up a copy of Vibrant Food.
The first corn soup that really caught my attention was this one from Sprouted Kitchen. I made it on a whim for a dinner party three years ago, and it’s the basis of this recipe that I have followed many times since. Whenever you cut corn off the cob (in the summertime), save the cobs in the refrigerator until you are ready to make stock. When you do, cover them with salted water in the pot and simmer for several hours. The drained stock that results will add an extra depth of flavor to the soup that is more than worth the minimal effort.
I few variations I recommend: adding more heat with some roasted poblanos, texture (like David Lebovitz’ recipe here), or serving the soup as a base with a variety of toppings – roasted veggies, salsa & avocado (like pictured above), or even pork shoulder.
for our first anniversary, jon and I went to inverness. it’s a tiny little town, and one of only a handful or so that can be found dotted along the point reyes national seashore. it’s quiet and beautiful and there are so many places to wander.
some of my favorite things from the weekend: the drive on pierce point road out to mcclures beach (pictured below); dinner at sir at star, oysters and garlic fries at nick’s cove, and the hike to bass lake. on the list for the next trip: rent kayaks on tomales bay and hang out on those deserted beaches with a picnic and a book, eat at saltwater oyster depot, and hike the tomales bay trail.