Calabaza de Bellota {Acorn Squash}

Dinner: Mexican Squash
Mexican Squash
Mexican Squash
Mexican Squash
Mexican Squash
Mexican Squash

Mexican acorn squash, inhaled. Directions: Slice squash in half, sprinkle with olive oil, stuff with garlic (after removing seeds), roast at 350 for 30 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and onions to baking sheet. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove, add black beans, a dash of cheese and Cholula. Ay chihuahua — que delicioso!


Icing on the Cake, Baby

Scene of a birthday baker

There has been a considerable lack of crafty blogging happening around here lately; with travel, the garden and my appetite for baking, I’ve granted my sewing machine and knitting needles on sabbatical. However, with the holidays right around the corner, I have a feeling their respite will be brief. I’ve got the holiday spreadsheet completed and a lengthy list of projects to match the stack of JoAnn’s coupons in my pocketbook. I am very much looking forward to Thanksgiving in Tucson and Christmas in Denver. I will be able to spend more time with my family in that three week period than I have all year.

Cream cheese frosting, whipped

I am learning the sweetest gift of the holidays is time with my loved ones. I can’t wait. We have some traditions traveling with us to Cody’s house in Denver, including stockings filled with fruit and sticky buns first thing Christmas morning. I’ve got some holiday traditions I look forward to starting with my own brood one day, including caroling, handing out baked goods to the neighbors and baking a birthday cake for Christ on Christmas day. To bring some of these into being this year, I’m organizing a giant community dinner where we’ll go caroling afterward and am working on my neighborhood baked good plan.

ET had it right.

Where I live, many of the residents are temporary. Some are college students or retired folk. Very few of us seem to live in the same spot year-round. I’d like to go by door-to-door with little loaves of bread and wish families a happy holiday and introduce myself, but I feel a bit funny doing so. Suggestions? I’ve also thought about gifting them with small tags that read something like, “With the economy down, it’s time to come together. Bread shared among neighbors makes friends. Wishing you a happy holiday season.” It is pretty cheesy, right?

Chocolate joy
Birthday cupcakes
Who's turning 29?

What would you say? I want to be sincere without being ridiculously sentimental. Send me what you’d say on your bread-for-neighbors tag and I’ll make you a stack of handstamped gift tags for your holiday season. {One person will be selected from comments. Woot!}


* Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Reece’s Pieces topping for Ryan’s 29th birthday. I was in a rush and didn’t let these cool long enough; the result was icing that had slid off by the time I reached the party. Lesson learned!

Not Exactly Eden

Burpee seeds

I’m gardening. After taking those classes at the Phoenix Farmer’s Market with the Phoenix Permaculture group, prepping my tiny patio and using my planting calendar to pick seeds that will work this time of year — I’m gardening.

Pretty much the best gardening book around
Giant bag of Ph goodness

Coffee grounds to help with the pH balance of the soil. I am also asking my carpenter grandfather to whip up one of these compost bins for me. I see worms and lots of gorgeous veggies in my future.

Lots of composting...

I am hoping this process is much like sewing and baking — yet another hobby I’ve watched Finny use her cunning and cleverness to succeed. I mean seriously, is there nothing this girl can’t do? Have you seen her garden? I think asking her to send me a bit of her green thumb is not too much to ask. You hear that Finny? Send me some of your smarts already!

Thankfully I’ve got Staci in my own hood to help guide me through Arizona gardening. This woman is a pro. Not only does she homeschool five kids, she somehow manages do raise her own veggies to feed her army too. Yeowza. And Stephanie, who isn’t exactly in my hood, but close enough. The girl grows okra like you wouldn’t believe.

Pretty bush in my little garden
Gardening, day 1.

So, here we go. I’m throwing my hat in the gardening ring and hoping to eventually expand to chickens and some fruit trees. Not at this home, but the new one I’m still carefully saving my pennies for. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy beets, carrots, onions, garbanzo beans, cilantro and fennel in this little casita. Yet another step toward that sweet little cottage life I dream of. I’m thinking the dog is coming soon too. New Years?


Yellow Aji Chicken

Dinner and lunch and dinner and lunch

When my buddy Clare and I headed to South America last year for work, we fell in love with many aspects of Bolivian life. Both world travelers, we were delighted to find a new culinary specialty: yellow aji. Aji in Bolivia essentially means spicy anything. It could be salsa or a sauce or in a drink. Aji! We thoroughly enjoyed our aji. Aji with bread. Aji with vegetables. Aji with llama…

Clare and I rock the salt flats

Clare later found a jar of this Goya yellow aji marinade, which I uncovered in the fridge tonight. The perfect cover for two otherwise bare chicken breasts. The result was fabuloso, as they’d say down south.

Peruvian aji chicken

Mil gracias Clarita!


Blue Moon

Nope, not donuts
Sorry Homer J.
Giddy on up

Pumpkin cornbread muffins came out of the oven last night; I’m not sure if it is the cooler weather or the changing seasons. I feel an incredible need to bake and fill my home with the sweetness of all spice. With this giant full moon lingering about, I also feel the need to curl up in a ball and sob. Go away blue moon, or Betty Crocker and I are going to chase you off with brooms and cackles.


Still Wishing I Was a Baker

I really wanted to cut myself a slice.
So you lost your job cake
Bundt cake should be called butt cake
Evening scene

This is Waitress-inspired, “Sorry-You-Got-Laid-Off” chocolate cake. It was delivered warm, with a sprinkling of cinnamon for good luck. The recipient was quick to say, “Guess what! I may have a job offer!” to which I responded, “See you next week with the Congrats-You-Got-A-New-Job!! pie.”

Any excuse to bake, what can I say?



When I met Kinchie several weeks ago, I had no idea we’d become fast friends. Funny how the world works — it occasionally throws new people together who celebrate life similarly. When she came for community dinner last week, she handed me one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received — it blew me away. Having cruised my blog and Flickr account a bit, she put together an amazing array of photos that capture my spirit. It was a photo of me and the British Grannie that brought tears; it is incredible when someone you don’t know well has taken the time to know you well.

Kinchie tagged me. In the spirit of new friendships, the Universe bringing together birds of the same feather and all things sassy, I’m playing along:

* Link to the person who tagged you.
* Post the rules on your blog.
* Write 6 random things about yourself.
* Tag 6-ish people at the end of your post.
* Let each person know he/she has been tagged.
* Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

1. I fall in love quickly. Rarely has this served me well, and yet — I can’t help but find something I love in just about everyone.

2. I hate my materialistic American side, but damn I’d love a new pair of designer jeans. And while I say I’d never wear a diamond engagement ring, I’ve considered seriously turning in the diamond earrings an ex gave me for a larger, prettier set. All this from a girl who considers herself a pro-Africa humanitarian. Yuck. Pretty! Yuck. The debate rages.

3. I’m nervous about the holidays. I wish my family lived closer and coming together wasn’t a chore, but something that still happened naturally.

4. I dream of taking a love to Africa. We’ll swim on the beaches of Limbe, drink great wine in Stellenbosch, camp in Beira with Ken and Deb iand drink tea after long hikes through Mulange in Malawi. Maybe we’ll swing through Ethiopia on our way home and pick up our kid too. That would be the dreamy Hollywood ending.

5. I think I’ll become an Ironwoman next year and complete the full 140.6. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

6. My favorite number is 21. I look for it places and find it regularly. Every single time it makes me smile.

Speak up, fellow tagged friends:
and Ms. April


Emerald, Lime, Olive, Kelly

Fall in DC

DC was excellent; I had such a great time at the Green Festival with Mike and Sam. Let me tell you — these two know how to hosts guests.

The Tuck's home

The adorable Tuck home.

They not only drove me around for three days, set up a hotel room in the city so we could walk and enjoy our time without worrying about driving back to the burbs, and spoiled me silly with chocolates on the pillow, awesome food and gobs of time, but they did so graciously. They didn’t make me feel like a guest, but like someone they’d really been looking forward to seeing and I couldn’t be more thankful. We also spent a night in Georgetown singing Billy Joel songs at a piano bar, surrounded by hot men in suits. (Seriously, DC? Good work on the men. Well-dressed eye candy abounds.)
It was a blast, and I’m pretty sure everyone within a five-foot distance — as far as my shouting voice could carry over the piano — knew that there were no such venues in Maricopa County. Phoenix, we need a piano bar, lots of Billy Joel and more suit-worthy weather.

Green festival, DC

Spicy chicken wrap with local veggie salad: $10. This was about three bites and the one thing I’d change about the festival was the commercial angle. They charged $1 for a cup of water — as in they charged you for the cup and then you used the faucet. Pretty silly.

Felted hippie bag in action

Africankelli bag being rocked at the festival by Ms. Sam.

Green Festival, DC

Books for sale a the fest. I didn’t buy any books. I spent my cash on an ionized foot detox instead. The photos are here, but be forewarned, they are horrifying.

We also heard Marion Nestle and Amy Goodman speak. Nestle is one of my public health heroines and she did not disappoint. Goodman gave me an entirely new perspective of the media. I learned gobs and felt right at home with my fellow Birkenstock-wearing, earth-loving, tree-hugging friends.

Green Festival, DC

My notebook, ready for some Marion Nestle insight…

Green festival, DC

Dr. Nestle, who within five minutes of taking the stage made me reconsider everything I eat. In a nutshell: the US now imports the majority of our foods (and preservatives and pharmaceuticals) from China, India and Mexico — noteworthy because of their lack of quality control in areas such as preservatives and pharmaceuticals. Or so she and the recent dog food/melamine/baby formula scandals would suggest. Scary. Her talk made me sit up straight and think of all the foods I’d eaten in the last two hours that had countless preservatives, most of which probably came from an unregulated source. Yikes. Time to make some serious pantry changes.

In response, we decided not to go out for dinner after the conference. Instead we celebrated with a homemade meal and lots of local incredients:

roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples

Roast acorn squash filled with apples and garlic…

roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples
roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples

Turkey, sage and squash simmering with onion and olive oil.

roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples

Voila — the perfect meal to end a fantastic weekend. We included local Tarara wine, which was excellent.

There is certainly something to eating fresh, local and eventually vegan.

Three cheers to the Tuckers at Washington DC. I’m smitten.


One Fire, One Broken Chair, Lots of Great Conversation

Community Dinner: 11-07-08

community dinner 005
community dinner 008
King Ranch Chicken
King Ranch Chicken
community dinner 014
Cornbread and black bean casserole
Cornbread and black bean casserole
That candle later caused a fire.

{This candle would later cause a small house fire. Thankfully I had a firefighter’s wife on hand to put it out and mop the floor in the process. Phew.}

The fire
The fire -- thank God for Amanda
Chips and salsa
Eliza and Ryan
Elaina and Spence
The Gang gets together to grub
Tyson gets seconds (thirds?)

15+ came, there was plenty of food, and thank goodness — no major fire damage.
Three cheers for community dinner and the new casserole cookbook!


P.S. Nanoblogmo — you can kiss my … blog. I’m going to DC for the weekend to attend the national green festival and you can’t tether me! No you can’t! Okay, maybe you can. But no promises. Two posts today = no post tomorrow when I’m traveling.
xoxo -kelli

Pantry Alchemy

Groceries for the community dinner

Tonight is the Fall return of the Community Dinner. My African travel saint is cruising through town to introduce me to his new girlfriend and I felt a party was in order. Thanks to my love of travel, my budget for such parties is always constrained. While I’d love to feed Spence and the dozen others who will come over tonight filet mignon, Malbec and foie gras creme brule, we’re having casseroles instead. Alma recently gifted me a lovely new casserole cookbook. Tonight’s menu: King Ranch Chicken, Cornbread & Black Beans and Apple Strudel.

$40 culinary alchemy

Apparently being thrifty is the new black. Who knew cheap could be chic? I was interviewed for an article in the Wall Street Journal this week discussing how the economy is changing our perspectives on spending. I love to entertain and cook for others. I also love to be able to pay all my bills. Thanks to a bit of pantry alchemy and smart grocery shopping, I’m pulling off this dinner for a dozen for $40. This doesn’t include alcohol, but does include dessert. Fingers crossed there is enough for everyone to enjoy!