Bloody Butcher Cornbread Muffins with Honey Whipped Butter

Bloody Butcher CornbreadThis isn’t a late Halloween post, although with a name like Bloody Butcher it would have been ideal with my annual Halloween Chili. Bloody Butcher is actually an heirloom variety of corn that you have likely seen more as an ornamental than an edible. It is, however, quite edible, in many ways, including  as cornmeal.  Don’t get excited, I am NOT grinding my own cornmeal. But, our awesome CSA Farmers do take the tedious time to grind it down and put it in our CSA boxes. It is similar in every way to yellow cornmeal but it sports a gorgeous purple hue.

We were in Charleston last week. Great town with fabulous food. I ate my weight in handmade biscuits and cornbread.  So it was natural upon returning that I had to bring a little Charleston home with me. I admit, you likely won’t find Bloody Butcher cornmeal at your grocer. But, if it or any other heirloom variety does cross your path, consider giving this recipe a try.

Its heirloom status makes it extra special to make with the kiddos when talking about Thanksgiving Dinner old and new. I’d hate for my kids to grow up thinking the Pilgrims had boxes of Jiffy floating around in their pantry.  This is the perfect recipe for this year’s table and those who are dining with us will certainly see some. I’ll be serving mine complete with Sarsaparilla Honey Whipped Butter, the honey of which we bought on a recent trip to Alaska. Ah, Alaska, that’s another post entirely… So many things to be thankful for this year- great trips, great friends, awesome family and even a new hound dog.

Bloody Butcher Cornbread with Honey Whipped Butter

Makes 12 muffins or one 8×8 pan

1 C. Heirloom Cornmeal

2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 3/4 C. flour

1 egg

1 stick butter, melted

1 1/2 C. low-fat milk

Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter in the microwave. In a medium size bowl, whisk the butter and milk together. Add the egg and whisk until combined.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking soda, salt and flour. Slowly add them milk mixture and combine thoroughly. Pour into pans and bake accordingly.

For muffins-20-24 minutes, For 8×8 pan 30-32 minutes

Zucchini Cobbler with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce and Ice Cream

Zucchini CobblerIt’s been a ridiculously hectic month of May. With Hubs and I doing our fair share of over booking ourselves, there has been little time for new recipe creation… or cooking… or sleeping…well you get the idea. Times like these cause me to go into auto-pilot in an effort to just get through each day, I rely on past recipes rather than creating new ones.

I’ve been declining some fun offers lately. One of my friends, unwilling to wait until June to hang out started showing up at my workplace to convince me otherwise, then a second showed.  Then the text messages started rolling in, then lots of frowny emoticons on Evite. Fine, I get the memo. All work and no play makes for a sad group of friends.

No need to bring anything to the potluck they assured me. I agreed and offered to bring wine. The day of the party I woke up with a nagging voice in my head. It was my mother’s.

“You aren’t actually going to show up to a potluck with nothing but wine, are you?”

“Uh, well…”

So lucky for me, I had a good 3 pounds of zucchini in this weeks CSA basket. I pieced the following recipe together in about an hour, including a quick trip to the store. When we arrived to the party, late as promised, everyone else had finished eating and was ready for dessert. I don’t know if it was the empty bottles of wine they’d consumed or the fact that I just haven’t been out in a while, but, I don’t think I have ever made a recipe that was so well-received. Even the kids wolfed it down, assuming of course that it was apple.

“You must blog it!” they insisted, “we need the recipe!”

“You’ve really outdone yourself this time!”

“Zucchini? But, how did you make it taste like apple?”

“I’m sensing a new cooking demo class”, Hubs suggested, “maybe we can do it in the dutch oven over the campfire!”

Hands down, it was a huge hit. Before the last piece flew into people’s mouths we quickly took a photo- on a paper plate. It isn’t fancy, but sometimes the best things in life aren’t.

This recipe gives me renewed faith in the ability to create something wonderful from even the most chaotic times. It also makes me look forward to a long summer ahead of zucchini, potlucks with friends, and the “occasional” chance to get off auto-pilot.

Zucchini Cobbler

3 lbs of peeled and seeded zucchini

4 C. AP Flour

3 sticks of butter, cold

1/2 C. Orange Juice

3 C. Sugar, divided

2 tsp. Cinnamon, divided

1/4 tsp. Nutmeg

1 tsp. Salt

Sea Salt Caramel Sauce (Trader Joe’s), optional

French Vanilla Ice Cream, optional

Grease an 11×9 baking dish. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Peel, seed and slice zucchini into half-moon shapes, so they resemble apples. In a large saucepan cook down zucchini, orange juice and salt for about 20 minutes. Drain excess liquid. Mix in 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside.

Cube the cold butter into small pieces and combine with 4 C. flour and 2 C. sugar. Combine until mixture resemble crumbs.

Combine half of the crumb mixture with the zucchini mixture and press into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with remaining half of crumb mixture and sprinkle 1 tsp cinnamon on the top.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until light brown and bubbly.

This dessert holds its own, but is extra decadent with the optional addition of ice cream and caramel sauce.

Serves 12+

 

April Fool’s- Blackened Road Kill Chicken and Curb Cabbage Slaw

KOA_RoadKill_AprilFoolsHere is a fun recipe I just did in collaboration with KOA’s The Greater Outdoors Blog. The recipe is in fact real, and with the exception of the cabbage, many of these events, did not occur.

Anyone get the feeling food prices have gone up lately? Me too. Which is why I like to reach out to Mother Earth to see what goodies she can provide. Recently, I was leaving Pilates and I eye-spied a head of cabbage on the curb next to my car. It was like Mother Nature felt bad about my bank account and sported me a freebie. And sure enough, I needed a freebie because Pilates isn’t exactly cheap. Then, on my way home in the middle of the suburbs was a dead chicken. I know, weird, right? Some people call that Road Kill, but I call it a free meal. Sure it had tire marks, which is why I decided to blacken it on the grill to make it all blend in, and won’t you know- my uppity suburban dinner guests, never knew the difference? So raise your can of PBR to a free meal if you should be so lucky to find one in your neck of the woods. But, not your last can of PBR, cause you got to put it up that chickens you-know-what.

Blackened Road Kill Grill Chicken and Curb Cabbage Slaw

1 free dead animal (preferably a chicken)
2 Tbl. Road Kill Grill Spice
1 Can Pabst Blue Ribbon (aka- PBR)

For the slaw-
1 head curb cabbage
1 head purple cabbage you’re probably gonna have to buy
Dressing (Free can’t be picky- get one that’s cheap)

I found both Road Kill Grill Spice and the beer can chicken contraption at my local KOA general store. You can use any kind of spice, but I do prefer Road Kill Grill Spice for this recipe.

Remove the not so pretty parts of the chicken (head, feet, gizzards, etc.) Remove excess rubber from chicken’s skin and rinse off gravel and asphalt. Smear 2 Tbl. Road Kill Grill spice all over that dead thing. Preheat your grill on low with heat below and on the back burners. Open can of beer and shove it up the chicken’s rear and set over low heat on the grill. Cook for 45-60 minutes or until thermometer reads- No Salmonella /Road Funk Left.

Make the slaw while the chicken is cooking on the grill. Slice and chop up the cabbage and cover in dressing. Set aside.

Overnight Kale Salad with Quinoa

Overnight Kale Salad with QuinoaAfter a long hard day of work, Hubs often comes home, tired, sweaty and hoping for a hot meal. It’s often those days I hand him a plate of this kale salad. Sure, I can see the momentary flicker of disappointment in his eyes. Salad can be a very boring meal. I usually follow-up with bourbon on the rocks, or a nice bottle of red,  which seems to ease this momentary blow.

But, Hubs is a smart man and he doesn’t dare say a negative word. After all he married a vegetarian whose been in recovery now for three years. Every once in a while I like to reminisce about the old days when I didn’t eat or cook meat.  At least, that’s my go-to excuse when I haven’t been shopping in a week.

Since kale salad is all the rage these days and I get at least two large bundles in my CSA basket each week, we never seem to run out of kale.  A lot of recipes for kale salad have you dressing the salad and serving it immediately. I suspect this is why some people aren’t very fond of this trendy dark leafy green. While it’s true that it’s a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, it also tastes very healthy. One might even say “tough” or “chewy”.  I don’t believe kale should be treated like lettuce which has an entirely different texture.

My solution to tough kale salad is simple marinate it in a dressing overnight. A salad that tastes better the longer it sits? It seems odd, but it’s true! Won’t it get soggy? Actually, no it will “tenderize” the kale much like a marinade would to chicken or beef. If you don’t have overnight, I suggest a minimum of two hours. I’ve added quinoa which is a complete protein along with feta, raisins and pecans for Hubs sake.

Because this salad can easily be done ahead of time, it’s become my new go-to recipe for dinner parties and even camping. This salad can be stored up to 48 hours in advance. That being said, don’t add the quinoa, pecans or feta until you are ready to serve, because those items do get soggy.

Overnight Kale Salad with Quinoa

Prep time 10 min. Serves 4

4 C. chopped kale, stems removed

½ C. cooked quinoa (can substitute rice, farro or barley)

½ C. raisins

½ C. chopped pecans

½ c. feta cheese

For the dressing

1/4 C. olive oil

¼ C. apple cider vinegar

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 Tbl. Honey

After washing, stemming and chopping kale, let it dry. In the meantime, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey and juice of one lemon as well as its zest and combine with whisk or fork. Toss in a bowl with chopped kale and leave for a minimum of 2 hours up to one night.  I like to do this the night before.  When ready to serve, combine with cooked quinoa or other starch substitute, chopped pecans, raisins and feta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Greek Yogurt Chiffon Cheesecake with Mango-Passionfruit Sauce

Yogurt Chiffon Cake with PassionfruitGirl Scout Cookie sales have consumed every spare second of my life since Superbowl Sunday. My incredibly motivated daughter insists upon selling 800 boxes to get the American Girl doll of the year.

I am all about kids working hard for what they want. However, at her age, the hardest working person is Mom, who has to schlep around of hundreds of boxes of cookies, coax her friends, family and strangers into sales all while  manuevering a giant wagon that barely fits in the back of an SUV. My daughter just stands there, sweetly  smiles and enjoys getting all the goodies. Her toddler brother has even been caught up in the sales, feeling the need to personally open and taste each cookie if he thinks someone is waffeling on which box to buy.

Hindsight says I should have made this crust with the Girl Scout Trefoil cookie. Lord knows, we’ve got a few dozen boxes floating around the garage. I think it’d be fab. In fact, if you are willing to give it a go, call me- we still have about 80 boxes left to sell.

I first got passionfruit in my CSA basket in early February. To be honest, I thought it was a really bad-looking heirloom avocado, it was wrinkly and purple and unlike anything I’d ever seen, so I tossed it in the fridge without further thought. My only other encounter with passionfruit came in a small can from Australia when Hub’s brother was living there. In fact, I still have that can in the pantry. Passionfruit is exotic and not something you see often, even here in sunny San Diego.

When I cut open the fruit one night (half expecting a rancid version of guacamole to spring out) I was overjoyed when passionfruit came out instead. It’s kinda slimy and has these little green crunchy beads and it smells and tastes absolutely amazing. It smells like a tropical vacation.

So now I’ve been hoarding these things in the fridge, squirreling them away to come up with some sort of awesome dessert. There are seventy-eight cookbooks in my kitchen and only one of them has a recipe involving passionfruit and that recipe was a coconut cheesecake. I despise coconut (sorry GS Samoa fans) and after 6 weeks of eating way too many boxes of Girl Scout cookies, I needed to find a “healthier alternative”. So I hit the internet. I combed page after page, blog after blog and I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. So in the end, I made this one up on my own, which is tres’ risky when you have guests coming for dinner.

It’s definitely more chiffon-like than dense cheesecake and I think this recipe will be my new go-to when I’m hankering a Cheesecake Factory fix. If passionfruit evades you or is too pricey, you can just add the mango sauce. Our guests said it was like taking a bite out of Belize, which in February, even in sunny San Diego, sounds as amazing as it tastes. Oh and did I mention, it’s no-bake? Which in the middle of my hectic life and cookie sales, is all the vacation this Mama’s gonna get.

Greek Yogurt Chiffon Cheesecake with Mango-Passionfruit Sauce

For the cheesecake-

8 oz low-fat cream cheese

1 1/2 C. low-fat cottage cheese

3/4 C. non-fat greek yogurt

2/3 C. sugar

2 Tbl. pasteurized egg whites

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 vanilla bean

1/2 C. butter or margarine

1 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs

For the sauce-

1 bag frozen mango pieces (12 oz)

4 passionfruit (or 1 small can)

1/2 C. powdered sugar

For the sauce- You can make the sauce up several days in advance. Thaw the mango overnight and drain. In a blender or food processor blend the mangos with powdered sugar. Cut the passionfruit legthwise and scoop it out into a bowl. Hand mix the mango in with the passionfruit and set aside for up to 3 days in the fridge.

For the Chiffon Cheesecake-

Melt the butter or margarine and mix in with the graham cracker crumbs and press into the bottom of a springform pan. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, blend the cottage cheese, sugar and cream cheese together until smooth. Split a vanilla bean legthwise and scrape the contents into the bowl and blend again.

Follow the direction on the gelatin box to make 1 envelope gelatin. In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites. Gently fold egg whites into cheese mixture. When the gelatin has cooled a bit gently fold into the cheese and egg mixture. Pour into the springform pan. Cover with wrap and place in the fridge a minimum of 4 hours prior to serving.

Nana’s Southern Trifle

Southern Trifle in a PunchbowlI come from a family that eats their way through grief. Which is why I decided to make this cake for the 45 kinfolk that came to town for my Aunt’s memorial service last weekend. Every grown man in my family is well over 6 ft. tall, with a hollow leg and a serious sweet tooth. It’s not my usual style of recipe. In fact, it has no ingredients from a Farmer’s Market, which means it will get eaten. I also sat out a veggie platter with ranch and the kin just stared at it, but didn’t dare touch.

This is the kind of recipe my mom or Granny would have made for this type of occasion. Mom and Granny would have made it in a punchbowl and I did as well.  When I had excess ingredients, I made it in a traditional trifle footed dish, which is far more my style. Instead of traditional cake mix and cool whip, I do impart my own foodie twist. Both were gone in relatively short time.

Family is a funny thing and my family is rather unique. This is my favorite conversation from the weekend-

“Cuz, I need yo’ opinion on somethin’.”

“Sure, I like to tell people my opinion.”

“K. You know how those sacred heart tattoos are popular?”

“Uh…No?”

“You know cuz’, the heart with the flames? Well I think it’s lame, everyone has one. So what do you think about me gettin’ a Sacred Cheeseburger on my stomach?”

“Uh…well, so like over your belly button, like you want it to talk?”

“Cuz, don’t be crazy. I mean like a cheeseburger on my stomach with flames.”

“No, right…certainly, you wouldn’t want to appear crazy. Well, to be honest, I’d normally try to talk someone out of a tattoo like that, but on you, I think it’d be a possibility”

“Thanks cuz’ I’m gonna do it.”

Apparently, I’m no longer the only “foodie” in the family…

Nana’s Southern Trifle

Nana's Southern Trifle

Pineapple is the southern symbol of hospitality. If you can find fresh go for it, but the canned is plenty fine for most my kinfolk and likely yours. This recipe will make the quantities in the footed trifle dish, for the punchbowl double the recipe.

2 boxes Trader Joes Vanilla Bean Cake Mix

1 tub True Whip Low Fat *,thawed

1 Large box Fat Free/Sugar Free Vanilla Jello Pudding

1 20 oz can Pineapple chunks

1 12oz can Mandarin Oranges

1 8 oz can pineapple slices

(You will also need eggs, butter and milk as per box recipes)

Bake the cake in two 8 or 9 inch round pan per box instructions. Cool on a rack and carefully cut one of the rounds in half lengthwise, so that you have 2 thin cakes and 1 thick cake.

While the cake is baking, open and drain cans of fruit, set aside. Make pudding according to package directions and keep in fridge.

To assemble-

Place 1/3 of the pudding on the bottom of the trifle or punchbowl, make sure there is a nice layer and it covers the bottom completely. Then place a thin layer of cake. On top of cake spread out a layer of True Whip (about 1/2 the container)  and add the entire can of pineapple chunks. Top with the thick layer of cake. Top cake with 1/3 pudding and the drained can of mandarin oranges. Top with the last thin layer of cake, then add the last of the pudding and top with the remaining True Whip and sliced pineapple.

*True Whip is a healthier version of Cool Whip. I can get it in major stores and it’s located next to the Cool Whip in the freezer section. If you cannot find it, you can substitute Cool Whip.

Winter Farmer’s Market Salad

I tried my hand again at farming. This time purely by default. When my farmers left the winter saladgarden they left it chock full of goodies. Beautiful winter veggies that were going to go to seed if I didn’t do something quickly. So one afternoon I trekked out back with a Lululemon bag in hand and a romantic vision of putting together my own “CSA Basket” from the farmers hard work. The sun was shining, it was a mild 70 degrees in December and there I went to “reconnect” with Mother Earth.

What I did not bring was-

1. Proper work shoes for muddy conditions

2. Any work tools whatsoever

3. Work gloves

4. Common Sense

I quickly realized I was ill-prepared. Thankfully, the grounds gardener stopped by and offered me items 1-3. Within an hour I had filled up several large trash bags full of kale, beets, lettuces and carrots. I day-dreamed about the lovely recipes I’d be cooking that week and how I’d wow my dinner guests with stories of “picking my own veggies straight from the garden”. It was so idyllic, nothing could go wrong. After an hour, I stopped for a break and to soak in my own foodie daydreams.

But, as I sat, something felt wrong. Something was missing. Oh no, it couldn’t be…where was my wedding ring?

I quickly scanned the ground, ran up and down the row and started digging by the weeded  butternut squash. No sign of the ring. As I looked over the acre of garden I just walked through, a complete hysteria came over me.  That ring could be anywhere. It was a needle in a haystack. I seriously may never find it. And, that’s when I lost it.

Screaming, hysterical profanities spewed from my mouth. Sure, I knew the ring was too big and I knew it needed to be sized.  I’d even been wearing a fake ring for months because I’d been worried it’d fall off and I’d lose it. So why, today of all days, had I put it on?

Well, it was simple, I’d worn the ring to remind me to take it to the jeweler and get it sized. But, as Murphy’s Law would dictate, at the last minute I had decided to go for this tromp in the garden.  So, there I was with 7 giant bags of kale and plenty of carrots, just not one of them sparkling. Could I get a metal detector before it got dark? If not, should I sleep in the dirt to ward off trespassers and blingy-diamond-obsessed raccoons until I had recovered the ring?

My screaming hysterics caught the attention of the grounds gardener, who by now had clearly guessed I belonged back in the office rather than the garden. As I ran around in circles pointing at my ring finger, crying, she somehow gathered what I was saying through my jibber-jabber.

She calmly asked me if I’d checked the glove.

No. Why would I? That would have meant I had brought item 4.

Sure enough, there was my wedding ring.

I tossed my 7 giant bags of kale and lettuce, beets and the edible carrots into the back of the golf cart and gave the gardener back her supplies. On the way to the jeweler I contacted San Diego Roots Sustainable, who gleans unused veggies and fruits and donates them to the food banks.

I made this salad for dinner and confessed the story to Hubs.

No, I have not tended the garden since. But, I have found some new cool gardeners who want to take it over. And you know what I realized? The first day I met them, they brought items 1-4. Oh, and distinctly no jewelery on any fingers. So naturally, I have instant respect for their savvy already.

Farmer’s Market Winter Salad

If you can’t find persimmons in your area feel free to omit or add your own local fruit delicacy.

1 bag winter mixed greens/lettuces

3 persimmons

1/2 C. Trader Joes Sweet and Spicy Pecans

3 oz. Goat Cheese

Dressing-

1/2 C. Pumpkin Balsamic Vinegar *

1 C. Olive Oil

1 tsp. Mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

* If you don’t have Pumpkin Balsamic Vinegar add 1/2 tsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice to regular Balsamic Vinegar.

Combine dressing ingredients and set aside. Crumble goat cheese and add to washed greens. Peel and slice persimmons length-wise for prettiest presentation. Top with pecans and toss with dressing.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup with Cornbread Croutons

bsutternut squash and leek soupThis recipe is a prime example of how hectic things have been in the Foodie kitchen. I started this post back in early November of 2012. That’s right, 2012.  Since then, I’ve made it a handful of times including this Thanksgiving to rave family reviews, and many a request for the recipe. “Don’t worry, I’ll blog about it”, was my answer. Well maybe they should worry, because the people I told that to last year have sure been waiting a long time. What’s going on with the unceremoniously unsexy soup photo on the right? Apparently, I never took a photo of the final product.  So I decided to still use this photo in the post, otherwise you’d be waiting yet another year for the recipe.  So to fill you in on what has been keeping me busy these days, I’ve put together a Q&A with myself.

The Top 5 Foodie Questions as of recent

Q- “So what’s new in your life?”

A- “A career, mostly.”

Q-“Why aren’t you posting as much anymore?”

A-“I spend my spare hours trying to incorporate yellow into my new work attire.”

Q-“Yellow?! Why?! How’s that going?”

A- “It’s complicated, really. We aren’t talking about a mild butter yellow color here. It’s the kind of yellow you wear when you run at night so you don’t get hit by a car. I just doesn’t go with everything. Well, anything other than black.”

Q-“What’s new in your CSA basket this week?”

A- “Nothing. While I’ve been busy my farmers retired and left me with an acre farm. I tried to harvest it, but quickly realized I’m too high-maintenance for stinging nettle. It was also doing very little for the long-term maintenance of my Melissa 2-button Fryes.”

Q- “The farmers left? To do what?!”

A-” To travel and work at a campground. I guess these days everyone’s leaving their job to work at a campground. Who knew?”

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

The hardest part about making this soup is cutting the squash into cubes. If you don’t have a very sharp knife buy the pre-cut squash in the store.

Serves 12

5 lbs butternut squash (if using whole) if pre-cut 3.5lb is adequate

2 lbs leeks, rinsed thoroughly

4 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock (your preference)

1 jar Classico Light Alfredo sauce

1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 Tbl. Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 box of Jiffy or Traders Joe’s cornbread mix

Equipment– Stockpot or dutch oven, 8-in square baking pan, and immersion blender* (see note below), blender or food processor, large very sharp knife.

For the croutons– Follow package directions, for easier cutting use an 8-in square pan and make 2-3 days ahead. If short on time you can make it the day of but make sure you give it plenty of time to cool. Increase toasting time by 10 minutes. The day of serving I cut the cornbread into 1-in squares. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or Pam. Place the cut cornbread on the pan and toast until dark golden and crisp, about 30 minutes.

For the soup– To cut the whole squash into cubes, peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Then remove the seeds. Chop into 1-inch cubes. You can do these several days in advance and store in ziploc bags. To slice and clean the leeks, chop off the end and the hard dark green parts. Thinly slice and put in a bowl of cold water to get out any remaining sand and dirt. If storing to use at a later date let air dry.

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, saute the cubed butternut squash and leeks with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over medium heat until squash is soft and can be easily pierced with a knife. Then add 4 qts stock and adjust to medium high heat and bring to a boil. Once the soup boils, return to simmer and either 1. insert immersion blender and blend until smooth and creamy or 2. wait for the soup to slightly cool, try to figure out the best and least messy way to transfer all that soup in batches to the food processor or regular blender and pray you don’t scald yourself in the process or 3. turn the stove off and go buy an immersion blender. You’ll thank me.

Once the soup is blended, add the entire jar of Classico Light Alfredo. It may sound like cheating but it adds a brilliant amount of creamy flavor in 5 seconds flat. I suspect it’s the reason this soup gets so many recipe requests. Stir in 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and simmer until service.

*I use a Bamix immersion blender. I have also used Viking and it works quite well. If you ever intend to make blended soups with any regularity this is a great tool to have. You only need your regular blender to explode hot soup all over your kitchen once to be seriously injured and or permanently ticked off.  In case I still haven’t sold you on this tool, I also use it to quickly thicken up stews, coq au vin etc. Also, Hubs uses it daily for his morning workout shakes ever since I threw out his magic bullet. But, that’s a touchy subject, so please don’t mention it.

Vacation Villa Fried Okra

 Vacation Villa OkraOn our recent trip to the Bahamas, I was taken aback at the cost of food. Milk was nearly $8 a gallon, a dozen eggs was $7 and as you can imagine the cost to eat out, even more. Since I am innately frugal and have two small somewhat picky eaters, I decided to schlep a large duffel bag full of non-perishables on our vacation. Our vacation villa had a small kitchen and I planned to make breakfasts in the room, pack heavy snacks for lunch and grab take-out for dinner.

Hubs and I flew separately this trip. Not because we are super paranoid about plane crashes but because he had to stay back and work. Since one of our children was so naughty on his last plane trip with Mommy , he was permanently placed on my “no-fly list”. Therefore, Hubs had the pleasure of escorting him solo. Of course, they had no issues. Of course, it was my luggage that got lost. But, thankfully not the duffel bag full of food.

I  offered to watch our travel companions’ kids in our room while I awaited Hubs and “no-fly” one evening.  I didn’t have a lot to cook that wasn’t totally kid-oriented. I did, however, order okra from the grocery store delivery because it was literally the cheapest green thing they offered. At $2 a pound I was compelled to buy it even though I’ve never cooked okra. But thankfully these days with the internet, you can find a recipe anywhere.

But, on that day, the wi-fi was down. So, I searched through my duffel bag of random food-stuffs and the following items surfaced.

Cheez-Its- hmm, it’s got potential, if I’m desperate. Oatmeal… no.  Maple syrup…probably not. So many boxes of Mac n Cheese…what was I thinking?  Pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers… no, no and no. Pistachios… oh that’d be crunchy but how can I get them ground up? Never mind, I’ll just snack and continue to look… Pop Tarts, heavens no… 1 Small box Cornflakes… YES! and I toss back the cheeze-its.  1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (hello flavor!), 1 small bottle Olive oil (not ideal for frying but I’m using a nonstick pan so let’s hope for the best) and big score! a bottle of Shake and Pour Bisquick.  OK. This I can work with.

So, I quickly went to work cutting off the end of the okra and scooping out the slimy innards and seeds. I figured frying okra would be like frying anything else. I made a 3 bowl set up.  In the first bowl, I poured out enough bisquick mix to do a quick dusting on the okra. In the second bowl, I beat up 2 large eggs. In the third bowl, I crushed up the cornflakes. I dredged and dipped and rolled my way through the pound of okra keeping the cooked pieces in the microwave on the warm setting.

Meanwhile, I mixed my hidden valley ranch dip mix into some plain greek yogurt for a dipping sauce. I snacked on pistachios, really sad I didn’t have a cuisniart to blend those little things up, and I drank a rum cocktail. The three kids sat happily watching a movie sun-drenched and exhausted from another exciting day.

No sooner had the last Okra come off the fry pan, Hubs and “no-fly” walked through the door. There were hugs and kisses all around and”no-fly” was instantly brought up to speed on which pools and waterslides were on the kids morning itinerary. Hubs and I sat on our patio watched the giants yachts fade into the sunset while snacking on my random creation. The okra, view and company was absolutely perfect. It occured to me that this family trip, may actually qualify as a real vacation…

Vacation Villa Okra

1 lb fresh okra

1 single serve box Cornflakes

1/3 C. Bisquick

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix

8 oz Plain Greek Yogurt

1/4 C. Oil

Mix yogurt and ranch dip and set aside in fridge. Cut ends off okra and scoop out slimy innards. Create bowl system, the first for dredging okra in bisquick, the second for dipping in beaten eggs and the third for rolling in the crushed cornflakes.  Heat a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom. When it is heated place 5-6 okra in the hot oil turning to brown. Drain and keep warm until serving. Serve with ranch yogurt dip.

Serves 2-4

Herby Salsa Verde

KOAIt’s been quite the busy summer at the Foodie house. Lots of vacations and food inspirations.  Among those vacations, a camping trip to The Grand Canyon and the nearby KOA campground.  I’ve always said the difference between a vacation and a trip often comes down to “work load”.  Camping can be more work than say “sipping Mai Tai’s” on a beach in Hawaii. Since Hubs and I tend to RV a lot, I long ago decided these “trips” needed to be more like “vacations”.  So these days when Hubs and I camp we do a lot of pre-prep on food, down to “wine-pairing” prior to departure. That way, when we get there the prep and clean-up are much more “vacation-friendly”.

Now that the kiddos are back in school it’s time to get serious with rolling out some new recipes.

Which is why I am so pleased to be partnered with the new KOA Compass blog- The Greater Outdoors as a contributing blogger!  I’ve been testing camping recipes since our first camping trip a decade ago and I am thrilled to share them wtih you and some of KOA’s blog followers.

My first recipe for them was just posted yesterday.

Find it here at-

http://blog.koa.com/camping-recipe-herby-salsa-verde/

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce WrapsWell, Boot camp is officially over and I didn’t come in first place. Sigh. For weeks now, I’ve been mad-dogging my competition “Robin” by keeping my weight loss totals hush-hush and slowly hacking 2 minutes off my incredibly slow mile. She knew I was after her and she really wanted first prize as well. There may or may not have been a picture of me in her fridge every time she opened it for a snack. It was a friendly competition and we kept each other motivated till the end.

You can imagine my surprise when at our awards dinner over the weekend I heard “Robin’s” name announced as 3rd place winner. How could it be? When I came in second, “Robin” and I realized that all the time we’d been focused on beating each other, we neglected to notice the dark horse that came from nowhere to beat us both. Serves us both right. That’s ok, because all three of us are signed up for a second session and I anticipate things are going to get interesting…

The 8 weeks went by surprisingly fast. So fast, that I decided I probably needed to extend to 16 weeks. Turns out, this boot camp really works. The food portion of the program wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I’d feared. Really, it just emphasized eating whole, natural foods, which I was already doing.  Bonus, was I got to eat 5 small meals a day, which I quickly realized meant I was eating more than I had been and still losing weight. Brilliant.

One of my early boot camp friendly favorite meals for Hubs and I was this tasty Chicken Lettuce Wrap. It’s a take on the gigantic appetizer at Cheesecake Factory. I suspect mine is lower in calories. With so few ingredients it’s important to make sure you have good quality lettuce. I use the fresh butter lettuce from my CSA that literally melts in your mouth. The weeks that I don’t get butter lettuce I substitute with Romaine as seen above.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I make two side dipping sauces which are pantry staples.

1 lb organic chicken tenders

1 cup island soyaki

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 pkg bean sprouts

1/2 pkg shaved carrots

1 bunch cilantro

1 head Butter or Romaine Lettuce

3 Tbl. Peanut Butter

Soy Sauce

Rice Vinegar

Siracha

sesame seeds

Marinate chicken tenders in cup Island Soyaki for at least 3 hours. In a separate dish, marinate sliced cucumbers in soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame seeds. For the spicy peanut sauce– whisk together 3 Tbl. peanut butter, 1 Tbl. Soy Sauce and 1 tsp siracha. For the spicy soy sauce– whisk together equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar and add 1/2 tsp of Siracha for every 1/4 c. of sauce. Whisk in sesame seeds and  diced cilantro to taste. You can make both sauces ahead and refrigerate, just bring to room temperature before serving.

I grill my chicken tenders on an All-Clad grill pan until cooked through. This is mainly because I’m still somewhat scared of our bbq. You can use either.

Assemble lettuce leaves, chicken tenders, shaved carrots, bean sprouts, fresh cilantro sprigs and sauces on a large serving platter. Enjoy!

Serves 2

Kumquat and Hoosier Momma BBQ Sauce

hoosier sauceKumquat season is back! This recipe was one I created last year but never had the chance to post. With my entire series on Kumquats (see- Kumquat Tea Cakes, Kumquat Chutney, Kumquat Curry Chicken, Deconstructed Kumquat Salad), I may have burned myself out on those tiny little citrus goodies.

So here is my chance at filing this recipe out of my drafts, a spring cleaning of blog posts, if you will.  These days Hubs and I are so busy I need to combine multiple things at once, like adding drinks into my sauces. This somehow makes me feel like I’m multi-tasking my way through the kitchen.

What could be better and possibly more necessary than combining one’s favorite bloody mary mix into a BBQ sauce fit for spring and summer? The kumquat puree adds a fabulous citrus tang, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

 What’s with the Hoosier Momma? Well, I must confess, this stuff is impossible to get on the West Coast in stores. So unless you have friends in the midwest, I suspect you’ll have to swap out the mix. If you live in SoCal, I love Ballast Point Bloody Mary Mix.  Just remember to pick a spicy thick mix, Mr. T’s will likely give you a runny sauce.

Kumquat and Hoosier Momma BBQ Sauce

1 cup Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Mix (or your favorite Mix)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup Kumquat Puree (recipe follows)

Add all ingredients to large sauce pan. Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for approximately 20 minutes or until the consistency of ketchup. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Makes 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce.

Kumquat Puree

1 pound large ripe kumquats

 5 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup vodka

With a paring knife cut and separate pulp from rind. Coarsely chop rinds and add to saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, 5 tablespoons of light corn syrup and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger.

 Simmer covered for 45 minutes. Cool and place in food processor and pulse for 3 minutes or until pureed.

Homemade Granola with Cashews, Pistachios, Cranberries and Flaxseed

Ygranolaou knew something healthy was coming after my last post. It turns out that four weeks into bootcamp- I’m not starving, I’m losing weight, and I’m still drinking (albeit a lot less) wine. Hubs has been my rock. He’s this uber-happy 5:30am alarm-setting, goal-maintaining, worker-outer. He sets my alarm, wakes me up with the happiest pep-talk, and before I’ve even made it to the closet he’s already downstairs slogging out some sort of “Insanity” video. Since the time change, the bootcamp works out in the dark (headlamps and all) in a local park that doesn’t even open until 6:30- we are a dedicated group.

Hubs has also been such a trooper with the food. Less bacon, more tofu and no complaints (at least not within my earshot). And the biggie- NO DRINKING Monday-Thursday.  Yikes. That one’s been tough. It’s definitely reunited that TGIF feeling in our house. I’d like to tell you 4 less days of drinking wine has saved us money, but my last trip to Trader Joes proved me wrong. I dropped $200 and had no booze in my cart- those dang protein bars are such a rip off.

One of mine and Hubs new absolute obsessions is this Granola recipe. I make it at least once a week and have tweaked it 12 ways from Saturday. But the version below is Hubs absolute favorite.  Hubs likes his granola clumpy, part cereal, part granola bar. If you prefer your granola less clumpy, cut down on the amount of honey.

I even served this Easter morning along with non-fat greek yogurt, Mexican Breakfast Quiche (see previous post) and Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes (recipe to come) and of course… Mimosas.

Foodie’s gotta keep it real…

Homemade Granola a la’ Hubs

3 C. old-fashioned rolled oats

1 C. raw unsalted cashews

1 C. raw unsalted pistachios

1/3 C. flax seeds

2/3 C. Creamed Honey (sold at Trader Joes)

1/3 C. canola oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 tsp cinnamon

1 c. dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. You can used parchment or wax, but it doesn’t get as crunchy. In a large bowl combine all ingredients except cranberries. Combine until well coated. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325 for 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Granola should be a golden brown.

Let cool to room temperature on the sheet over a wire rack. Mix in cranberries and store in containter.

Makes 6 Cups.

Foodie’s Last Meal- Beef Wellington and Roasted Cauliflower

WellingtonI’ve done the unthinkable. I’ve signed up for an 8 week boot camp. It will require crack-of-dawn workouts and even worse a rumored “nutrition plan”. It may be food blog suicide.

The past week I’ve been contemplating my decision. It’s not that I eat unhealthy. I’m sure it won’t be too dramatically different and my CSA veggie basket should work nicely into the regime. I do suspect some of my faves like bacon and cheese to go, which is enough to make you contemplate your decision. Every meal has been “the last time I’ll have this for awhile”. Hubs, at the prospect of a bacon-less 8 weeks has been incredibly supportive. Even though he knows whatever weird stuff I’m eating will likely trickle on to his dinner plate as well. And, trust me it’s gonna get weird. Hubs’ motto has always been “go big or go home” so I’m going big on super-healthy the next 8 weeks.

Last weekend  I decided to have “my last meal”. I decided on Beef Wellington because the heavenly combination of Phylo crusted, mushroom stuffed filet mignon will likely not find its way into my 8 week boot camp regime.  To help us celebrate, Fedora (see Fedora’s Famous Truffle Guacamole) and family joined us and we shared a fabulous magnum of Rubicon Estate 2005. I suspect my wine consumption is also going slightly by the way side during boot camp as well. No doubt this will be the hardest part of this boot camp.

I can’t take credit for the Wellington recipe. It’s actually by Tyler Florence at Food Network. It’s surprisingly easy and incredibly fabulous. It also sent me directly into labor with my son a month before he was due. So tread lightly on seconds.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/the-ultimate-beef-wellington-recipe2/index.html

Instead of doing Tyler’s suggestion of fingerlings potatoes and wilted greens, I did Roasted Cauliflower. Nothing against his sides but Cauliflower was what I had in the CSA basket this week.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower, cut into small pieces

5 cloves garlic

Drizzle Olive Oil

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 C. silvered almonds

Fresh Basil leaves, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower and garlic cloves in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and roasted. Toss with lemon juice and top with almonds and fresh basil.

A BLT with Style

blt“How was your weekend in the desert with Daddy?” I asked my five-year old upon returning from her big outdoor adventure.

“Did you know that ‘bailing’ is a fancy word for falling off your quad with style?” she exclaimed.

“So you fell off your quad?” I said.

“No, I definitely bailed” she assured me.

Well now that we had cleared that up, I made a mental note to instagram a photo at a later date with the clever hashtag #fancynancygoestothedesert. Hubs, who I’m not entirely certain hadn’t prompted or rehearsed such a clever interlude, came in carrying Dudley’s bread. I’m so easily bought. A few good loaves of fresh bread will easily make me forget he’d almost injured our eldest.

Good thing Mama is going to boot camp in a few weeks because I’m using every excuse to eat this bread. Apparently there was some sort of discount if you bought 5 loaves, either that or Hubs was really worried I would freak out when I heard about “our little Nancy’s bail-out”.

The Perfect BLT was created on a particularly chilly evening when the most gorgeous fresh butter lettuce arrived at the door from our CSA. Unwilling to eat salad when the temp is below 75, I had to come up with something to showcase it’s talent. I had bread and I had lettuce. And, thankfully compliments of a lovely Christmas gift from Hubs’ sister and her husband, we had bacon. Not any kind of bacon, but really awesome thick-cut flavored bacon from www.BaconFreak.com. Incidently, I’m a firm believer the gift of bacon does really keep on giving.

Luckier yet was the fact that I had Rocco’s Sun-dried Tomato Bacon and on the package it stated “The perfect bacon for BLT’s!”. Well, it was settled…

Now, if you want to be chincy and use regular bacon and regular bread and regular lettuce, go ahead. Just go forth knowing that you have effectively fallen off the BLT bandwagon rather than bailed. After all, when you bail you do it with style…

A BLT with Style

_MG_0448

Makes 2-4 sandwiches

1 package Rocco’s Sun-dried Tomato Bacon (www.baconfreak.com)

Several slices Dudley’s German Black Bread (or another fresh bakery bread of high quality)

Fresh Butter Lettuce

2-3 tomatoes

Sun-dried Tomato Jalapeno Majestic Garlic Spread (optional but awesome)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. On a rimmed cookie sheet place a cookie cooling rack. Place bacon on rack and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until crispy.

Hubs likes to toast his bread, I prefer my bacon to be the only crispy item. Wash and slice tomatoes, and smear the Majestic Garlic (or mayo a’la Hubs) on the bread.

Assemble and enjoy.

Chef Marie at Brush Creek Ranch’s- Chocolate Beet Cake

fence lodge 2It was a trip that will last a lifetime for Hubs and myself. Our winter holiday to Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, WY was the perfect mix of foodie and outdoorsman love. The foodie of course, being myself and the outdoorsman, well, that is Hubs to a tee.

Hubs was enamoured with all things Brush Creek. He spent his mornings snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. He enjoyed crisp afternoons in the gun range, snowmobiling and hiking. Each outdoor adventure brought back a Hubs happier than I’d seen in a while. There is no doubt in my mind Hubs is part-Cowboy at heart.

BCR06It will be no surprise to those of you who know me personally that Hubs and I have varying tastes on what we consider to be “fun”. So while he bonded with nature, I spent my mornings reading next to the large hearth and my afternoons at the spa. I even got a behind-the-scenes’ peak at the Ranch kitchen where Pastry Chef Marie Tran (you may have seen her on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars) showed me how to make a perfect poached egg (another blog indeed).

Let’s not sugar-coat the situation. I spent most my days eating. Sure there were some spa treatments and reading by the fire and even one chilly trek on the back of Hubs’ snowmobile. But really all I did was eat. It was brilliant. The chef staff at the Ranch is tablefantastic. Each day they managed to outdo themselves. It’s no wonder I was the first of our party of six to show up seated and ready to eat at every meal.

BCR57Then there was the wine cellar. I don’t mean a pretty wine cellar where you walk by and wonder what it would be like to walk in and grab a bottle and just sit down by the fire and drink. I mean a wine cellar where you do exactly that. No asking for permission, no waiting for someone to help you. You literally just walk inside and take whatever bottle you want. Then you say a little thank you to God that you found the most magical place on Earth.

As you know from my blog, I don’t bake very often. I say that I don’t like to bake and that is true.  However, the extended truth is I cannot help myself around baked goods. I don’t bake because if I did, I’d be 350lbs in two short months. During my stay, Marie and her wily baking ways easily put 10 lbs around my middle. Easy. But it’s not her fault, I could have been working all those calories off being outdoorsy, but who wants to leave a toasty warm fire with a drink-your-fill wine cellar steps away? Not me.

Every afternoon around 4pm the “Saloon” would open. This would be my “outdoors” adventure for the day, as I finally had to peel off the complimentary Sorel slippers provided by the Ranch and don real boots to schlep myself out in the cold and snow for live entertainment, cocktails and of course, fabulous appetizers like Salmon Tartare on Salt Blocks and Venison Wellington’s with pomegranate white chocolate glaze.BCR03

Dinner was always fabulous and we’d end with one of Marie’s incredible desserts. I rarely see Hubs eat dessert. One night he ate two helpings of her Carrot Cake. Our friends are still talking about it.

And after a few post-dinner cocktails, rounds of shuffleboard and even a few late nights of karaoke, the Ranch would end our night with two very large chocolate mints on our bed. I don’t mean those little Andes things but rather something the size of a golf ball. The kind of mint you’d probably have a hard time falling asleep on top of without realizing.

Although, if you had been partaking in the saloon festivities it would be possible, I suppose. I imagine you’d wake up in the wee hours of the night wondering- “What on Earth am I covered in?” Would there be chocolate handprints on the walls as you searched for a light? Possibly. Then of course, there would be the shame of having to tell the housekeeping staff the next morning, heaven forbid they think it’s something other than chocolate smeared all over the sheets.

On a scale of 1-10 the Ranch rated a perfect 10 in mine and Hubs minds. Perfect food and perfect activities for our diverse needs. It was absolutely the perfect vacation. If there was any suggestions I would leave, it would only be this-

Dear Brush Creek Ranch,
Please put the chocolates on the nightstand.
My Sincerest Apologies,
The Farmers Market Foodie

Cake on stand 2

Marie Tran’s Chocolate Beet Cake

While Marie uses canned beets, I microwaved fresh peeled and quartered beets  in water until tender

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 can (15 oz.) whole or quartered beets (not pickled)

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9”x13” cake pan or 2-8” cake pans.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Puree drained beets in a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Scrape into a large bowl. Add sugar, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup milk to the pureed beets and mix on medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla extract blending until completely incorporated.

Add flour mixture to the beet mixture. Using medium speed, mix until combined, at least two minutes, scraping down sides often.

Pour into baking pan. Distribute chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over-bake or it will become dry.

Potato Leek Soup

Epotato leek soupven the Foodie has to find inspiration somewhere. Sometimes it with the easiest things. I can come up with fairly random recipes on my own. This comes from years of never having just all the right ingredients I need to make a recipe. While I frequently scan the 80 cookbooks in my collection, sometimes it is just easier to jump online and search for a specific ingredient. I suspect that is how some of you found me.

Over Thanksgiving, Papa Foodie (ever the bargain hunter) decided that the 50lb bag of potatoes was just too good of a price to pass up. While I much prefer my 6 small potatoes in my CSA each week, Papa Foodie prefers large quantity deals. We did cook a whopping 20lbs of mashed potatoes that week for Thanksgiving. I should note there was only 18 adults in attendance, but whose counting?

What do to with 30lbs of leftover potatoes? Well, here is a great recipe to try from Chef Robert Irvine of Food Network. He’s been on shows like Dinner Impossible and Iron Chef. He’s on tour right now and may be coming to a town near you. In fact his next stop is Turning Stone Resort in New York (www.turningstone.com) for all you on the East Coast.

I normally take a recipe, tweak it a bit, change up the ingredients and make it my own. But it’s tough to tweak perfection. So I bring you Chef Irvine’s soup for a great winter recipe…

Potato Leek Soup

Time: 1 Hour
Yields: 8 Servings

Ingredients
6 potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
8 leeks, whites only, thoroughly washed
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, place potatoes, 4 of the leeks (reserving the rest), celery, onion, bay leaf and chicken stock and bring to a boil, about 15 minutes. Continue to boil until potatoes are soft. Chop the remaining 4 leeks. Mix flour and butter in small bowl to make a roux for thickening the soup. Add the remaining leeks, roux, cream, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender or food processor), blend soup until smooth. Pour into a medium pot and simmer for 20 more minutes until soup has thickened and serve.

Stuffed Cabbage

stuffed cabbageI’ve never been a gambler. Nana and Papa Foodie loved to gamble but the gene definitely skipped me. Put me at a blackjack table in Vegas, give me $100 and I’ll get up and walk over to the stores and buy a pair of shoes.

But that is not to say that I won’t take a sure bet.

Hubs and I have been on some incredible vacations over the past few weeks. Our first was to a place called Brush Creek Ranch, absolute Foodie and Hubs winter heaven! More on that later.

We just returned form our most recent trip where we went with the kiddos and their friends and families. It was there in the kitchen that Fedora (see Fedora’s Famous Truffle Guacamole) made the fatal mistake of bragging about Norte Dame’s future win in the National Championship game. I suggested that maybe their schedule hadn’t been quite as hard as Alabama’s. He didn’t like that. So he decided to bet me on the game.

The only sport I know anything about is College Football. In my 20’s I had an online College Pick’em where I ended up beating every guy I knew. I had seen both Alabama and Norte Dame play this season. This is what I considered a sure bet.
So we bet that if in fact Norte Dame won, I had to make Fedora 4 fabulous Foodie meals. If Alabama won, he had to give me his first class ticket home.

We set the spread for 28. And, as you know Alabama did end up winning by exactly 28. Here’s the rub- Fedora insisted we had bet that Bama had to win by “more” than 28. I insisted he was full of it.

So how did we resolve it? Well you can better believe I took a seat in first class, after all I am a woman of my word. Never mind I had to steal it from his five year old. I did commit to making him 4 meals and this is the first of them.

So who lost? Well, that was certainly Hubs who ended up in Coach with two five-year olds by himself. Which goes to show you I have the nicest husband ever

Stuffed Cabbage

1 head green cabbage
1 large yellow onion
2 28 oz cans of stewed tomatoes
1/2 C. brown sugar
3/4 C. raisins
1/4 C. cidar vinegar
For the Stuffing-
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb lean ground beef
4 large eggs
1/2 C. Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 C. Quinoa
1 tsp. Oregano
Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil to taste

The first step is to core the center of the cabbage out. To do this use a large knife. In the meantime, boil a large pot of water. When the water is at a boil add the entire cored head of cabbage and allow it to cook long enough to peel each layer of cabbage off with tongs, one at a time. Set each piece of cabbage aside on a plate or cookie sheet to allow to cool enough to handle.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the stuffing. Salt and pepper meat to taste. If you don’t have Quinoa you can use rice, it is the traditional ingredient. I prefer quinoa’s healthier properties. Set bowl aside.

In a larger sauce pot on the stove, sautee chopped onions in olive oil. Once they are opaque, add tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins and salt and pepper. Allow to come to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

While you are cooking the red sauce, if the cabbage is cool enough to handle you can begin to stuff the leaves. I use about 1/3 C. stuffing for each leaf. It’s not an exact science. The bigger leaves can have more, the smaller leaves less.
Once you have wrapped the leaves place in a casserole or over-proof dish with a lid. I used Le Creuset.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover stuffed cabbages with red sauce and bake for one hour.

Butternut Squash, Kale and Cheddar Bread Pudding

butternut squash bread pudding2The Foodie kitchen remodel is finally nearing it’s completion. We’ve moved home after almost 3 weeks away and I can barely eat a meal out I’m so obsessed with trying out all the new appliances. But, it wasn’t all roses. It was one of the more stressful experiences and has forever ended any notion that I’ll “custom build a home”. So, before I share my first recipe back in the new kitchen I feel I should share some some advice if ever you decide to venture into a remodel.

1. As Hubs says- “Happy wife-Happy life”. Unless you spend your life in the kitchen, remember marriage is about compromise. Let her decide so you don’t have to compromise your happiness.

2. Do not expect your marble layer to exterminate the rattlesnake you see slithering in your backyard. Just put on your Old Gringos, and attempt to whack the darn things head off.  Remember this phrase- “Ayuda Me!”.  You’ll need it to yell at them as they stand open-mouthed, staring out the window in shock at you. That’s right, You, the Gringa, in your shorts, cowboy boots and saw (where does Hubs keep the shovel?) killing a rattlesnake while they offer no help whatsoever. It appears chivalry is in fact dead. In the meantime, they’ll argue back and forth about who actually has the nerve to come outside and help you. Chances are by then, the snake will be dead. But, they’ll feel especially important sawing it’s head off with the tile trowel after it’s stopped hissing and striking at your boots. (And, people say the suburbs are boring?)

3. Do expect them to take home the snake as a prize, recanting, as I imagine it to be, a much more heroic story where they are actually involved in it’s demise.

4. Do decline the offer of rattlesnake tacos. Even a foodie doesn’t want backyard reptilian for dinner.

5. Try not to scream profanities when you walk back into the kitchen and realize they’ve spent all afternoon putting up a backsplash you did not order.

And that sums up just one memorable afternoon in a 3 month remodel.

 One of the first things I tried in my new Viking oven was this tried and true recipe I make every fall. Even the pickiest anti-veggie person will ask for seconds, compliments the sharp cheddar cheese. Everything as always, is better with cheddar. I love recipes where you can prep them a day in advance, store them in the fridge and bake them prior to dinner time. This makes for a great do-ahead dinner party especially if your guests are vegetarian, it’s the perfect main course. It’s also a great potluck dish.

Butternut Squash, Kale and Cheddar Bread Pudding

If you decide to make this dish a day in advance, bring it to room temperature before baking (about 45 min in advance)

2-3 lbs butternut squash

3 Tbl. Olive oil

6 eggs

2 C. Whole Milk

¼ C. white wine

1 Tbl. Dijon

1 loaf day old baguette or ciabbata, torn into 1-in chunks (1-2lbs)

2 bunches Kale, ribs removed, chopped coarsely

8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, seed and cut butternut squash into 1 inch cubes.  Or, take the easy route and buy the pre-cut squash at Trader Joes. Toss in olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet, salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20-25 min.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl, add milk, wine and mustard. Add baguette pieces and let soak 30 min.

Reduce oven temperature to 350. Spray a 13×9 dish and transfer wet bread into baking dish. Spoon squash and kale over bread. Pour remaining egg mixture over. Top with cheddar cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more until golden, bubbly and set in the center.

Serves 6

Brussels Sprouts Throwdown

I saw the stalk in the kitchen upon arriving at Papa Foodies for this Thanksgiving holiday. I immediately saw potential. After a few minutes of bantering between Papa Foodie with regards to the best way to make Brussels Sprouts, I immediately saw a competition.

So we decided the following night we would have a brussels sprouts throwdown. He told me his recipe. Then asked for mine.

I paused.

“Not wanting to share?” he asked.

I didn’t want to give Papa Foodie an unfair advantage. He clearly had no idea that I had never once in my entire life actually cooked a brussel sprout. That being said, I will argue with anyone on how they should be made, but the truth is, until around a year ago, I had never actually eaten one.

That life-changing event occurred one night last December at a swanky restuarant-turn-nightclub downtown, where some friends and I went to celebrate our youngest friend’s birthday. The Tall One ordered deep-fried brussels sprouts. The birthday girl and I looked horrified.

“I don’t do brussels sprouts.” I said. “And, I definitely don’t sing karaoke” I yelled over a tone-deaf dressed Cyndi Lauper wanna-be on stage.

Turns out, a few “Dark and Stormy’s” into the night one may try both. And, one my enjoy both immensely, oddly enough even together.

So, I cannot help but be drawn back to that night. And, just like that night on stage and tonight in Papa Foodie’s kitchen I was “Living on a Prayer”.

Tonight’s prayer being that my cocky “I am foodie” attitude and complete cluelessness on how to cook the brussels sprout didn’t earn me second (i.e. losing) place.

Wine in hand, Bon Jovi in support on a nearby iPod, I concocted this gem of a recipe (seen right). Papa Foodie’s Recipe is also below 🙂

So who won? In the words of Hubs- “I rarely, if ever, request seconds of the feared and dangerous sprout. In this case, my belief that bacon makes everything better, was confirmed. However, I was pleasantly surprised that Papa Foodie’s Tajin Infused Sprouts also made my palate cry for more”.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Parmesan and Balsamic Glaze

1 stalk Brussels Sprouts (I used half in my recipe, half in his)

1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 C. Parmesan cheese (blue cheese would be excellent also)

3 Tbl. Balsamic Glaze

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove sprouts from stalk, remove outer green layer and halve. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until brown and crispy. Remove to a dish and sprinkle with Parm, crumbled bacon and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Brussels Sprouts with Tajin

I must admit I’m quite secretly proud Papa Foodie and I are equally obsessed with Tajin spice

1 Stalk Brussels Sprouts (use half the stalk)

Tajin Spice (see “Grapefruit Margaritas” for info on where to buy)

 1 pad Butter

Olive oil

Dash Cayenne Pepper

Dash onion powder

Lemon wedges

Remove sprouts from stalk and remove outer green layers. In a large saute pan over medium heat melt butter. Add brussels sprouts and season with Tajin and cayenne pepper and onion powder. Add 1/4 C. of water and steam with lid on. Once water has evaporated continue to add 1/4 C. water and cover with lid until desirable texture is achieved.

Serve with lemon wedges or drizzle with fresh lemon juice.

Cedar-Planked Salmon, Spaghetti Squash with Leek and Carrot Puree

Every time I get leeks in my CSA basket I’m reminded of the time I read “French Women Don’t Get Fat”. In the book the author suggests that the reason the French are slimmer than Americans are because they eat whole foods, nothing processed. She also mentions a leek soup that one should use as a cleanse. I’ve never done well with a “cleanse”.  I admire people who can do them. I’m sure they work. However, when I’m deprived of solid food I get cranky. Hubs would say that “cranky” is a nice way to describe my mood. He would certainly use other, less polite words.

That evening, Hubs came home to a bowl of leek soup. When I say “leek soup” it was more like that old “boiled cabbage soup” trend of the 60s. It was leeks boiled in water.

Hubs and I were supposed to do this for 48 hours.

I lasted 18, 12 of them sleeping.

It’s very hard to work from home. Everytime I walk past the kitchen I get hungry. At least Hubs gets to go to work and be distracted.

So you can imagine his surprise when he came home that night starving to death and found the remnants of a burrito wrapper in the trash. He then proceeded to eat everything in the kitchen that wasn’t nailed down, glaring at me all the while.

So, because of this history I feel compelled to “hide” leeks in my recipes, lest Hubs get wind that they are there and begin his tirade on how I “starved him” on the “leek soup diet”, before we were married.

This carrot-leek puree is really quite wonderful. It paired very well with the cedar plank salmon but I think it would also be lovely with chicken or possibly an addition to your Thanksgiving meal. Hubs loves spaghetti squash in his low-carb world, and this recipe as it stands is low carb and gluten free. But, if your dietary restrictions allow you could easily substitute a variety of items included rice or pasta.

Cedar Planked Salmon, Spaghetti Sqaush with Leek and Carrot Puree

2 lbs Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon

1 Spaghetti Squash

2 Large Leeks

1 bunch carrots

3 cloves garlic

1/4 C. vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

1 TBl. Seasoning for Salmon (your choice, we used a fish rub by Napa Style)

Cedar Planks (if using)

You can certianly grill your fish directly on the grill and skip the planks. Or you can roast the salmon in oven. If you are using the planks make sure to soak for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to grilling.

Season the salmon with your preferred seasoning/rub.  Set aside in fridge.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

After thoroughly rinsing leeks and carrots, coarsely chop both and add to a large saute pan with 2 tsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3 large garlic cloves whole. Continue to saute until both leeks and carrots and soft enough to easily puree in a food processor.

Pulse carrot, leek, garlic mixture in food processor until pureed. Cut with a few tablespoons at a time of vegetable or chicken broth until it has reach desired consistency.

Return to saucepan and simmer on low.

Cook salmon on planks until cooked through. Skin will stick to the plank and you can remove the salmon.

Meanwhile remove squash from oven and shred into “spaghetti” shreds. Plate salmon on top of squash and rim the plate with carrot and leek puree.

Serves 4.

Fedora’s Famous Truffle Guacamole

I didn’t know I loved fedoras. The comeback hat didn’t hit my suburban housewife bubble until recently. Maybe I’ve been too bogged down in baby drool and toddler tantrums to notice the changing trend on people’s heads. So last month when we were in Napa and traveling alone with another couple and without children, I couldn’t help but notice the new trend . And, never wanting to be “out of trend” I had no choice but to commandeer the thing for myself.
In fact, nearly every day he wore it, I stole it right off his head and wore it myself. I wore it wine tasting. I wore it playing bocce ball. I wore it to dinner. Don’t ask me why. I couldn’t help myself. Maybe, the wine that made me do it. But, it was the necessary swagger I needed. That’s exactly how I feel about this truffle guacamole. Regular guacamole is fabulous. Truffle guacamole is better than fabulous. It is sassy and full of swagger. It is the fedora of guacamole.
It just so happens that Hubs and my fedora-wearing friend and his wife make fabulous guacamole. I must admit, I thought it was her recipe, because she is Hispanic. When I heard her Fedora-wearing Gringo hubby made better guacamole than anyone in her family, I was intrigued. Then I asked him for his recipe. I then asked him if he’d be offended if I added truffle oil.
I will steal a mans fedora right off his head, but I would never add an ingredient to his guacamole without asking.
So this is Fedora’s famous recipe with my “truffle infusion” suggestion. It has become a staple at virtually every party these days. I’ve tried it enough times to know for some reason his version is still better. What’s that old saying- “If you can’t beat em’ join em'”? Which is why I’ve also given Fedora his hat back and recently purchased my own.
Truffle Guacamole
5 large avocados (small ones tend to be more flavorful)
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
3 medium Serrano Peppers
Truffle Salt or Kosher sea salt
1 Tbl. Truffle Oil
Scoop avocados, dice all other ingredients, mix in plastic or ceramic bowl (metal bowl causes early browning of leftover guacamole). Do not mash avocados are mashed prior to mixing all ingredients otherwise it becomes too pasty. Finely dice, 3 medium peppers with most of the seeds removed for above mix will add flavor and be gringos warm/hot. If you want it to burn like crazy, leave the seeds in.

Sneaky Spaghetti-Sqaush Spaghetti

There are a handful of moments in my current life where I think, “man, I am on fire today!” Just this week I had one of those days. In the morning I had an accepted offer for my clients, who are first-time homebuyers and have been looking quite awhile. I love their enthusiasm, which I must admit wanes after one’s first home purchase. That afternoon while schlepping the children around the local Safari Park, I had an extraordinarily rare moment where I showed a man how to correctly use a mechanical device. I literally stood in the parking lot, hands in the air, as if I had made a “self- field goal”.  I literally could not contain myself. I then did a smug “end-zone style dance” the kind the football players get penalties for these days. Excessive show of celebration or something of the sort.  Now, I should confess that the “mechanical device” was in fact  a stroller, but in my book it counts.  Hubs would like me to clarify that the man was not him, just for the record.

Finally, I hit the ultimate score with this “spaghetti recipe” and watched as the kids inhaled loads of squash while thinking it was angel hair. It was a home-run kind-of week indeed.

You can do this recipe two ways- the first is for anyone who is looking for a low-carb “spaghetti” option (as shown in the picture), just use the squash as your “spaghetti”. The second option is for sneaking squash into your children’s diet where you toss the spaghetti squash in with the angel hair. I ate it both ways and they are both fab!

                                                         

   Sneaky Spaghetti-Squash Spaghetti

1 large spaghetti squash

1 lb organic ground beef or turkey

1 yellow onion, diced

1 small bunch carrots, diced

1 medium bell pepper, chopped

1 28 oz can Whole Tomatoes

2 cloves garlic minced

1 lb angel hair pasta (optional)

olive oil

salt and pepper

Grated Romano or Parmesean

For the squash- Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. With a very sharp knife cut the squash length-wise (this is the hardest part, it’s like cutting into a pumpkin). Brush olive oil on halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the squash is soft and you can easily scrape off long “spaghetti strands” with a fork.

For the sauce- Drizzle olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add onions and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add diced carrots and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring. Add 1 lb of ground meat, season again with salt and pepper and cook until almost fully cooked. I use leaner meats so I don’t drain, but if you are using a full fat meat, do drain some of the grease off before adding 1 large can of tomatoes. I like San Marzano but any whole tomato in a sauce will do. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

For those using the angel hair- About the time the sauce needs to simmer you will be ready to boil the water and cook to package directions.

The recipes should time out where once the pasta goes in, the squash comes out of the oven and you can “shred” the strands with your fork.

After the pasta is cooked and drained, toss with one-half the squash “strands” in a large bowl. Top with sauce and grated cheese.

Eggplant Caviar Dip

I may be permanently banned from Seville. Maybe not the entire town but certainly from the Tour de Spain which is the Tour de France’s younger brother.  I know nothing about large-scale cycling races. And, this was long before Lance Armstrong was popular. I know even less about driving a stick shift car. Do they still make stick-shift cars in America?

My previous stick-shift driving experience ended poorly, another post unto itself. So I’m not sure what I was thinking. Did I think that college degree had given me the experience to overcome my stick-shift inabilities? Or was I just a typical, smug, post-grad?

The situation occured when I backpacked around Europe. I use this phrase rather loosely. When I say “backpack” I should clarify-

1. I stayed in a hostel all of 15 minutes, before I fled in fear.

2. I stuffed everything I needed for two months into “the backpack”.

3. I bought a Euro Rail Pass, which was great until there were areas I couldn’t easily access without a car. The car I rented was a stick shift. Here is what happened…

“Bang Bang Bang” random yelling in Spanish by angry cyclist on the top of my itt- bitty rental vehicle.

I was surronded on all sides. I had merely made one wrong turn on the way to returning the car at Avis and whoops! here I am in the midst of a bunch of cyclists.

That’s odd.. why are there people standing on the sides behind rope?

Wait a second, is that a finish line?

 What does that sign say? …Vuelta de Espana?… wonder what that means…

Is that a cameraman running at me?

Am I in a cycling race?

Oh my God, I’m on tv. I can see my car from the pan out on the big screen up ahead. I’m going to die of embarassment. Or I’m going to get arrested. This is such a nightmare….

And then I stalled the car.

I hopped on the next train out of  Sevilla and headed to France. I never looked back and haven’t driven a stick-shift since. Thankfully, I was able to enjoy some tapas before I fled the country in shame and fear. This recipe is a great addition to a tapas evening, or even a middle eastern meal.  I like to serve warm with pita bread or pita chips.

There is only one way I like to cook eggplant- in the microwave. None of this slicing, salting and laying on a rack nonsense only to find out it’s still mushy and overly salty. Eggplant wants to be mushy. It is his destiny. Don’t fight it, just try this recipe the next time your farmer gives you eggplant and save the exhausting efforts of eggplant parm for a nice italian night out with your Hubs.

Eggplant Caviar

The basics of this recipe are simple- eggplant, olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice and herbs. I switch it up everytime depending on what I have in my fridge and pantry.

1 lb eggplant

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil or flavored olive oil

1 clove garlic or 1 tsp Majestic Garlic

Kosher Salt

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp fresh herbs

To cook eggplant in the microwave, score with a knife several times. Wrap in several paper towels. Cook on high until eggplant deflates. For 1 lb of eggplant, cook about 8-12 minutes depending on your microwave.

Cut the warm eggplant and scoop out the flesh, discarding purple skin. Mix with other ingredients. Serve warm with chips or pita bread.

Turkey Fontina Sliders with Zucchini, Mushrooms and Carmelized Onions

I hadn’t eaten red meat in 18 years. A bad hamburger in my teen years had done me in. I suspected Hubs’ disappointment when he met me. On paper I looked good, but the fact I was a vegetarian, he wasn’t sure how that would shake down…for him. You can imagine his shock when after several years into our vegetarian marriage he walked in one day with an In-and-out Burger and I snatched it out of his hands and stuffed it in my 5 months pregnant face. He was shocked. Shock turned to dismay when he realized he was stuck with In-and-Out’s “grilled cheese” which is a sad excuse for a veggie burger.

In the span of 15 seconds, I went back to eating red meat. Neither of us saw it coming. In my last pregnancy I couldn’t even be in the same room with someone cooking meat. I ate bean, rice and cheese burritos 27 days in a row. How had this happened? How would my system tolerate this? So I waited with dread…

Then around dinnertime, when I decide my body wasn’t going to reject me or the burger,  I drove back to In-and-Out and ordered a double-double “animal style”. Clearly, I was breeding a carnivore.

Hubs loves to tell this story. He usually brings it up when we are out with friends for dinner at a steakhouse and I order my steak “rare-plus”. He finds such amusement in my turnabout.

Which is why recently, when I pushed my “black and blue” steak around my plate, not really eating it, I had to confess to Hubs that my venture into the carnivorous world may be near its end. I can’t explain how or why but recently I’ve been noshing on far more bean, rice and cheese burritos than hamburgers.

So in an effort to keep Hubs from breaking down into tears at the prospect of his red-meat days ending in our house, I created this healthy burger option. Because ground turkey is so lean it often cooks up to a leathery shoe. I found that adding grated zucchini and mushrooms which have high moisture content add a very desirable texture.

Plus it’s a burger full of veggies and the kids love them.

Turkey Fontina Sliders with zucchini, Mushrooms and Carmelized Onions

After 2 attemps on the bbq with this recipe, I  feel they are best cooked on an indoor grill pan on the stove, or a nonstick griddle or a George Foreman style machine.

1 lb ground turkey

2 medium or 1 large zucchini

4 oz mushrooms

2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Paste

1 large yellow onion

1 tsp butter

Slice Fontina Cheese (Trader Joes)

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

In a food processor (or with a box grater) grate zucchini and mushrooms. In a large bowl for mixing, add ground turkey, grated zucchini, grated mushrooms and 2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make into 1 doz small slider sized burgers. Can refrigerate up to 4 hours in advance.

30 minutes before dinner, slice onions. Add 1 tsp butter to a saucepan to melt. Add onions, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium low heat for about 5-10 min. When onions start to brown reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. If onions stick to pan, deglaze with a little wine or beer or water, scrapping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Cook sliders on grill pan over medium heat until cooked through. Add fontina and melt. Slice Hawaiian rolls in half. Top slider with carmelized onions. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 doz sliders

Old School Bacon Beer Green Beans

“He’s playing hardball. And I got to admit. I’m impressed.” Beanie- Old School.

Sometimes I need to get old-school. Especially when it comes to cooking something the kids will eat. They’ve been playing hardball with me since they were both around one. When that lovely phase of “look my baby eats anything!” rapidly degenerates into- “my kid only eats dino-shaped nuggets, not even mickey mouse shaped kind, just the dinosaurs”.  Hey, we’ve all been there. And if you have kids and you haven’t, then you are very lucky. Or, maybe your next kid will show you what I mean.

Getting kids to eat green vegetables is not always the easiest task. Recently we had dinner at Hub’s grandparents house and Papa made a very old school style green beans, where you boil them down in a pot full of some sort of pig product for several hours until they are almost mushy. I remember these beans, it’s just how Granny used to make them for me. I’m not sure why I stopped eating this way.

Oh yea, cause they are soaked in pig fat.

As I watched his grandparents fill my daughters plate two things came to mind- “Oh good at least there is jello salad, she may eat that” and “I hope the baby doesn’t throw all this on to the floor and scream the words “Yuck! Cookie, Please!!!”. So you can imagine my amazement when my 5-year-old asked for seconds and then thirds on green beans. She even liked it more than the jello salad.

I shan’t say what my son did, although Hubs often tells me I’m psychic.

While mushy-esque green beans isn’t necessarily the way Hubs and I normally eat them, I decided “for the children’s sake” we’d try our hand at home. To ensure Hubs would partake in the experiment, I added bacon, and then beer. I tossed in some halved yellow grape tomatoes, which may have been pushing the envelope with the children since I watched them both scrape them off the plate.

What did Hubs and I think? Quite frankly, they were fabulous. The perfect accompaniment to roast chicken. We didn’t even feel bad about these bacon-soaked beans. After all it was for “the children’s sake”.

Old School Bacon Beer Green Beans

1 large bunch green beans, about 3/4 lb, ends snipped

1/2 package nitrate-free bacon, diced into 1 in.

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 Tbl. Majestic Garlic (flavor of your choice)

1 bottle of beer, your choice

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved length-wise

Salt and pepper to taste

I found a fabulous flavored salt purveyor recently at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. His Bacon Salt was the perfect accompaniment.

If you are cooking roast chicken with this meal, start the beans about the same time as you put the chicken in the oven.

In a saucepan, cook bacon pieces over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add diced yellow onion and majestic garlice. Return to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes. Add green beans, salt and pepper to taste.
Add one bottle of beer, return to simmer, cover and reduce to low for about 25 minutes or until cooked soft.

5 minutes before serving add halved tomatoes and cook on low.

Lemon Cucumber and Tomato Salad

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, so the saying goes. Every Tuesday, when I head to the Farmer’s Market to pick up my CSA basket one of two things happens with my children. I get sugar, or I get lemons. Typically, it’s the latter. They want to run through the play water feature, spend and hour in the library thumbing through books and of course wander through the toy store which always ends in tears if they don’t get a prize. It’s not their fault I’m so busy. The market is really fun for kids and I wish I had all the time in the world to “hang out” and indulge their every whim.

But, Momma is busy and I’m just here to get my veg.

I made the mistake once of trying to talk up the market as a surprise. It ended in tears. LawBestie told me I’d made a “rookie mom” mistake. “Never make any promises of a surprise. They’ll never think the surprise is as good as it should be. You could have taken them to Disneyland and they still would have  been disappointed.” LawBestie is young but very wise.

So when I sense my afternoon at the market is headed towards sour lemons I always offer the Hot Dog on a Stick Lemonade stand. This usually soothes the savage beasts.

Once the children are sufficiently plied into a happy sugary-lemon-coma I make a break for the vegetable stand. You can imagine my chagrin when one afternoon my CSA farmer gave me Lemon cucumbers. The irony was so ripe.

Lemon cucumbers are a beautiful vegetable. They look like lemons on the outside and actually somewhat mimic them on the inside. Sometimes a vegetable is just too fresh and beautiful to do anything with other than slice and serve simply. So that’s basically what I did.

A little garlic, grape tomatoes, fresh chopped basil and some flavored olive oil and voila! This beautiful salad accompanied our dinner.

Lemon Cucumber and Tomato Salad

2-3 lemon cucumbers

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 bunch basil

1 lemon

Olive Oil, I like flavored oils such as Lemon or Garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the lemon cucumbers thinly and arrange on a plate. Slice grape tomatoes in half, length-wise. Drizzle 1 Tbl. olive oil over cucumbers and tomatoes. Squeez the juice from one half lemon over. Season with salt and pepper. Finely chop basil and sprinkle over.

Big G’s Yellow Squash

Big G was  a crafty woman.  G was for Granny and Big, well that’s because she was 6 feet tall. She would come visit us a few months of every year. She would arrive on the Greyhound bus she’d taken across country from one of my aunt’s or uncles’ homes. She was full of stories about her days in the South picking cotton. She chewed snuff.  A fact, I didn’t realize until I was a teenager.  I just thought she had an odd-looking lower lip and liked to carry around a dixie cup.  And, just when you thought you didn’t have anything to make for dinner, she would spin virtually nothing into an amazing meal.  That’s what raising five kids, dirt poor in the South will teach you.

Yellow squash is abundant in most home gardens this time of year. Almost to the point of frustration. Whenever someone drops of a giant bag of yellow squash at my house, I always make Big G’s recipe.

I’m certain that this may have been a dinner for them. If you are a vegetarian it certainly could be. It would be a lovely side-dish for chicken, especially fried, if you wanted to keep with the Southern theme.  Or, if you wanted to get really legit, Big G would make them with fried chicken livers (gack!), which is likely how I ended up a vegetarian at such a young age.

The key to this recipe is letting the yellow squash and onions cook down on low heat until almost translucent. I’ve taken liberties over the years adding to the flavor content with garlic and different flavored oils. This is my current favorite version

Big G’s Yellow Squash

1 lb yellow squash

4 eggs

1 large yellow onion

1 Tbl Majestic Garlic Paste (flavor of your choice) or 1 Tbl minced garlic

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut squash lengthwise and seed. Then dice into small pieces. Dice 1 yellow onion. In a pan over medium heat, add olive oil, diced onions and squash. Sautee for 5 minutes, add either garlic paste or minced garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes or until both the onions and squash are light and translucent. Check every 5-10 minutes and stir to prevent sticking. Just before serving, beat 4 large eggs in a bowl and add to squash mixture. Turn heat to medium-low and cook until eggs are scrambled.

Serve immediately.

The Salted Maple Pisco Sour

As Hubs and I approach our 7th year of marriage, we often think back to our wedding with fond memories.  I suppose our friends should have suspected our foodie ways as we insisted on getting married at the venue that served the best food in town.  We custom named our wedding drinks after our alma mater and outside of those few wedding crashers who scored a some free “Buff Love” cocktails on Papa Foodies dime, things went fabulously smooth.

It’s not that we don’t visit The Prado in Balboa Park anymore. It’s just the last time I did, I was pushing a inconsolable screaming toddler and the experience just wasn’t quite the same.

As I walked by, screaming child and all, I glanced at the menu and was delighted to see that they were serving the elusive Pisco Sour. At little online research showed they are only one of three bars in town doing so.

Naturally, when I found Pisco of the God’s recently at Trader Joe’s, while pushing the same inconsolable toddler, I tossed it in my basket. I want to tell you the two events were unrelated but I’d be lying.

Pisco is a brandy distilled from grapes in the wine region of Peru. It is most commonly known to be in the Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch. All the punch recipes I found require some fancy pineapple gum syrup that needs to be ordered online.

Skip that. Mommy needs a cocktail now.

I came across this funky recipe instead. I substituted out the usual lemon for grapefruit juice, which I had on-hand. It’s quite refreshing and fun on a summer’s day.

Plus it is a happy little reminder of the Prado…

The Salted Maple Pisco Sour

1.5 oz Pisco of the God’s

1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit or lemon juice

1/2 oz Grade B Maple Syrup

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Dash of Sea Salt

3 drops of Bitters

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine and shake pisco, juice, syrups and salt. Strain into wine glass and dot with bitters.

Makes one drink.

Grilled Stuffed Figs

Pa-in-Law has all sorts of exotic fruit trees on his property- loquats, pomegranates and figs. I get the impression Ma-in-Law does not hold the same giddy enthusiasm for bizarre yard fruit as I do. Therefore, every time I swing by my in-laws house, Pa-in-Law and I go round the yard and he picks me a bag of all sorts of delightful things. I think he’s secretly hoping that if he picks them I will make something fun for him. Pa-in-Law is no fool. I will always use him as a taste-tester.

Early on when I was dating Hubs, I made him homemade waffles for breakfast, you know the kind from scratch?

Pa-in-Law was floored. Then he told Hubs he’d better get on the ball and marry me.

Pa-in-Law is such a smart man.

Right now he has figs in his yard. California fig season is just coming into full swing. I love figs. These are either Kadota or Calimyrna Figs. You would more likely find Black Mission at the store. These figs are green-skinned with pink insides and are less sweet that the darker varieties. Because they are less sweet I felt it made more sense to do a savory dish with them. I decided to grill them up, stuff them full of gorgonzola and wrap them in prosciutto. As if they couldn’t get any better, I drizzled them with balsamic glaze.

You could also bake them in the oven, if you prefer. We used a grill pan just in case the cheese oozed out.

Grilled Stuffed Figs

Balsamic Glaze is a syrupy version of balsamic vinegar enhanced with a little bit of sugar. It has a thicker consistency and works well in presentation when you don’t want vinegar running all over the plate.

1 doz fresh figs

4 oz crumbled gorgonzola

6 oz prosciutto

Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze

Cut an x at the top of the fig, about 1/2″ deep so that it will hold the gorgonzola but not collapse. Stuff each fig with gorgonzola and then wrap tightly with prosciutto. Bake in an over at 350 for 25 minutes or until the prosciutto is brown and crispy or and the cheese is oozing. Alternately, grill over medium hit on a grill pan until crispy and oozing.

Serve immediately.

The Michelada

A very long time ago before I met my dear Hubs, I was a woman who liked to date. Rather, I was a girl who liked to eat, and a foodie fresh out of college on a first job just can’t afford to eat nice restuarant meals every night. That is, unless some nice gentleman is picking up the tab.

I’ll never forgot the time my girlfriend wrote my number on a bar napkin at a nice mexican restaurant in a local chi-chi enclave. I’m sure she was hoping he’d comp our ever-growing tab of margaritas, which didn’t happen. She could have, at the very least, transposed a few numbers. You can imagine my surprise when the next day, I did in fact get a call from that napkin. However, it was not from the bartender. It was the bus-boy who found it in the trash. To this day, I can barely go in Jose’s Courtroom without hanging my head in shame.

I have the hardest time pairing drinks with Mexican food. It just doesn’t go with wine.  Hence, their invention of the margarita whose citrusy sweet and salty goodness pairs well with their spicy food. But I’ve done both Pomelo and Grapefruit Margaritas on this blog, and I’m certain if I show up one more time to a party with a pitcher of them my friends are going to think me and my blog are old news.

So in an effort to branch out, I came across this “Beertail”- a beer based cocktail.  I’m not a beer drinker in general, but when I came across this recipe I felt I needed to give it a try. I’m genuinely surprised I don’t ever see it on the menu at local mexican restaurants, given San Diego’s proximity to the border. It’s like a beer-based bloody mary.

It’s not for everyone. My British friend kept referring to it as “a dodgy drink” and refused to try a sip. She’s not entirely wrong. At first glance the ingredient list does seem dodgy. Clamato with beer? Worcester? Maggi? Tabasco? Lime? As bizarre as it sounds it is delightful combo. At a recent gathering, all three of my guests said I would have to create something really spectacular since none of them like beer or clamato.  Turns out all of them loved the Michelada…

So, shock your friends with this cocktail the next time you serve mexican food. You’ll be the hippest and possibly “dodgiest” person on your block.

The Michelada

You can use any mexican beer you like but I think lighter is better. Maggi is a liquid condiment found in most grocery stores. If you cannot find it, use soy sauce instead.

1 bottle of dos equis lager

1/4 C. Clamato or Trader Joes Bloody Mary Mix

1/2 tsp Maggi

1/4 tsp. Worcester

1 lime squeezed

dash of Tabasco

Ice

Tajin seasoning for rim

Grilled Anaheim Chili Poppers

I have an unnatural fear of the barbeque. It stems from inexperience but also the classic Hubs and Foodie “Great Christmas Turkey Fire Incident” back in 2007.

We still point fingers at each other and neither of us take the full blame for almost burning down our block on Christmas Day.

Here’s what went wrong…

Hubs wanted to grill the Christmas turkey. I wanted to use my stand-by Martha Stewart recipe for the oven, which bastes the turkey in butter and wine and cheesecloth.

Hubs said we could do it on the barbeque.

I know I told him that was a bad idea.

He swears I never said that.

So there we were 30 minutes into cooking, both of us upstairs on the third floor getting ready when I look out the window and see a gigantic black cloud of smoke.

“Hubs, the barbeque is smoking quite a bit, come take a look”, I say.

“It’s a barbeque, dear, that’s what they do.” he replies.

“Should there be 2 foot flames shooting out of the back so close to the wood fence?” I ask.

Turns out wine and grease-soaked cheese cloth is quite flammable.

That’s when a scene straight out of a bad movie occurred. Hubs ran down in his robe to tend to our grill which was now fully immersed in flames. The flames were about a foot from the neighbors living room wall.

The only thing Hubs could find to fight the fire was an OXO 2 cup measure, which he ran back and forth from the kitchen to refill. We were getting nowhere fast. This scene went on for what felt like an eternity.

In the end, we did put out the flames. About 30 seconds after we realized there was a hose two feet away.

The bird was black and destroyed. The grill was never the same. Hubs searched around town for an open grocery store, while I cried. We decided to salvage the bird by cutting off the blackened parts and putting it in the crock pot. Believe it or not, we’ve never had so many compliments on cooked poultry as that day.

Since the “incident” we’ve never had to host Christmas Day again. I have also never been thrilled to get close to the grill.

These poppers are easy and I make them up ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. We find that they are a fabulous appetizer at a BBQ. This recipe comes from my book club friend Cyn who made these last month.  I liked them so much I snuck back into her kitchen to polish them off, pretending to “clear the dishes”.

Meanwhile, the Foodie kitchen remodel is underway and we have a fire-extinguisher very close by…

Grilled Anaheim Chili Poppers

Cyn uses jalapenos, I used the larger anaheim chili which is growing in Papa Foodie’s garden. You can use either just double the amount of jalapenos for this recipe.

1 dozen anaheim chilies, sliced length-wise and seeded

8 oz light cream cheese

1 cup, shredded, extra sharp cheddar

4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

the juice of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper to taste

This is a great do-ahead appetizer. I make these up in the morning and they stay well in the fridge until time to grill.

Halve and seed the peppers. I set them aside on a rimmed cookie sheet. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Fill each halved pepper. Plastic wrap the sheet of stuffed peppers and keep in fridge until time to grill.

Set the grill to medium heat. We use a grill sheet for easier cleaning. You could use any variety of grill pans and possibly foil if necessary.

Cook the peppers, skin down for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

The Esco- a gin cocktail with cucumber,cilantro, jalapeno and lime

Infrequent is the moment I relax. There always seems to be something to do. Now that the kitchen is on the verge of major reconstruction, I’ve had to somewhat relinquish my OCD ways. In order to do so, I had to leave the house.  Hubs and I recently enjoyed a rare opportunity to spend a long weekend at my homestead. We swam with the kids, we picked veggies and herbs from Papa Foodie’s garden. We cooked, ate and created drinks.

The Esco, is an ode to the old homestead. We used herbs and veggies picked right from Papa Foodie’s garden and the booze, of course, was taken straight from his bar. It’s a delightful summertime drink for a hot day. Who doesn’t want to think they are eating their veggies while sipping a cocktail and enjoying the views?

While I mixed drinks in the cabana, Hubs and friends floated in the pool, empty glasses raised. I’d catch them looking longingly in my direction; in hopes I would fill pity on them and refill. I did once, but certainly not twice. I’m no waitress.

Papa Foodie always says, “if you can’t beat em’, join em'”. So I did just that. It was glorious. In a rare moment, I jumped on a float and joined in on the poolside cocktail party. It almost made the kitchen flood worthwhile.

Esco is short for Escondido, which in Spanish means “Hidden”. The hidden depths to this drink are many. The jalapeno heat is subtle against the refreshing cucumber which zings to a splash of lime. I had to work in my favorite Tajin rim, which made it even better.

The Esco

Makes 1 batch or 4 drinks

16 oz Tanquery Gin

2 oz simple syrup

16 oz club soda

4 oz lime juice

2 jalapeno’s, thinly diced

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, diced fine

1 half medium cucumber, sliced in rounds

12 cilantro leaves diced

Tajin, chili-lime spice (see Grapefruit Margarita for purchasing details)

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate 1 hour. Rim each cocktail glass in extra lime juice and Tajin. Strain if desired. Serve over ice.

Mixed Green Salad with Edible Flowers and Blue Cheese

Sometime in the middle of the night- “Hubs, wake up, did I set the dishwasher on delay tonight? I swear I hear something” I say.

“ZZZZZZZZZZ, probably sprinklers outside, ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”, mumbles Hubs.

Around 6:15am- “Babe! You gotta get up RIGHT NOW!” Hubs calls.

Well, good grief, long-gone are the days of  Hubs making me coffee and bringing it upstairs. Besides, it’s not like I slept in that late!

Then I walked downstairs and saw Hubs was ankle-deep in water in the playroom that was flooding into the kitchen. The kitchen which is the center of my life. The kitchen where I cook all the recipes for my blog. The kitchen that was now going to need a serious remodel.

Then came the profanities.

Thankfully Hubs is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He quickly sprang into action and within 40 minutes had pumped out 40 gallons of water with that wet-vac thing that he bought at Costco. The same wet-vac I told him we didn’t need and would never use. Somehow I don’t see myself winning any more “you don’t need that tool dear” arguments after this.

Ten minutes into the chaos, Pa-in-law with his “mother of all wet-vac thingys” swoops in to help Hubs save the day. Fifteen minutes after that Ma-in-law brings us all Starbucks and breakfast. Then we all sat around, held hands and sang “Kumbaya”. Ok, maybe not the last part. But, in case you didn’t get the memo- I married into the Cleavers.

 The aftermath, is a kitchen full of gigantic fans so loud I can hear them in the driveway with all the windows closed.  I can’t even run the coffee maker without blowing every circuit in the house. The electric meter is spinning like Chevy Chase’s house in Christmas Vacation.

I’m likely going to need a therapist before it’s all said and done.

So, you are going to see a few months where there will be a lot of BBQ’ing, which is ironic because that’s Hubs domain. Plan on witnessing a few power struggles over the Viking. I’m also going to try to work on some recipes that don’t require the oven (currently inaccessible), and possibly the stove. Oh this is going to be quite an interesting few months. It’s possible I will need to start drinking more in lieu of the therapist, so it’s very likely you will see far more drink recipes.

But we have all been there. Whether it’s a power outage, too hot of a day to cook indoors, or a middle of the night flood, we all need a few recipes in our back pocket to get us through in a pinch.

Mixed Green Salad with Edible Flowers and Blue Cheese

6-80z of mixed lettuces

2 oz edible flowers

1 oz blue cheese

for the dressing-

olive oil

juice from 2 lemons

Dijon mustard

Edible flowers can be found at your local farmers markets and some high-end stores like whole foods. They make an average salad look beautiful! They are incredibly expensive so I just add them on top after tossing.

Wash and dry lettuces, crumble blue cheese . In a small bowl whisk equal parts lemon juice and olive oil and emulsify with a teaspoon of mustard, preferably Dijon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss dressing and lettuce. Top with flowers and serve immediately.

4th of July Pimms Strawberry and Blueberry Custard

Liquor-soaked starwberries and blueberries? Baked in a creamy white base? What better way to say to say “God Bless America”?

I cannot take credit for the creation of this recipe. I follow a fellow food blogger who goes by the name Frugal Feeding. He created this wonderful dish name Strawberry Pimm’s Clafoutis which you can find here-

http://frugalfeeding.com/2012/06/15/strawberry-and-pimms-clafoutis/

Since I’m rather obsessed with Pimm’s No. 1 and have made many a drink involving it in this blog, I couldn’t resist trying out his recipe. Since he is from England I “translated” the measurements into American measurements. I added blueberries and decided it would be a lovely addition to our upcoming 4th of July Holiday. I also changed the name from Clafoutis to Custard since for the life of my I cannot figure out how to say “calfoutis”.

I suppose if you wanted to be really clever you could make it in the shape of a flag. If you do, send me a photo, I’d love to see how it turns out.

If you don’t have Pimms No. 1 handy, shame on you, you clearly don’t know what you are missing (I find mine at BevMo). You could however soak the berries in another liqueur.

4th of July Pimms Strawberry-Blueberry Custard

Serves 12

 1/2 lb strawberries, halved

1/2 lb blueberries

1/2 c. pimms

2 tbsp sugar

1 C. milk

1 C. heavy cream

10 oz sugar

 8 eggs

1/4 cup All-Purpose flour, sifted

A little butter and sugar to line the dish

Soak the berries in the pimms for 1 hour.

In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, 100g of sugar and flour. Pour the milk and cream into a pan and heat gently until they reach boiling point. Temper the mixture by adding a little bit of the warm liquid into the egg at a time, so as not to scramble the eggs. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large rectangular dish and sprinkle with sugar.  Spoon the strawberries, along with a little of the pimms, into the dish. Pour the custard over the strawberries and bake until golden brown but just set – between 40 and 50 minutes.

Watermelon and Zucchini Chili Lime Salad

Poor Hubs, he leaves town for a week and returns to me soaking my hands in olive oil swearing about how to get my wedding ring off. I told him it was Tajin, and he asked me where he could find him.

“Spice cabinet”, I mumble, furiously working that damn ring finger.

“Really? You are buying it in Costco size now?”, he replies.

“It was a long week and we ran out of grapefruit.” I say.

Since we have managed to “drink the grapefruit tree dry” up at Papa Foodies house guzzling down Chili Lime Grapefruit Margaritas (see previous post), I needed something to give me my new Tajin fix. I’ve become rather fond of that crazy little spice. I’ve been putting it on BBQ’d corn with butter and rimming it around any other summery drink I can think of. Whatever possessed me to sprinkle it on watermelon, I just don’t know. But here is what I can tell you…

It’s freaking fabulous! I can’t tell you the last time I stood at the kitchen sink snarfing down half a watermelon.  In an effort, to pace myself, I decided to let the chopped watermelon “marinate” overnight in the Tajin spice along with some fresh raw zucchini.

Spicy, fresh, sweet and amazing.

A word of caution as I found out the hard way. Tajin is primarily chili powder and dehydrated lime but it is also heavy on the salt. If you are prone to salt-induced swelling as I am, you may either want to-

1. Not eat half a watermelon covered in the stuff in one sitting.

or

2. Take your wedding ring off before you do so.

Watermelon and Zucchini Chili Lime Salad

I wanted this to be a salsa, but truly it’s not fab on chips and as I learned, you really don’t need the extra salt. It’s best served as a side salad or on top of chicken or fish.

Equal parts Watermelon and Zucchini, chopped

Tajin to taste (I used about 1/2 C per 4 C. chopped fruit and veg)

Chop both watermelon and zucchini into similar sized bites. Toss with as much Tajin as you can handle. Soak overnight.

Serve cold.

Tajin can be found at Latino Markets, online at Amazon.com and Costco

Bruschetta Pancetta Pole/Runner Beans

The Dutch Farmers call them Pole Beans. But I think they are better described as Runner Beans. Pole Beans imply they could be any bean grown on a pole and these beans don’t look anything like I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because I suffered through nicknames like “Bean Pole” as an awkwardly tall middle schooler, that the title is less appealing.

A quick internet search proves I’m not the only person confused about these beans. Entire chat boards have been created to discuss the differences between Pole and Runner beans (I kinda wish I had the spare time of those chat board people). The beans I’m talking about are 8 inches long, thin and wide. The Dutch Farmer tells me they are very popular in Europe where they typically boil them. I’m not much for boiling anything except pasta, let alone vegetables. It’s no wonder there are so many people who dislike veggies, I’m certain it’s because their parents probably boiled them to a green mush and suggested they eat them as part of their 4 square.

They sat in my fridge for 5 days while I pondered what to do with them. When I finally decided to roast them, which is my go-to method for cooking any vegetable, I decided to use up two complimentary items in my fridge that were on the verge of expiration. The first was diced pancetta and the second was a tub of pre-made bruschetta. After tasting the results, I’ve decided no need to try these beans any other way. Maybe a dusting of fresh Parmesan would make them extra-perfect. So enjoy these Pole/Runner Beans while they are in season for the next few weeks at the markets. They will not disappoint.

Bruschetta Pancetta Runner Beans

1/2 lb Pole/Runner Beans

4 oz diced Pancetta (can substitute bacon)

80z bruschetta (I used pre-made from Trader Joes, but you could use your own)

1 Tbl. Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Fresh Parmesan (optional)

Trim off stem end of beans. On a baking sheet, toss in olive oil, diced pancetta, salt and pepper to taste.

Roast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until tender and pancetta is browned. Top with fresh bruschetta, toss with beans to warm and coat.

Top with parmesan (optional). Serve immediately.

Blueberry Lemon Basil Martini

A quick online search for blueberry martinis turns up all sorts of frightening pictures of drink that looks more like blue kool-aid than the lovely drink I first tried six summers ago in a little town called Camden, Maine. Camden is a quaint seaside town where virtually everything they serve in town involves blueberries.

My college girlfriend and I had driven up for the weekend from her place in New York. We stuck out like sore thumbs in this quaint little town. We wore stilettos on cobblestone streets, designer dresses to eat fish and chips. We drove around in an old Mercedes convertible we’d borrowed from her family. That weekend we consumed so many blueberries we could have been that poor girl in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory who turned into a giant blueberry.  But the most fabulous blueberry treat we found and fell in love with was a blueberry martini.

On our last day, we’d relaxed enough to kick off our heels and dress down, donning ball caps and big sweaters as we rode in a sailboat around the bay. As we cruised the bay and drank a local blueberry beer (it really is in everything), we overheard the captain telling a group of passengers a story.

The captain and his wife had been to dinner in town the night before when a large Navy shipped docked and hundreds of sailors found themselves descending on the town after months at sea. While the captain and his wife dined al fresco they couldn’t help but notice a strange pattern of sailors meandering about town. The sailor’s who he said would normally hit the dive bars were hanging outside of handbag stores and high-end bars. He and his wife were perplexed.  Then they realized the sailors were trailing these two “New Yorkers” who “would you believe? were walking around in stilettos heels, fancy dresses and drinking of all things…BLUEBERRY MARTINIS!”

We hid under our ball caps and gave each other grins. The captain didn’t recognize us in our played down clothes. Since neither of us are actually New Yorkers we didn’t fit the bill. The other passengers had a great laugh at his story and we joined in the fun with comments like- “Can you imagine?” and “Sure wish I’d have seen that!”.

Had we noticed a group of sailors trailing us around town? Not a clue. But I’m certain that was thanks in part to the blueberry martinis. So naturally when I received blueberries in my CSA Basket this week I couldn’t help but remember this drink. I decided for fun to add some limoncello and basil. Herbs and flowers seem to be the new rage in mixology here in SoCal. I took it to Playdate Happy Hour and it was met with rave reviews.

Blueberry Lemon Basil Martinis

2 shots Blueberry Smirnoff Vodka

1 Shot Limnocello

5-6 basil leaves, crushed

blueberries for garnish

In a cocktail shaker combine vodka, limoncello crushed basil leaves and shake with ice.

Pour out martini into glass and garnish with several fresh blueberries and 2 small basil leaves.

Makes 1 drink

Scallops with Bacon Jam, Jalapeno and Kumquat

Papa Foodie had just had knee surgery. I was in charge of transport. He was rambling. You know, that good kind of rambling that involves heavy meds? I was immensely amused. So amused that I almost drove right past that cloud of dark smoke rising from the neighbor’s yard. Thankfully, I’d had a venti latte and was wired enough to circle back. The next 5 minutes went like this-

“FIRE!!!” I screamed and ran to the people’s door.

Bang, Bang, Bang. No one answers.

Pop, crackle, ash starting to fall.

I run back to the car and start honking the horn, NYC style. You know, like the cabbies do, for no reason at all?

BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEEEEP!
Seriously, where the heck is everyone?

Situation Assessment- 9:15 am- Large fire in the side yard. Bamboo ignited 10 foot flames. Fiberglass boat next to flames. Truck, with likely a full tank of gas next to boat. Neighborhood prone to wildfires. No hose in sight.

Papa Foodie- “You want me to call 911?”

Me-“You haven’t called 911 yet?”

Papa Foodie- “I’m trying, but I think there is something wrong with my phone.”

Situation Assessment-9:16am- See above-mentioned, add in heavily medicated father.

I run around trying to find a hose. Finally, a neighbor shows up with a hose. He runs down to the nearest faucet and I run the hose to reach the fire. But of course, the hose is about 15 feet short of the flames.

Another neighbor shows up. He has another hose. But it doesn’t have the right circle-thingies on the inside and won’t attach to the faucet.

Papa Foodie- “I keep getting transferred around to different 911’s no one knows where we are.”

Two more neighbors show up, now the fire has jumped the fence and is in the neighbor’s yard. I ring the gate bell at the neighbor’s house to warn them, but of course, no one is home.

Meanwhile, Papa Foodie starts to climb out of the car. I yell at him to get back in. The last thing we need is a man down with a bum knee, no hose and an exploding boat.

Situation Assessment- 9:17am- I am living in a cartoon here.

Thankfully psuedo-fire-fighting comes to an end, 20 minutes later, when the firemen show up and put the rest of the flames out. They are equipped with hoses longer than 15 feet that don’t need the circle-thingies. My job here is done. Papa Foodie and I are exhausted and covered in ash. After we recover that afternoon, I make this tasty scallop dish similar to one PhotogBestie ordered in NYC. I use up all our excess kumquats and add in some bacon jam (a new must-have for my pantry), then I add a jalapeno in honor of our hot and fiery day.

Scallops with Bacon Jam, Jalapeno and Kumquats

I served this with a lovely fresh pasta I bought from a vendor at the farmers market.

1 Jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced

10-15 kumquats, seeded and thinly sliced, ends removed

1 lb of wild sea scallops 10-20 count

2 Tbl. Olive Oil

2 Tbl. Bacon Jam (I found at www.baconfreak.com)

Salt and Pepper to taste

10 oz handmade pasta ( I used Spinach and Garlic Fettucine made by a local farmer’s market vendor)

Dry scallops throughly and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Seed jalapeno and thinly slice. If you like spicy use all of the jalapeno, if not use half and package the other half for another purpose. Thinly slice kumquats, seeding and slicing off end pieces. In a skillet, over medium heat, add olive oil, bacon jam and sliced jalapeno and kumquats. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Move mixture to outer ring of the pan to make room for scallops. Add the pasta to boiling water and add scallops to pan and sear quickly about 1-2 minutes each side. Make sure not to overcook the center should be opaque and almost white. Fresh pasta cooks in about 4 minutes so they should time out ok.

Remove scallops to another dish to plate. Top with pieces of kumquat and jalapeno Drain pasta in colander and toss pasta in remaining liquid and jalapeno, kumquat, bacon jam mixture to coat as a sauce.

Serve immediately.

Makes 3 servings.

Chicken Salad with Loquats, Walnuts, Dates and Chard Confetti

I was curled in the ball on the edge of a cliff, hiding behind a small tumbleweed which was my only form of shade. I wanted to die. I could not possibly go on. This “romantic couples hike to a waterfall” had been a very bad idea. Then I heard it… The soft whir of a rescue helicopter that rose from the cliff.

 I was saved!

I laid there staring eye to eye with the helicopter pilot. “Please wave your hand in the air if you are ok and do not need to be rescued” said the pilot over the loudspeaker.

Hubs jumped up and down waving his hands in the air.

“Not you sir, the woman on the ground, please raise your hand if you do not need to be rescued” he repeated.

There are moments in one’s life that define you. This may have been mine.

On one hand, I desperately want to get off this mountain. Who was I kidding? I am no athlete. I am no Hubs. I should have brought lots more water and far less wine. I had thought we were on a “picnic hike” to a waterfall. This was a real hike. It was hotter than hell and there was no shade. I was severely dehydrated and wasn’t sure I could get myself back up the canyon to the car.

However, there was the matter of my dignity. Plus, there was this man I had hoped to marry, thinking I was the wimpiest human being on Earth…and, the fact that I am terrified of flying in a helicopter.

Maybe my rescue vehicle was the final kick in the pants I really needed. It seemed like an eternity but slowly, slowly…I raised my hand, and the helicopter flew away.

I learned a lot of things that day. Water is a better choice for a picnic hike than wine. And, if Hubs and I are going to make it, we are definitely never hiking again. Oh yeah, and chicken salad always tastes fab, even under a tumbleweed.

Roasted Chicken Salad with Loquats, Walnuts and Chard Confetti

My inlaws have a loquat tree at their house, I had never had them before. Most recipes on the internet involve making them into jelly or jam. I decided to toss the halved loquats into my weekly baked chicken and see how it goes. It was good, but better the next day when made into this chicken salad.

For the Roasted Chicken-

1 cut up chicken, skin on

1 bottle island soyaki

10 loquats, halved, seeds removed

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree. Place cut chicken in a baking dish and cover with soyaki marinade. Cut and seed loquats, I left the skin on. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

For the Chicken Salad-

1 bunch chard stems, diced

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup medjool dates, chopped

1 cup of 0% Fage Greek Yogurt

salt and pepper to taste

Once the chicken has cooled remove skin and discard. Pull meat from bones and chop chicken and loquats.  Combine with diced chard stems, chopped walnuts, dates and greek yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for one hour.

 

 

Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary’s with Baby Celery Celery Stalks

CandleMama and I were out of our groove. It was Monday morning and there were children that needed tending to. Our children actually… and we were downright rusty. Rusty because we just returned from a fun couples weekend away in Catalina Island. One forgets how many hours there are in the day when their children aren’t in tow. Now we were back in the “Belly of the Beast” which is our lives, but mentally, we were still on “island” time.

Catalina seems to serve Bloody Mary’s at every restaurant. I suspect it’s because the boat arrives at 10am but your hotel room isn’t ready until 3pm. At 10:15 am, nothing sounds quite as appealing to a boatload of parents who are eager to start their weekend getaway immediately.

CandleMama and her hubby had previously been living in the midwest and told us about this special mix that we can’t get here in California. It seems like we can get everything here so I’m always intrigued to find something new we haven’t seen.

Hoosier Momma is hands down the best bloody mary mix I have ever tasted. It’s hard to improve on absolute perfection. But, a Foodie must tweak a recipe “just a little”, so I decided to add…

Pickle juice and hot sauce.

No, I am not pregnant.

Trust me.

I also had the most beautiful baby celery from my CSA which just begged to be a darling little “stir-stick” in my Bloody Mary. The pickle juice? I was looking to get another jar out of the fridge and it just happened. The dash of hot sauce? Well, it is San Diego.

So I raise a glass to this weekend’s boat-load of giddy parents who land on Catalina Island. We wish we were still there with you…

Hoosier Momma Bloody Marys with Baby Celery Stalks

8 oz of Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Mix

1 shot of Tito’s Handmade Vodka

splash of pickle juice

dash of hot sauce

baby celery for garnish

Combine all ingredients over ice. Garnish with baby celery stalk.

baby celery to garnish

Poor Man’s “Shrimp” Cocktail (it’s Cauliflower!)

How I found myself hunkered down, sweating profusely in a tiki restroom on the island of Bora Bora, with my white leather shorts refusing to budge north of my thighs, I’ll never know. Why oh why hadn’t I worn my swimsuit today?

Oh yea, because it hadn’t fit.

Maybe that should have been a sign.

Then I heard a women’s voice. She was calling my name- “Your husband is looking for you”, she said.

Well this is lovely. What a way to end a honeymoon. “So glad you married me, darling, hope you are ok that I’m a size bigger since last week”.

“Can you tell him to go buy me a sarong?” I asked.

“He says you already have one.” She replied.

Oh Hubs, now is not the time for frugality….

“Tell him it’s an emergency and I cannot come out until I have one”.

It hadn’t been the Shrimp Cocktails fault. It was just the last thing I’d eaten before I swelled up so big that my fabulous but not-so-practical designer white leather shorts had decided they were no longer going to fit. How had it come to this? Ten days at sea, gorging on endless meals and all-you-can-eat buffets will do that to a person. The humidity certainly wasn’t helping with my overall swelling.

Hubs returned with another sarong. I then walked out of the stall I’d been inhabiting for the past 45 minutes, covered in sweat and completely traumatized. I promptly tossed my white leather shorts in the garbage bin. I imagine they are part of that great mass of floating ocean garbage today. Where do those islanders put their trash anyway?

Maybe it was an early sign that my shellfish allergy was imminent. Or maybe, leather and humidity are just never a good idea.

Now years later, every time I eat shrimp I land myself in the ER because I can’t breath. They tell me it’s a legitimate allergy and not PTSD from Bora Bora.

Sometimes I wonder.

I would love to tell you I created this dish on my own. But, I didn’t. I found it in Bon Appetite in their RSVP section and it is a true gem, especially for those of us with shellfish allergies. Don’t skimp on good cocktail sauce it really is essential to lending a real “shrimp cocktail” taste.

Poor Man’s Vegan “Shrimp” Cocktail

1 C. Old Bay Seasoning

3 lemons, halved

2 yellow onions, quartered

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

2 1lb heads of cauliflower, cored and trimmed into 2″ florets

Cocktail Sauce

In a large pot, combine 6 quarts of water with with 1 C. Old Bay Seasoning, quartered onions, garlic and halved lemons, squeezing the juice out into the pot. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld, stiring occasionally. With a slotted spoon, remove onions, garlic and lemons. Then, add trimmed caulifower pieces, cover and turn off heat. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain into collander and refridgerate “shrimp” up to one day.

Serve cold with a side of cocktail sauce. I like Stonewall Kitchen’s as well as Trader Joe’s. 

Flank Steak with Kimchi Rice and Egg

I had no sooner gotten home from Bestie Reunion in NYC when I found myself in a very typical predicament- screaming toddler at preschooler pick-up. All who witnessed thought the same thing- so glad that’s not my kid.

Thankfully, I have good friends. The kind of friends who text- “Looks like you could use a drink” before I could even get out of the school parking lot.

And that was how it began, a Tuesday afternoon playdate that rolled into dinner when I had just gotten home and barely had a scrap of food in the fridge. So while the baby ran all of his angry out, I told tales of my recent trip and the amazing dinner we had at The Dutch, a fabulous restaurant in Soho.  It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to  tell you I was trying to get back to “a happy place”.

We dined at the typical 10pm dinner hour for New Yorkers, when we walked in the hostess was directing those without a reservation to come back in 2 1/2 hours. Clearly NYC Bestie picked a hotspot!  There were several really amazing dishes that came out of that dinner, two of which I vowed to re-create when I returned home. The dinner I ordered was the Korean Style Hanger Steak with Kimichi Rice and egg, and it did not disappoint. 

After re-telling the story the only reasonable thing to do was to try to make it for dinner.  I had eggs, I even had a frozen bag of kimchi rice and… well that was it. So I called Hubs and had him swing by the store for flank steak and teriyaki marinade. The Dutch used Hanger steak but we weren’t able to find it at the regular market so we substituted the flank which is very similar.

While the Hubby’s grilled the steak,  us ladies fried eggs, fed the kids, and heated up the rice. Sadly I didn’t have any seaweed salad and had completely forgotten there had even been that red sauce. I definitely don’t own 4 cool All-Clad skillets to serve our dinner on. But my version wasn’t $30 a head either, more like $15 total for 4 people. 

All told, we made this meal start to finish in less than 20 minutes. I think it’d be even better if the flank steak marinated overnight in the teriyaki. It sure beats my back up option which had been take-out pizza. Here is my ode to the Dutch’s Korean Hanger Steak with Kimichi and Egg-

Flank Steak with Kimchi Rice and Egg

2 lbs of flank steak

1 bottle Soyaki or other teriyaka style marinade (about 16 oz)

1 bag frozen Kimchi Fried Rice (Trader Joes)

8 eggs

If time permits, marinate flank steak overnight in 1 bottle soyaki. Barbeque flank steak until cooked to preferred doneness. I like rare plus, myself (which makes Hubs wonder about my 18 years as a vegetarian). Both flank and hanger steak are tougher cuts of meat and if cooked over medium rare may be tough like a shoe. You’ve been warned.

Thinly slice flank steak, Cook kimchi rice in microwave according to directions. Fry eggs, two at a time in a non-stick pan. Serve sliced flank, side of rice topped with two fried eggs. Serve immediately.

 

Baked Chicken with Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms

The Farmers Market Foodie has been Nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award! Thank you Beach House Kitchen for the nomination! Beach House Kitchen is a food blogger specializing in healthy often vegan eating and they are headed into the realm of Raw Food Diet next month. Be sure to check them out at- http://www.thebeachhousekitchen.wordpress.com

When Beach House Kitchen nominated me for this award, they asked that I tell them 7 things about myself. Since I tend to write about myself and my family in every blog, I thought I’d do something a little different, so here goes…

7 Things the Farmers Market Foodie wants you to know about this recipe

1. I love oyster mushrooms from back in my Milan days. I buy them whenever I see them. I was stunned to hear that Photog Bestie having just done a 3-year stint in Europe was unfamiliar with them. What a shame, they are a delicious addition to virtually any dish.

2. I make baked chicken once a week- it is the easiest meal. I am constantly switching up ingredients, lemons, oranges, root vegetables etc. I only use skin-on chicken and like a mix of breast, thigh and leg pieces. I make enough for Hubs to have leftovers at work the next day. Occasionally, I use the leftovers to make chicken salad (see Jax Chicken Salad).

3. I always cook baked chicken in my Emile Henry rectangular dish. I was thrilled that NYCBestie kept hers and was one of a handful of items in her 3 ft by 2 ft NYC kitchen. The dish can go from fridge/freezer to oven to table. It cooks things beautifully and is beautiful as well.

4. Speaking of that kitchen… I’d never seen a cord hanging from the ceiling to plug in the exhaust fan, nor was I familiar with having to re-light the oven every 20 minutes. The chicken did take longer to cook in this oven, remember always use a thermometer to check and pace your cocktail hour in case it takes longer.

5. I always use a few tablespoons of good olive oil before I salt and pepper the chicken in any recipe. I prefer California olive oils as I think they have a better flavor (and for me are more locally sourced). I even travel with my own mini bottles and good thing I did- NYC Bestie pulled a giant rancid old bottle of olive oil that she’d inherited with her sublet. It was 5 years past it’s expiration date. Yikes!

6. Speaking of salt and pepper…I always use sea salt and fresh ground pepper. I keep the salt in a salt pig on the counter for easier measuring and access.

7. I served this baked chicken dish with a mixed greens salad with edible flowers, blue cheese and homemade vinaigrette. Recipe to come soon!

Baked Chicken with Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms

1.5 lbs chicken pieces, skin on

4 shallots, peeled

1 bunch ramps, leaves removed

1/4 lb oyster mushrooms

Olive oil for drizzling

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375, light if necessary, plug cord into ceiling if required. Place chicken pieces in rectangular dish and stuff mushrooms, ramps, shallots around. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for 25-45 minutes depending on your oven, or until the skin is brown and crispy and thermometer or common sense tells you it’s cooked.

Feeds 3-4

Ramp Leaves with Stinky Cheese

 My Germaphobe threat level was at orange. Let’s be honest, I’m not a big fan of unwashed foraged veggies, that I feel obligated to consume.  How many hands have touched these? What about the dirt? Did a wild hog poop right next to these before they were foraged?

So when Tyron, the cheese guy from Cato Corner Farms noticed the ramps in my bag, swiped a leaf and started to smear stinky cheese all over it, I began to panic. Sure he was wearing gloves ( I wouldn’t have been buying from him if he wasn’t), but it was those unwashed ramps I was worried about. I was at a crossroads. Indulge my inner-germaphobe and pass? Or, take a bite and pray I don’t get e-coli? In the end, my inner foodie said that I wouldn’t dare turn down Tyron’s ridiculously simple yet elegant appetizer and I promised myself to get some alcohol to wash down any germs asap.

“The Church of the Ramp is one of the fastest-growing denominations in the religion of seasonality.” says Time Magazine writer Josh Ozwerksy, when he declared that Ramps are the New Arugula for America’s top chefs. After my first ramp experience I’m ready for a weekly sermon.

 Ramps are wild leeks or spring onions that are found in the United States from North Carolina to Canada and as far west as Missouri. They were traditionally the first greens to pop from the earth in the spring, hence their tradition of celebration. But, I think the flavor of ramps: part onion, leek and wild garlic is also partially why the are celebrated. The fact that you can only find them about 3 weeks out of the year and people have to forage for them makes them a flat-out foodie craze. Like our version of Truffle season in Europe.

 I came across Cato Corner Farm at the Union Square Farmers Market during Bestie Reunion Weekend in NYC. I initially bought the Black Ledge Blue cheese for my salad, but his cheese called Fromage d’O’Cow is what he used on the ramps leaves. It is a washed-rind cheese made into a flat wheel.  Think of French Brie, which would be a nice substitution if you couldn’t find a local cheese monger. It’s firm in some places and runny in others. It’s stinks to high heaven, so in the world of cheese, it’s amazing. The saltiness of the cheese and the peppery bite of the leaves were delightful. There were absolutely no leftovers.

  If you are lucky enough to come across ramps in your area during the few weeks they are available, give this amazing appetizer a try. Cato Corner Farms also does mail order and here is the link to find them- www.catocornerfarm.com

Ramp Leaves with Stinky Cheese

1 bunch Ramp Leaves,

1 oz stinky soft cheese such as Fromage d’ O’Cow or Brie, Trader Joe’s May Spotlight Cheese Paglierina would be a perfect choice. 

Allow cheese to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Spread on to washed ramps leaves. Roll up tightly and serve at room temperature.

Ramps! The Farmers Market at Union Square

“Ramps!” the farmer shouted from his stand as we approached.

“What did that guy just call us?” asked my NYC bestie with a look of horror in her eyes.

“Ramps, and don’t worry he’s not referring to us, he’s talking about that giant stack of wild leeks.”

“Wild what?” she said.

It’s Bestie Reunion Weekend in NYC and my besties have never been to a proper farmers market. Nor do they know what kale is, or chard, or ramps for that matter. It’s my turn to school them.

The Farmers Market at Union Square is amazing! If I lived in NYC, I’d be there all the time. Not only are there vegetables a plenty but mushrooms growers, cheese mongers, fresh milk, handmade sausages, fresh breads, the list is never-ending.

This is certainly a first for the Besties. In the past, our trips have consisted of dancing, shopping, eating…repeat. It could be said we are getting too old for our previous shenanigans.

This trip I’ve decided to take the girls through the market to help me pick out our dinner and then make it at NYC Besties itty-bitty Upper East Side kitchen.

To say it’s itty-bitty is a understatment, it’s really a hallway to the bathroom. In real estate we would use terms like- “charming”, “cozy” and “functional”. I was excited for the challenge: cooking in season can be done by anyone in any-sized kitchen.

Both NYC Bestie and Photog Bestie said they loved to read my blog, but were hesitant to make some of the recipes because they were unfamiliar with the ingredients. I love finding ingredients I’ve never used or seen, but I also realize that most people are not as adventurous as I am. I showed the girls some of the ingredients they’d been hearing about and both felt they could come back and do it on there own.

We decided on ramps since they are only in season a few weeks out of the year and I having never cooked them was dying for a chance to use them. I also bought some fresh oyster mushrooms, which I adore. I picked up some shallots, mixed greens and edible flowers for the salad. We then visited a baker and bought some fresh herb bread, still warm in its bag. Later, we  met the cheese monger and bought some amazing blue and washed-rind cheeses. I knew we had chicken breasts back at the apartment. My shopping was done. I spent less than $20 and was going to feed us a fabulous farm-to-table gourmet meal.

The recipes and stories from NYC Besties hallway kitchen are coming in the next week… A million thanks to Photog Bestie for her gorgeous photos. You can find her at-www.micahcummings.com/blog

Spicy Kale Chips

There was only one other time Hubs or I have accidentally lit something on fire when cooking. But, that is another post entirely. This week I did light something on fire- Kale Chips.

Kale Chips are definitely trending in the world of culinary “have you tried this?”. So much so that I’ve been trying to avoid posting about them since I felt everyone else was as well. But alas, as I set outside waiting for Hubs to get off work, sipping my Chili-Lime Grapefruit Margaritas (see previous post) I had three thoughts

1.) I love this rim, what else can I put this on?

2.)I really shouldn’t be drinking half this pitcher of Margaritas by myself.

3.) Or, on an empty stomach…

So, naturally I decided to make Kale chips and spice them up with Tajin the same spice I used on the rim of my Margaritas. I peruse the internet and find a few recipes. One suggests I line my cookie sheet in parchment paper, so I do. As I pull the first batch out of the oven and set on top the stove next to a pot of boiling water the following conversation with my 5-year-old daughter occurs

Her- “Is that seaweed?”

Me- “No, it’s Kale Chips. You want to try?”

Her-“Yuck! No!”

Me- “I’ll give you a piece of chocolate.”

Her- “No thanks, it looks too hot…”

Me- “I haven’t even put the spices on yet, it’s not hot!”

Her- “But Mommy, it’s on fire.”

Me- “Expletive!!! Move outta the way!!!! I’ve gotta get to the sink!”

Batch one ends in total cremation. I can’t tell Kale from burnt parchment paper. Turns out the flame from my other burner jumped ship to my cookie sheet and voila! we almost had the firemen over here.

Her-“Do I still get the chocolate?”

Me-” Yes, as long as you never repeat what I just said…”

For batch two, I scrap the parchment for just a good ole non-stick cookie sheet.  It’s a success! Nothing lights on fire, Hubs loves the chips, and so far no one under the age of five has repeated anything bad, yet…

Spicy Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, stems removed

olive oil

Tajin Mexican Spice

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On  a non-stick rimmed cookie sheet, toss the kale leaves in enough olive oil to coat and prevent sticking. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crispy. Remove from oven and shake Tajin Mexican Spice on warm chips. Serve immediately. 

 

 

Red Butter Leaf Salad with Roasted Chicken, Fennel and Parmesean

Bunco- the game of choice for suburban women everywhere. Some call it “drunko”, which is also a legitimate moniker.  Any game that involves dice and drinking may or may not end in total inebriation. But don’t tell Hubs, I’ve got him thinking I’m involved in a knitting circle of some sort.

I was first invited into Bunco by my friend with 5 kids. I quickly learned that every woman (especially those with 5 kids) needs an excuse to escape her household. For the lucky twelve in my group it is for bunco. We rotate houses, drink wine, eat fabulous meals, eat far too much chocolate, all while complaining  about our kids, our jobs or anything really.  About 3 hours later when we are all feeling better about our respective lives, we start rolling the dice.

Hubs stayed back to wrangle the kids last Friday and was joined by his brother-in-law who is also a new dad. I felt obligated to make them something nice before I left since I knew the Bunco spread was going to be fabulous. Since both guys are in good shape and like to eat healthy I made this salad inspired by a great little eatery in La Jolla. They use arugula, poached chicken, fennel and shaved Parmesan. I used roasted chicken for more flavor, swapped out arugula for the red butter leaf from my CSA basket, kept in the fennel and Parmesan and added chard confetti for a bit of color.

I felt great leaving the guys with a tasty and healthy meal, one that took only 7 minutes to make, start to finish. I also left them a Bloody Mary Bar, which I think they enjoyed just as much as the salad.

Red Butter Leaf Salad with Roasted Chicken, Fennel and Parmesan

1 roasted chicken, I went with store-bought

1 large head butter leaf lettuce

1 bulb fennel (some call it anise)

Chard stems, diced (optional)

4-5 oz Shaved Parmesan

For the dressing-

1/2 c. olive oil

1/3 cup. Vinegar ( I like white balsamic or apple cider)

1 tsp. Dijon Mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces and place in a serving bowl. Slice fennel thinly from the large bulb end. Place on top of lettuce. Shred the chicken meat from the bone and allow to cool slightly so the lettuce does not wilt. Room temperature is best. Place chicken on top of lettuce and fennel. Top with shaved Parmesan and chopped chard stems for color.

In a separate bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar and Dijon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Dress salad just before serving.

Turkey Chorizo Tacos with Chard Greens and Zucchini

When Hubs and I were first dating, I came across a phone number on his flip phone. Her name was Lolita and I was instantly concerned. Who was this woman? How did he know her? Why was he calling her every single day?

“I can’t believe I haven’t introduced you to Lolita, I’ll take you to meet her tomorrow” he replied, when I finally got the nerve to ask. So the next day Hubs took me to meet Lolita and I realized why she was on speed dial. Lolita’s was the name of his favorite taco shop and Hubs was indeed in love with all that Lolita had to offer.

Southern California has its share of burger stands but unlike the rest of the country our taco stands outnumber the burger joints. For us natives who have grown up on the authentic stuff, Mexican food is an addiction.

Chorizo is normally served at breakfast with eggs, typically in burritos. For those of you unfamiliar with Mexican Chorizo it is quite different from the Spanish version which comes in a hard sausage form. Mexican chorizo comes minced or ground and is seasoned with similar spices. Traditionally, it is made of fatty cuts of pork and beef.

In an effort to lighten up an option for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, I came up with this easy weeknight meal. I found turkey chorizo at Sprouts in the meat department, you could of course use regular chorizo even soy-rizo. I then crammed them full of healthy veggies and boosted the whole-grains by using a corn-wheat combo tortilla which was softer and more appealing the either a plain corn or flour. I topped with fresh avocado slices and cilantro.

I hope you enjoy at your Cinco de Mayo festivities along with the Chili-Lime Grapefruit Margaritas!

Turkey Chorizo Tacos with Chard Greens and Zucchini

1 lb Turkey chorizo

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 bunch chard, stems removed (or substitute spinach), chopped

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

Fresh Cilantro, chopped

1 avocado, sliced

1 package corn/wheat tortillas (I used Traders Joes De Mi Abuela)

In a non-stick pan over medium heat, add diced onion and chorizo. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions are soft. Add diced zucchini and chopped chard greens and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes.

Serve inside warm tortillas. Top with fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.

Serves 2

Chili-Lime Grapefruit Magaritas

I have some of the fondest memories from Friday nights in my childhood. Mama and Papa Foodie would grill steaks, crank up the music and dance around the living room with this amazing looking blended yellow frozen beverage with salt on the rim.  Papa Foodie became well known for his concotions. It was certainly the beverage of the 80’s in my family.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy margaritas. This is most likely the result of  hearing that the margarita is one of the most calorically obscene drinks, with an average of 700 calories. So for the past few years I’ve all but given up on this refreshingly delicious adult beverage. Then came the Skinny Girl revolution. I’m not a fan of what I consider to be an overpriced watered down version of a margarita, but thankfully restuarants are taking note and I’ve had several really nice “skinny” versions of margaritas around town.

I decided if I made margaritas at home the first thing to go was going to be the sweet and sour mix. It is where all the sugar and calories are. I took a spin on skipping the mix and using fresh juice with my Pomelo Margarita in January. I have no intention of ever using the pre-made sugary stuff again.

Last weekend, when a friend and I were at a fundraiser for a new local library, I tried the most amazing spin on a margarita yet. This margarita was hands-down the drink of the event. I managed to find out their secret: a Mexican spice called Tajin (which can be found in most grocer’s produce sections around Southern California) and a product called Salsa Chamoy on the rim of the glass. The spicy, sour rim is the perfect compliment for the fruity citrus beverage. For those of you living outside this area I have put links to purchase these harder to find items belowor those of you living outside this area.

This is my spin on the “Sinful Margarita” by tequila maker Adan y Eva, I’m using fresh grapefruit and orange juices from my CSA basket in lieu of the sugary Sweet and Sour. As a result my version also has less than 150 calories per serving. Skinny and unbelievably tasty.

Hope you enjoy it at your Cinco de Mayo events!

Chili-Lime Grapefruit Margarita

For 1 pitcher

2-3 grapefuit, juiced (2 cups)

1-2 large oranges, juiced (1 cup)

1 cup Adan y Eva Tequila Blanco (or other clear tequila)

1/2 Cup Triple Sec

In a pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir.

For the Chili-Lime Rim-

Tajin Classico with Lime

Salsa Chamoy

Pour salsa chamoy in a small saucer and Tajin in another. Dip the rim of a glass in the salsa chamoy and then in the Tajin. Pour in margarita and ice. Serve immediately.

 To purchase Tajin Classic Spice-http://www.tajin.com/en-us/

To purchase Salsa Chamoy-http://www.amazon.com/Salsa-Chamoy-Liquida-Apricot-Dressing/dp/B0011UZCI8

To purchase Adan y Eva Tequilas-http://www.tequilaadanyeva.com/   

 

Wild Alaskan Cod and Chard Greens en Papillote

My daughter loves the children’s book series Fancy Nancy. The books revolve around this little girl who likes to use fancy vocabulary, fancy clothes and pretty much fancy everything. Her family is quite plain, possibly crunchy-granola. I imagine they live in Boulder, maybe even Santa Cruz. My daughter couldn’t be more different from Nancy. I beg, plead and bribe her to dress fancy or wear a bow in her hair. She would be happiest in pants and a ratty shirt playing in the mud. It’s like I’m living the second generation of Fancy Nancy where Nancy grows up and has a tomboy. That’s my life.

 While my daughter may not dress fancy, she does enjoy using Nancy’s big vocabulary. For example, “Mom! Your shoes are so posh” (a fancy way to butter me up) or “Mom! There has been a ccatastrophe in the playroom!” (a fancy way to say she just made a big-ass mess). 

 The name of this meal is very Fancy Nancy, “en papillote” is a fancy way to say “in parchment paper”.

I used wild-caught Alaskan Cod, you could easily use another white fish. The cod doesn’t overwhelm the chard greens and they cook together so nicely and quickly that  fancy has never been more easy. I’ve even added extra photos regarding assembling your parchment envelope for extra ease.

Wild Alaskan Cod and Chard Greens en Papillote

1.5 lbs Wild Alaskan Cod

3 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Herb flavor (or make 3 Tbl. of spice/garlic/olive oil paste)

1 large bunch of chard, stems removed, greens chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Take a piece of parchment paper large enough to make an envelope around fish. Spread majestic garlic herb flavor or other seasoning combined with butter or oil all over fish. Salt and pepper fish to taste. Top fish with chopped chard greens. Salt and pepper greens to taste.

Fold the long sides of the parchment paper lengthwise. Then, wrap the ends of the parchment up over the fish and fold in half.

Repeat with other side, rolling up ends to secure and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Then, flip entire envelope over, so cod is cooking on top of the chard greens. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

Spicy Kale and Chicken Andouille Soup

What if I told you I had family members named Itchy, Frec, Pig and Swampwater? You would think I was lying. Understandably.  I know Hubs thought I was telling a tall tale. But Hubs is a SoCal native and people here don’t have names like that. So before Hubs and I were married, I felt it was important to take him to a family reunion in Mississippi. That way he could meet the above mentioned kinfolk and, more importantly, have a vague idea of what it meant to marry someone whose family is from the South. 

In an effort to gently ease my soon-to-be Hubs in true Southern culture, we first stopped in New Orleans. I can already hear the gasps from my Southern kinfolk.  Mississippi and New Orleans have little in common outside of a neighboring border. Mississippi is the Bible belt where there is no drinking on Sundays and New Orleans has Mardi Gras and allows you to drink while walking down the street. Southern cuisine and Cajun-Creole cuisine are also quite different. If this soup were Southern it’d have collard greens and chicken, but it’s an ode to cajun-creole cooking instead with the Andouille sausage and cajun spice.

It rains a lot in the south and that hot summer day we were in N’awlins was no different. Buckets of rain dumped from the sky when soon-to-be Hubs and I ducked into a romantic little bar for some drinks and hot soup. So when I went to lunch this week at Urban Solace with some friends and we set outside in their French Quarter-esque patio, I couldn’t help but think of that day. When the rain arrived that evening it was only inevitable I make a creole-style soup.

The seasoning in this soup is similar to my Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup I made in February, it’s got a sinus-draining kick. I swapped out rotisserie chicken for pre-cooked chicken Andouille sausage and spinach for kale. I added the carrots and potatoes from this weeks CSA basket. The mint garnish was sheer accident as I had chopped both cilantro and mint.  One was to garnish soup the other to add to a drink. I accidentally put the mint in the soup and it was actually better than the cilantro. The mint garnish really mellowed the spice. It was a great accident.

 And what did soon-to-be-Hubs do when he actually met my cousin Swampwater? Well, that is a post for another day…

Spicy Kale and Chicken Andouille Soup

1 lb Chicken Andouille Sausage (pre-ccoked) and sliced thin

1 Bunch Kale, stems removed, greens chopped

1 yellow onion chopped

6 small red potatoes, diced 1/4 inch thick

1 small bunch carrots, peeled and diced

1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro

2 Quarts Chicken Stock (I prefer stock in a box vs broth in a can)

1/2 Bottle of beer (not wheat based or dark)

1 Tbl. Olive Oil

2 bay leaves

1 Tbl. Emeril’s Essence

2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Cayenne (optional, see previous post for purchasing info, or substitute 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh chopped mint for garnish (about 1/4 cup)

In a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat, saute onions in olive oil and salt and pepper for 2 minutes. Add andouille, diced potatoes and carrots and the cayenne garlic. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 Tbl. Emeril’s Essence seasoning and saute another minute. Add half a bottle of beer to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits on the bottom. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, cilantro and chopped kale. Bring to a boil and reduce heat immediately to low and cover.

Simmer on low for 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Serve in bowls with chopped mint as garnish.

Orange Fettucine

It wasn’t the trip where I got my high-heel stuck in a subway grate at 5am next to a parked car that was being vandalized. Nor was it the trip where my blonde girlfriends and I rode a row boat backward around Central Park lake wondering why all the people were pointing and laughing. On the particular trip I am thinking of, a friend from college and her husband invited us over for dinner one night to their beautiful New York apartment and she made Giada’s Lemon Pasta recipe. It was absolutely brilliant. So simple and unique. It didn’t hurt it was a hot August day, and the light lemon flavor on the pasta could not have been more welcome.

As I head that direction in the next few weeks, I start reminiscing on all the amazing New York meals I’ve had. Hubs and I always think fondly of a Thanksgiving meal with his sister at The View in the Marroit Marques in Times Square. Perfectly named, we gazed out at the New York skyline all while waiting for round after round of turkey and sides to “rotate” our direction. 

 I’ve had pizza at Lombardis, Pastrami at Katz’ Deli, Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3 and dozens of  other meals at the “it” chi-chi places from the Meatpacking District to Brooklyn . So many of those meals blend together in a blur, but not that Lemon Pasta. It has always stuck with me. 

This is my take on that dinner.  Since oranges are plentiful in California this time of year and I’m currently out of my Pimm’s No. 1, I needed a good excuse to use them up. I decided this was my excuse.

Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe I highly recommend using fresh fettucine. If you have a home pasta maker this is a great reason to try it. Nothing is more wasteful than spending an hour making homemade pasta only to cover it up by some heavy marinara from a jar.  This is the perfect sauce to really compliment a fresh pasta. I have one of those machines and I can only manage it once a year. Therefore, I went with store-bought and it was just fine.

It may not be a Nathan’s hot dog nor sushi at Nobu, but this is an ode to one of my fave New York meals…

Orange Fettucine

1 pkg of fresh fettucine or homemade (about 9 oz)

1/4 C. heavy cream

1 Tbl. butter

1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed

2 Tbl. VSOP Brandy

zest from 3 small oranges

juice from 2 small oranges

5 oz shaved parmesan

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add 1/4 C. heavy cream, orange zest, bourbon and a large smashed garlic clove, heating over low heat. Salt and pepper to taste and stir occasionally for 10 minutes making sure the cream does not burn.

Cook fettucine according to package directions and drain. Return to pot and pour over orange cream mixture and add juice from 2 oranges and 5 oz shaved Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste again and toss to combine.

Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

 

Jax BBQ Chicken Salad with Chopped Veg

She was 6 foot tall, nine months pregnant and running late. She quickly sat down on one of those tiny IKEA three stool benches which have a weight limit of thirty-five pounds.  Above her head hung a sign stating-  35 lbs and under! Chairs will collapse!  I was sitting front row to a potential disaster. What does a person do?  Do I sit by and watch this nine month pregnant woman fall and send herself into labor, or do I dare say something?

“The sign says no one over thirty-five pounds is supposed to sit on those stools” I barked from my corner. “I’d hate to see you fall”.

I could see steam coming out of her ears. She whipped her head around and narrowed her eyes in on what she suspected would be a skinny-witch of a woman. Then she saw me and my beast-belly and almost fell off the stool laughing. I’m not sure how she had missed me in my condition,wallowing in the corner, sweating profusely. But if she managed to miss me and my gigantic whale-belly it was no wonder she hadn’t seen the sign.  We were such a miserable sight, the two of us. Having been instantly forgiven due to my equally pregnant nature, we became fast friends and realized we were due the same day.

Now the kids are almost a year and a half old and recently I had a lunch playdate at her house where she made a lovely chicken salad using the leftover barbecued chicken from the night before. Her recipe had a teriyaki flavor and was absolutely fantastic. She and her husband are avid gardeners and are growing a lot of the same veggies I am getting in my CSA basket. So this week when I had some leftover  barbecued honey-maple-glazed chicken I decided round-two was certainly going to be an ode to my stunning tall friend.

She used diced chard stem, which was fantastic. I however, had already used my stems up in a salad but thankfully had some gorgeous baby celery. I had never seen celery like the kind that came in my basket last week. So skinny it was pencil-thin and with these dark herby cilantro looking leaves. You could of course use regular celery or Jax idea with chard stems. This is my version of her salad…

Jax BBQ Chicken Salad with Chopped Veg

1/2 lb leftover bbq chicken, shredded or chopped

3 Tbl. Majestic Garlic dill

2 Tbl each– diced carrot, diced green onion and diced celery (or sub chard stem)

1/2 C. Nonfat Greek Yogurt

 salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, mix non-fat greek yogurt, 3 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Dill until combined. Toss in chopped or shredded chicken and 2 Tbl each- diced carrots, diced green onions and either diced celery or chard stems. Toss to coat all chicken and veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on a bed of  baby spinach leaves with  crackers.

Makes a lunch course for 2.

 

Spinach and Kale Dip in Homemade Sourdough Breadbowl

For the record it’s not that I have excess time on my hands. I find that the busier I am the crazier my ambitions. In a week where I literally could not have added one more thing to my plate the only natural thing for me to do was bake a Homemade Sourdough Bread Bowl and host a Friday Happy Hour Playdate. I rationalized there were at least 3 great reasons I needed to pile this on top of my already hectic week.

1. There would be drinks involved.

2. It’s better to drink in the afternoon with other parents than to drink alone.

3. There would be several people to sample my new CSA creations.

And there would be a house full of screaming children.

Hmmm…. Best to back up to #1 again.

Last week while baby and I hit the Traders Joe’s tasting corner, we came across a lovely new item- “Reduced Guilt Kale and Spinach Dip”. Brilliant idea.  I’m super annoyed that I didn’t think of it first. Both the kids loved it with pretzel dippers.  So I decided that before seasons change and I stop getting kale each week I needed to make this dip.

The homemade bread idea came about because a very nice co-worker of Hubs leant me her great-grandmother’s 100-year-old sourdough starter and I’ve been dying for an excuse to use it. The two items seemed like the perfect fit and since a dip in a breadbowl is more of a party fare I needed more people. My favorite excuse for a last-minute get-together is Friday Happy Hour Playdate.

Friday Happy Hour Playdate is a whole other post unto itself. Probably a cocktail post. Suffice it to say that it is possibly the best thing going in the playdate world and if you aren’t doing one and you have children you need to start one NOW.  I like to serve lots of cheese and wine at these sorts of things but it is also really nice to have a great low-fat dip like this as well.

We tasted both the Trader Joe’s dip and my creation side-by-side. In the end, they were similar yet different, with my dip having a “fresher taste” and “less tang”.  It seemed everyone preferred this recipe better. Even the pickiest of children seemed to occasionally walk by the table for another bite and there was many a pleased mom and dad at my playdate. Although, I have a heavy pouring hand so I can’t be sure of what exactly pleased them.

Spinach and Kale Dip

18 oz non-fat Greek Yogurt

1/4 C low-fat mayo

3 1/2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic (any herb flavor)

1 bunch Kale, greens only

1 bunch baby spinach

1/4 C. diced celery

1/4 C. diced carrots

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook kale greens and spinach in a non-stick pan over medium low heat with salt and pepper. I do this right after washing them and the excess water steams around them. When both are cooked down completely,  chop and squeeze out all the excess water and put in a large glass mixing bowl.

To the cooled kale and spinach mixture add, 1/4 C. diced celery and 1/4 C. diced carrots.

In  a separate bowl, combine one 18 oz container of greek yogurt with 1/4 C. low fat mayo and 3 1/2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic (see previous post for info). Whisk to combine.

Add the yogurt mixture to the greens and mix well to combine. Season again with freshly ground pepper and about 1/4 tsp salt. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve in store-bought or homemade sourdough breadbowl with pretzel dippers.

Homemade Sourdough Breadbowl

Bring starter to room temp

Add to starter:

½ cup of sugar

1 cup of plain flour or bread flour (not all purp)

1 cup of warm tap water

 Stir the ‘sponge’ mixture but don’t worry about getting out all the lumps. Let the sponge sit at room temp for 8 hours. Stir every few hours. Use a glass or ceramic bowl (not metal) and a wood or plastic spoon. After 8 hours or so the ‘sponge’ will smell kinda yeasty and look a little bubbly. 

 Put 2 cups of starter back in the jar and back in the fridge. Use the rest for bread.

 To the remaining starter add:

 1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt

½ cup of oil, (I like to use olive oil)

1 ½ cup of warm water

6-8 cups of flour

 Using a stand mixer, add the starter and all ingredients except flour.  Mix well with paddle attachement.

While the mixer is mixing, add flour 1 cup at a time, the dough will start to form, change to your dough hook and mix in flour until the dough climbs the hook.  Transfer to a flour dusted flat surface.

Kneed in as much of the rest of the flour until you have a medium stiff dough then kneed about 30 more strokes. 

 Let the dough rest in a lightly oiled, covered bowl for about 8 hours.  Keep it warm but not hot.  It should rise to almost twice the volume.   Divide your dough into bread loaves or rolls.   (if your bread did not rise, your in luck because the dough in this form makes the best fried flat bread) Yep, let rise for 6-8 hours. 

 Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

This recipe made 1 large breadbowl, 1 loaf of bread and 12 “cloverleaf” rolls which are essentially 3 small balls of dough per muffin tin.

 

Strawberry-Beet Shortcakes

Hubs is back on the P90x again. While I am NOT trying to purposefully sabotage him by making high-carb sweet treats, it could be argued (especially by Hubs) that I have a tendency to cook more unfriendly items when he is on his diet. Confession… I cannot deny that diets, even the ones I am not on, make me crave whatever if forbidden. But keep in mind, I did make Hubs a green salad with the other beets. So I’m not a total meanie.

 I had such luck with the “Princess Pancakes” and then the “Cranberry Beet Bread” that it was inevitable that my desire to sneak beets into unsuspecting places would return. This is possibly my best beet-sneak yet.

Spring in SoCal is when the best strawberries are at the stands. While I don’t get strawberries in my CSA basket, San Diego has all sorts of wonderful strawberry fields if you know where to look. I think the best ones come from Carlsbad and I suspect most San Diegans would agree. I do continue to get beets of all varieties weekly in my basket and I love using the red ones in baked goods.

 So this week I roasted half my beets and put them in a salad (See- “Winter Salad with Roasted Ruby Red Chard Stems” for recipe). The other half I cooked in water in the microwave, pureed in the processor and decided to make dessert. The beet-infused shortcakes are fabulous alone. You don’t even need to add the strawberries. They are part flaky biscuit, part slightly sweetened scone. Because they have a vegetable inside, I try to pretend they are healthy even with the half cup butter.

At first, I was going to leave the beet infusion at the shortcake. But, then I decided to take it a step further and add the beet puree into the sliced strawberries and sugar and see if they would compliment each other. Thankfully, they did. The beets lended a deep wine-red hue. Even the little dots of pureed beet went unnoticed by the children until Hubs accidentally flubbed and mentioned there were beets inside. Me thinks that was reverse sabotage on Hubs’ end. The eldest promptly dropped her fork and excused herself from the table. The baby continued to shove the whip cream in his ears.

So if you decide to try this great recipe next time you make shortcake, do keep the secret from the kids and maybe even your spouse…

 Strawberry-Beet Shortcakes

2 C. All-Purpose Flour

1/4 C. Sugar

1 1/2 T. Baking Powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 C. 1% milk

2-3 Beets, quartered

1/2 C. cold butter

For the Filling-

3 pints strawberries, thinly sliced.

1/4 C. beet puree

2 Tbl. sugar

Whipped Cream

In a microwave safe dish with a lid, place quartered beets and cover with water. Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until a knife pierces easily. Drain water and allow beets to cool.

In a mini-prep food processor, pulse beets several times. I find that the consistency of pureed beets is not really a puree more of a very finely diced beet.

Take 2 Tbl. pureed beet and 1 tsp. vanilla  place in 3/4 C. milk and allow to stand long enough so the milk takes on a bright pink hue.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix well.

Cut 1/2 C. butter into small pieces and work into flour mixture until butter is almost pea-sized. Making a well in the bottom of the mixing bowl begin to slowly add in the beets and milk, stirring to combine with a spatula.

Once combined, turn out on a lightly floured surface and pat down until about 1 inch thick. Cut 8 round shortcakes from dough with a biscuit cutter.

Place on an ungreaed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Macerate the strawberries with sugar and beet puree for at least one hour to allow beet flavor to mellow and strawberries to take on a dark red hue.

Slice shortcakes fill with strawberries, top with whipped cream or non-diary whip if preferred.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Radish and Mint

I had a unique opportunity to live in Italy for six months. It was a glorious experience. I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is how the Italians are masters at the whole farm-to-table food concept. They really don’t eat things that are out of season because they of course know, which we Americans have completely forgotten- vegetables are at their best when they are in season.

While I certainly loved the ability of swing by the market for fresh in season produce and whip up an amazing pasta dish an hour later, I did however, due to the “Melting Pot American” within myself desperately miss diversity.

Let’s be clear about living in Italy. You had best LOVE Italian food. Because, there really is nothing else.

I searched the country for Mexican, Chinese, Sushi, Indian and American (which sadly can only be found at McDonalds). I didn’t find any cuisine other than Italian. One time I was conned into going to a restaurant called “The American Restaurant”, surely they must have American food there? Nope. Just Italian food named after American cities.

For most travelers there on shortened stays, eating only Italian food would be a dream. After a month, I bought a train ticket to Austria so I could eat some Schnitzle.

Even for the lack of diversity the Italians have a few gems in their culinary pocket that for some reason hasn’t crossed the Atlantic. The first of these is their Rice Salad. Instead of a pasta salad they do one with rice. It is absolutely lovely. This Israeli Couscous Salad is an ode to that. I prefer the Pearl or Israeli variety of couscous in this salad, and it can easily be found at Trader Joes or other grocers.

Because I desperately needed to use my radish and my thighs cannot continue to withstand the “Radish with Salt and Butter” as one of my previous recipes describes, I felt I need to find a healthier way to eat this hot and spicy veg. I decided on Mint, because I hoped it would compliment and offset the heat of the radish. It does perfectly. Bonus is I have enough Mint leftover for a cocktail concoction.

This vegetarian salad could be served at room temperature or cold. It could easily be made vegan by omitting the goat cheese.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Radish and Mint

3 C. cooked Israeli Couscous

1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced

2 Tbl. minced fresh mint

2 small green onions sliced, green parts only

1 oz herbed goat cheese

2 tsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Tarragon (see note)

1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Note: for Majestic Garlic see previous blog for link to buy. Can subsitute another herb flavor for tarragon.

Cook couscous according to package directions. While the couscous is cooking, slice radishes and green onions and mince mint. In a small prep bowl whisk together olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and Majestic Garlic.

When the couscous is finished and still warm toss in a serving dish with dressing and herbed goat cheese. Allow couscous to absorb both. Toss in sliced radish and green onions and mint. Serve immediately or set aside and serve at room temperature.

Main dish for 3, Side dish for 6

About My CSA and the Farmers

There are certain disadvantages to living in a large city. Small crammped living accomodations, confusing one-way streets and the never ending battle to find “free” parking. It of course has its advantages- great restuarants, happening nightlife and when you are a mom, a budding cook or a foodie like myself- a weekly farmers market.

I remember when my bestie was living in the city and was able to get CSA delivery to her door. I was insanely jealous. I searched the web but could not find anyone doing delivery down to the “burbs” where I live. So, when I saw the sign at the Dutch Farmers vegetable stand one day I was overjoyed. At first I was hesitant to commit myself to schlepping year-round on a Tuesday afternoon in sun, rain or wind with two small children to an outdoor  market to get veggies. I decided to sign up for the 3 months and see how it goes. The rest of course, is history.

Tuesday afternoons at the Farmers Market is part of our routine. As much a part as going to work or dropping my oldest off at preschool. It’s just what we do. The kids love it as much as I do and on days when the weather is nice there is plenty of other things to peruse at the market besides fruits and vegetables. I would venture to bet most people go to shop and eat at the food stands rather than to buy vegetables, which is really a shame. Not only are they paying more at a regular grocery store, but they aren’t getting unique varieties, locally-sourced and organic. The week the farmers went on vacation I tried to replicate my CSA Bag (see “Getting This Week’s Fix”) and I had to go to three different stores and was unable to really replicate the freshness and quality of what I get every week.

I don’t know why more people aren’t taking advantages of CSA’s. It seems some people aren’t informed of what they are, but in general I find that most people feel they “don’t have the time” to cook with ingredients they are unfamiliar with. 

I hear comments like -” Won’t I get tired of the same items over and over?” and “What would I do if I got four squash in one week?”

I always reply the same- “You read my blog, that’s what you do!”

My recipes are geared toward families, they are relatively easy and I try to keep the ingredients and prep to a minimum. I cook for my family at least 5 nights a week all while two small children whine, cry, pester and cling to my legs. So for heaven’s sakes, don’t use the children as an excuse not to get involved. The more familiar your children are with you cooking with vegetables the less hesitation you will see with them trying new things. Is there anything more impressive at party than someone’s child eating a bunch of veggies of their own free will? I am always impressed at the sight.

I should note however, it’s never my children eating the raw veggies. But still, a girl can dream…

If I can convert one family a month over to supporting their local farmer and eating organic veggies then I feel like I’m doing my part to change the world. Once you start with a CSA it’s unlikely you will go back to buying vegetables anywhere else than a farmstand.

If you live in a major metropolitan area there are plenty of Farmers Markets to choose from. If you live further out, it may be more difficult for you to find a CSA or a regular market. I do think that if you could find enough friends and neighbors to support it there is likely a farmer in your area who would be thrilled to sell you their veggies.

A good resource for all things organic in larger cities, including CSA’s and Farmers Markets is www.ecovian.com

San Diego County where I live has page on the county website listing all the Certified Farmer’s Markets, the locations, dates and times. This may be the case in other counties as well and if you are having a hard time finding markets in your area I would start my search on your county website.

If you live in San Diego and are willing to pick up your produce at one of the local farmer’s markets I highly recommend the Dutch Farmers CSA whom I use. You can reach them at their website- www.dutchfarmers.com 

Maybe I’ll see you next week at the Farmers Market…

Kumquat and Jalapeno Chutney

My sister hadn’t gotten the dinner memo. So when she arrived for family dinner this week she began a line of questioning that went something like this…

Her- “What’s that?”

Me- “Kumquat and Jalapeno Chutney to serve with the chicken”

Her- “What’s this?”

Me- “Deconstructed Kumquat and Beet Salad”

Her- “What’s for dessert?”

Me- “Kumquat Tea Cake”

Her- “Is there anything here that doesn’t have kumquats in it?”

Me- “No. You know I’m in the middle of The Kumquat Project on my blog”

Her- Blank stare.

Me- “You are reading the blog, aren’t you?”

Her- Blank stare.

Me- I cannot believe you are not reading my blog!

At this point, Hubs grabs the kids and runs for cover. He’s worried WWIII is incoming.

Her- “Well, in my defense I eat the exact same thing every day…and, I don’t like to cook.”

Fair enough. I said we were sisters. I didn’t say we were twins.

It’s true, Workout Sis eats the same thing every day. Some rotation of egg whites, oatmeal, chicken, protein bars and lettuce seems to fill her 3 square-a-day. Which is why Workout Sis is in rockin’ good shape. I however, would go on a hunger strike if I had to eat the same 5 things over and over again.

Hubs emerged from his hiding place. The coast seemed clear. I even convinced her to put a small amount of “kumquat diversity” on her plate- which even she will admit, she enjoyed.

This recipe is versatile and easy. It makes enough to serve multiple nights. The first night we served with Roast Chicken, although I think a nice white fish like Halibut or Sea Bass would be lovely as well. The second night I served it atop toasted baguette with goat cheese in a Bruchetta fashion.

Both were a hit. I hope you enjoy them too…

Kumquat and Jalapeno Chutney

2 cups kumquats, halved and seeded

1 jalapeno, seeded

1 medium yellow onion, halved

1 16 oz can Diced Peaches, syrup reserved

1/2 C. brown sugar

In a food processor (a mini-chop would work fine) pulse the halved and seeded kumquats 4-5 times, do not puree. Repeat with halved yellow onion until finely diced. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the reserved peach syrup and the chopped kumquats along with diced onions for 5 minutes. Seed 1 jalapeno and put in processor to finely dice. Add to kumquat onion mixture along with 1/2 C. brown sugar. Stir over medium heat for 1 minute. Turn heat to low and cover with lid and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add diced peaches. Allow to cool completely before placing in a dish to store in fridge. Will last up to 5 days in the fridge.

 

 

Kumquat Tea Cake

Sometimes I have to drive Hubs’ Man-Car. It’s a bumpy, noisy, rough-riding beast of a vehicle that has none of the conveniences and charms that the Foodie enjoys in her Volvo. Every time I drive Hubs’ car we end up having the same conversation and it goes something like this…

Me- “Babe! I’m in your car and I can’t see from the side view mirrors! I can’t figure out which button to push! Help!”

Hubs- “Ok, you see the button right under the radio, push that down.”

Me- “I did! That just rolls down the window!”

Hubs- “Yes dear, roll down the window and stick your hand out and move the mirror.”

Me- “What the?…”

Hubs’ car is not an oldie, in fact it’s quite new. Why it comes without modern conveniences such as movable mirrors and doors that have hinges I’ll never understand. It makes him and the baby very happy though, confirming it must be a man thing, so I just deal.

Another thing which irks me when driving Hubs’ car is that he doesn’t have any of my radio stations saved. So I have to do that “scan” mode and wait until I find something decent to listen to. Last night on a long drive in the man-car I heard a song I liked, The Police, “Every Breath You Take”. Huh, I thought, why don’t I listen to this station in my car?

That’s when I saw it. The one word that sends any 30 or 40-something into a near state of panic and shock.

I was listening to the Oldies station.

Seriously? When did Sting become an Oldie? I’m tres’ depressed.

Of course, not all Oldies are bad and I’m not necessarily referring  to music or cars. I’m talking about old-fashioned style tea breads and cakes.

The Kumquat Project had to have a sweet recipe and here it is. This is a recipe heavily adapted from one I found in a decade old copy of Bon Appetite by Mary and Sarah Coepering. It’s adapted not because I didn’t like their recipe but rather in true form I didn’t have the right ingredients or enough of them. Since I never like to wake a napping baby to run to the store, I had no choice but to adapt. I made this Kumquat Tea Cake in both loaf and cake pans. I noticed that after baking the sliced kumquats on top were quite bitter and tangy, but this cake is best if made a day ahead which allows the kumquat slices to soak up some glaze which makes them sweet and almost candied.

So crank up your Police and bake this cake. They are now both Oldies and Goodies….

Kumquat Tea Cake

2 cups kumquats, halved and seeded & 5 kumquats thinly sliced

3 cups All-Purpose Flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsps. instand tea powder

1 tsp. cardamom

2 tsps. sea salt

3/4 C. sugar

1/2 C. brown sugar, packed

3/4 C. Vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple

1/2 stick melted butter

1.5 C. powdered sugar

 In a food processor, puree the 2 cups halved kumquats 2-3 minutes. Use 2/3 cup in cake and set aside 1/3 cup for glaze.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the inside of the loaf or cake pans. I used the butter wrappers to grease and Wondra superfine flour to dust the pans.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt.

Combine sugar, brown sugar and oil with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute. Add vanilla, 2/3 cup kumquat puree and 8 oz can crushed pineapple. Add dry ingredients a cup a time and continue to mix until blended.

Bake cakes in oven 25 min. for round 9-in cake pans and 35 min. for loaf pan.

While cakes are baking, melt 1/2 stick of butter. Whisk with 1/3 cup kumquat puree. Sift 1.5 cups powdered sugar and whisk into buttery kumquat puree. When cakes are removed from oven allow them to rest for 5 minutes and then remove from pan to cooling rack and smooth glaze over cakes while warm. Top with thinly sliced kumquats. Store overnight wrapped in plastic wrap.

Deconstructed Roasted Kumquat and Beet Salad

The Kumquat Project continues with this delicious Roasted Kumquat and Beet Salad. My love for candy-cane striped beets started that fateful summer I attempted to grow my own garden. Maybe it was because they were the one of the only vegetables that grew and I felt an instant admiration for anything surviving my black thumb. From the moment I pulled those 3 beets from my garden I knew it was the beginning of a love that I had never previously acquired for beets.

I was thrilled to see them in my CSA basket this week along with golden beets which give the same flavor but not the mess of the red ones. I’ve made a Roasted Beet and Orange Salad (see recipe) but last night I decided to change it up a bit and toss the whole kumquats in with the beets to roast. Turns out if you cut the beets in quarters they will roast at roughly the same pace as a whole kumquat. Who knew?  The result was magnificent.

I chose goat cheese to accompany the salad, quite frankly because it was what was in the fridge. Hubs quickly picked up on the perfect pair that the roasted kumquat and goat cheese combo made. In fact that pairing was so nice I’m going to try to work it into another creation before this project is over. For those of you with children, I must admit, I cannot get my children to eat this sort of meal. I had been trying kumquat creations all day and by the time I was picking my daughter up at school I mentioned to another mom that Hubs and the kids were getting “Sloppy Joes” for dinner. I’m pretty sure she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.

While Hubs and I ate the deconstructed salad as our main course, we started with “appetizers” of what I had made for the children’s dinner which were “Sloppy Joe Sliders”. It can’t always be a fancy meal over here. So with our Slider Joes (recipe listed below)  and our Decontructed Kumquat and Beet Salad, we turned an average Tuesday night into quite a feast.

Deconstructed Roasted Kumquat and Beet Salad

12 Kumquats

6-8 beets, any variety, quartered

1 bag mixed salad greens

4 oz herb and garlic goat cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of 2 small lemons

1/2 tsp. stoneground mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. On a rimmed cookie sheet toss whole kumquats and quartered beets in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble goat cheese over mixed salad greens in serving bowl. Salt and pepper lettuce to taste.

Lastly, in a small bowl whisk olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and stoneground mustard. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

When the kumquats and beets are done serve in a separate dish and allow guests to add the amount they want to their mixed greens. The warmth of the beets and kumquats will almost melt the goat cheese as combines with dressing but will also make the greens a bit limp, which isn’t ideal if you end up having leftovers.  Top each salad with dressing and serve immediately.

Feeds 6 as a side, 3 as a main course

Slider Joes

 

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

1 medium zucchini, finely diced

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

1 can Manwhich (I know, but I had a coupon)

1 package slider buns

Over medium heat cook ground meat, chopped zucchini and onion until cooked. Stir in one can Manwhich.

Serve over slider buns.

Makes 8 Sliders.

 

 

Kumquat Curry Chicken

Every once in a while the synapses in my brain actually fire and connect. I’m a mother of two small children and I’m certain pregnancy ate away some fairly decent brain cells that I’ve never been able to get back. Half the time I can’t even hear myself think between the chatty 4-year-old and the crying baby. So when I drove over to my grandparents property the other day and in a rare moment my children were completely silent, my brain snatched the opportunity to re-boot.  What it spit out was one word- Kumquat.  Oh no, I thought, not the kumquat tree that I’ve driven by a zillion times in the past 20 years. Not the tree I’ve been avoiding and never once have stopped to pick any of its fruit.

But these days I’m thinking differently, like I said synapses are starting to fire over here.

I’ve been so worked up about cooking what is in the weekly CSA basket that I’ve been ignoring the free fruit falling from the tree on our family property. I decided over the weekend to change that. If I can make weeds taste good (See Corn Strata and Dandelion Greens) then I can do something with this odd citrus where the flesh is tart and the skin is what tastes good.

So this week I embark on “The Kumquat Project”. I only picked a single grocery bag full and the tree looks like it is still about to fall over with excessive fruit. If you live near me and would like a bag to join me on my project, let me know and I will be happy to get you your own bag free of charge.

I almost had a nervous breakdown when at 5pm I was trying to put this recipe together and realized those tiny little kumquats have 2 seeds in each! Now I have got to seed these little things? Suddenly my synapse firing moment didn’t seem so brilliant. Would Hubs noticed if I didn’t remove the seeds? I mean I fed him a weed strata the other day so maybe seeds wouldn’t be so weird?

But then I realized I just needed to “halve” the kumquat and “squeeze” out the seeds. So what if I lose some juice? The juice is the bitter part anyway, the skin is really what matters. So, I timed myself- 3 minutes to halve and seed 20 kumquats. Not so bad. The Kumquat Project will continue….

To offset the bitterness I decided to use prunes. I know this may sound gross, as I surmised from the look on my neighbor’s face when I told her my plan. You can absolutely substitute dates but in all honesty when the prunes cooked down you couldn’t even tell what it was and it did add a nice sweetness to the dish.  Like any curry, this would be quite adaptable to a vegetarian dish with potatoes, carrots and maybe some cauliflower in lieu of chicken. I served over Quinoa rather than traditional couscous only because Hubs is back on that whole P90x thing again. Also, I didn’t have couscous, but I like to let Hubs believe I’m “catering” to his diet.

So this is part 1 of  The Kumquat Project. Look for a salsa and bread to come later in the week….

Kumquat Curry Chicken

 

1 organic chicken, skin on cut into 8 pieces

1 bag frozen pearl onions

20 Kumquats, halved and seeded (see note above)

4 oz prunes, quartered

6 Tbl. Majestic Garlic, Curry Flavor (see Majestic Garlic post for ordering info)

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Tbl. Olive Oil

Couscous, Quinoa or Rice, cooked to serve

This is a one-dish meal. I love my 9qt Le Crueset dutch oven (See Must-Haves) for this kind of meal but you can use anything you have that will hold a chicken and has a lid.

Heat olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat and brown the chicken, skin side down.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle 1/2 tsp cinnamon over the chicken. Add 1 bag pearl onions, seeded and halved kumquats and 4 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Curry flavor. Mix together and reduce heat to medium-low, with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 

Then add the quartered prunes and remaining 2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Curry. Combine and cook over low heat until chicken is fully cooked, about 15 more minutes.

Serve over couscous, rice or quinoa.

Makes 4 portions. 

Corn Strata with Dandelion Greens

There must be some spring cleaning this week at The Dutch Farmers CSA farm because now I’m getting their weeds in my veggie basket. The farmer smiled when she handed them to me and said “I can’t wait to see what you do with these. They are very healthy, but well…maybe not so tasty”.

That evening I received a text from my CSA friend and our conversation went something like this-

“What is this? It looks like a weed.” (photo of dandelion greens attached).

“It is” I replied.

“Seriously? I just put it in my mouth and it’s the most disgusting thing ever”, she replies.

“Great! Can I have yours for a recipe I’m trying?” I ask.

“Sure, let me fish them outta the trash” 🙂

When I said I had a black thumb and would be unable to feed my family in apocalyptic times (see CSA Junkie),  I didn’t realize the weeds I’d been yanking out of my yard were edible. Looks like I can grow something edible after all!  A quick internet search will reveal a zillion websites touting their healthy properties. About 2 will give you a recipe. These were their suggestions- Mix into salad! or Saute with olive oil, salt and pepper!

 Wow. I couldn’t have managed those two on my own.

If I’m going to feed my in-laws and extended family weeds on Easter Sunday I’m going to have to make it sexier than “mixed into a green salad”. I decide to treat them like chard and separate the stem and the greens. I decide only to use the greens. I have a great recipe for a Corn Strata and corn is naturally sweet which I hope will off-set the bitterness of the dandelion greens. I also add 3 C. of extra-sharp cheddar cheese which pretty much makes anything taste amazing. If you don’t have weeds and can’t find dandelion greens at your store (I’m guessing you may not) I would substitute another green such as kale, spinach or chard and use in this recipe.

I finely chopped the greens so as not to overpower. They added a beautiful look to the strata. Everyone who tried it loved it even my father, Papa Foodie who now has a love-hate relationship with the weed. He loved the strata, but he hates whacking down 4 acres of the weed annually. Maybe we’ll start “harvesting” rather than whacking. If you do decide to eat your own weeds I would only do so if you do not spray on pesticides which I’m pretty sure negates any healthy effect and may in fact kill you.

I feel like this weed has a bad and somewhat misunderstood rap. Those who seek it out do so for health benefits  but probably aren’t really enjoying its consumption. It reminds me of one of my daughter’s favorite books about a misunderstood creature who appears ferocious but is really in fact a dandelion-eating Basset Hound with antlers.  

“Peering into the light, they didn’t notice the other creatures of the forest, frozen in fear, gazing at the sight below…Retreat! Fall Back! Backpedal! commanded Opus…The Jaws gaped! The monster drew in his lungs for a final, dandelion-filled breath, and then…he sneezed…Dandelions always do dat to basselopes, he said. We really shouldn’t eat dem. But we do love dem so.”                             

Excerpt from- The Last Basselope” by Berkeley Breathed.

 

Corn Strata with Dandelion Greens

This is a great brunch, potluck or do-ahead dish to feed a crowd

3 cups frozen white corn, defrosted and drained

Dandelion Greens, I used about 3 oz, very finely diced

5 large green onions, sliced

3 Tbl. butter

8 large eggs

2 Cups 1% milk

6 Shakes of Louisiana Red Hot Sauce

2 tsp. stone-ground mustard

1 1lb loaf of good quality white bread

3 cups of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and Pepper to taste

Coast a 13×9 dish with butter or non-stick spray. I like to use the wrappers from butter and smear it all over the pan.

 In a large saucepan melt 3 Tbl. butter and saute defrosted and drained corn with finely chopped dandelion greens and diced green onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Sautee for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a seperate bowl, beat 8 eggs and add in 2 cups milk, 6 shakes hot sauce, 2 tsp mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove crusts from loaf and arrange on the bottom of prepared dish. Cover with the corn/dandelion green mixture. Add 1.5 cups of grated extra-sharp cheddar (the extra sharp really is better than regular sharp cheddar in this recipe). Cover with half the egg mixture.

Repeat by layering bread on top, covering with 1.5 cups of cheese and covering with the remaining egg mixture. Press down top layer of bread and cheese to ensure egg mixure has soaked top layer.

At this point, I put plastic wrap over and refridgerate up to 3 days prior to baking. If making ahead of time, remove pan from fridge at least one hour prior to baking so that it comes to room temperature.

Pre-heat oven to 350 and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until browned on top and set in the middle.

Serves 10-12 

 

 

 

Pimm’s Easter Brunch Punch

Have you ever had to dress up as the Easter Bunny and have 250 kids follow you around in the sweltering heat? I have. It’s a holiday tradition at Hubs’ work. The big joke is deciding which “lucky” family member  gets to dress up as the E.B. each year.  I got conned into it a few years back. I was completely traumatized. We were newly married but  still didn’t have kids (clearly, I married for love). Now that I have my own kids I think I’ve got a legitimate excuse for the next few years. If not, at least I’ve great drink option to swig before I get back in.

It’s hot in that costume. Really hot- even if the temperature outside is average. I “lucked out” and ended up in the costume on a 90 degree April day. What did I tell you about Murphy and his Law following me around? (see “Boat Day” for details). My sweltering 90 minutes as the E.B. gave me great respect for the “characters” at Disneyland, that’s for sure. They only have to wear those costumes for 20 minutes at a time and have escorts to keep the “problem” children at bay. Hubs does not work for Disney, there was no 20 minute break and I was totally on my own with small children clinging to my legs.

I first fell in love with Pimm’s No. 1 when Hubs and I were in Australia. It wasn’t readily available here in the states until recently. Now, it’s popping up all over the place at trendy bars and restaurants. Pimm’s No. 1 pairs well with citrus flavors, ginger beer and oddly enough fresh sliced cucumber as you may find in a classic “Pimm’s Punch”. My CSA basket didn’t have cucumber, but did have loads of grapefruit and orange. This cocktail is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. I had my bottle of simple syrup handy, but in the end didn’t feel like it needed it. If you like super sweet cocktails you may want to add some to taste.

So even if your Easter doesn’t involve sweltering hot bunny costumes or overly-hopped-up-on-sugar children, this Easter Brunch Punch will certainly hit the spot.

Pimm’s Easter Brunch Punch

1.5 shots Pimm’s No. 1

juice of 1 grapefruit

juice of 1 orange

simple syrup (optional)

There is no substitute for the unique flavor of Pimm’s No. 1. You can find it at BevMo and some grocery stores.

Juice and strain 1 medium-sized grapefruit and orange. Muddle with 1 and a half shots of Pimm’s No. 1. Add simple syrup if desired. Serve over Ice with orange wedge.

Makes 1 drink

Ms. Bacon’s Broccoli Salad

I know one of the many reasons Hubs become fast friends with our Colorado visitor, her maiden name is Bacon. We know how Hubs loves all things Bacon. Bacon’s hubby tells us how he tried in vain to get the “It’s BACON!!!! bacon,bacon,bacon,bacon” sound clip from the Beggin Strips people so he could announce his new bride at their wedding reception. Beggin Strips declined. I’m not sure if that ended up being a good or bad thing for Mr. Bacon-Hubby but I sure wish I’d have seen that if he had pulled it off. That is the sort of thing that current You-Tube sensationalism is made of.

After our failed attempt at “Boat Day” (see Boat Day Beet and Blue Cheese wraps for details) we gamed and noshed from the comfort of our family room. Hubs being the competitive guy he is- taunting seemed to be the go-to appetizer. Hubs and I have a sorted history with board games as neither of us like to lose and things tend to turn ugly rather quickly when we are on opposing sides. Which is why Hubs loves to be competitive with Bacon, because even if she gets mad at him, he won’t have to sleep on the couch. I happily excluded myself from this round but would occasionally hear Hubs shout things like “I fry Bacon for breakfast” after he landed a triple word Scrabble score. Thankfully, Bacon always had something equally snarky to say in return. At the end of  the Scrabble App championship Bacon did reign supreme.

As I eyed her across the room and gave her a secret “girls rule” thumbs up, the very least I could do to honor her was make this broccoli salad with her namesake…

Ms. Bacon’s Broccoli Salad

4 cups broccoli chopped into small pieces

8 small carrots shredded (or 3 oz purchased shredded carrot)

3/4 C. golden raisins

5 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 C. mayo (can use low-fat)

1/4 C. Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tbl Sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

This salad is best made a few hours to a full day in advance to let the flavors meld. In a separate bowl, combine mayo, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Chop brocoli into small pieces and shred carrots in a food processor (or buy-pre-shredded if not in your CSA basket). I like to cook bacon by baking it on a cookie cooling rack over a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven (350 for around 20-25 minutes). Cook in your preferred method and crumble. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Store refrigerated until serving.

 

“Boat Day” Beet, Blue Cheese and Walnut Wraps

I’ve always felt Murphy and his Law have followed me around. This week I learned, Murphy knows my friends from Boulder. What a disappointment to fly from snow country only to arrive in San Diego where the high was averaging 62 degrees and sporting a gusty bone chilling wind. Worst yet is to hear that back home they were having a heat wave and it was 85 degrees. Oh Murphy… you scoundrel.

All week we had planned on taking our friends out on the boat in the bay. It’s such a fun way to see the San Diego skyline. It was going to be our adult reward for suffering through countless alcohol-free theme parks. I planned a meal especially for our day. We woke up, the sky looked dodgy, then it started to rain. We decided to skip the boat, the Dramamine and potential ear aches in all four children.

Since I’m a planner our meal had been made the night before. We happily ate it in our family room while the adults did that new sort of “gaming” where everyone sits in the same room and plays crossword with each other on their respective cell phones all while ignoring the whines of small children nearby.

The wrap was a hit, even from those like Hubs who aren’t the biggest fans of blue cheese. I tried substituting goat cheese for Hubs but even he agreed it lacked the pizzazz the beet/blue combo created.

Next time our friends visit, we hope Murphy will be at someone else’s house so we can get a rain check on “Boat Day”.

“Boat Day” Beet, Blue Cheese and Walnut Wraps

5 beets, cooked

6 oz blue cheese

1/3 C. chopped walnuts

handful of spinach

4 whole wheat tortillas

In a food processor,  puree the cooked beets until smooth. For this recipe I cooked the beets in a glass dish in the microwave with the beets covered in water until they were soft and a knife easily pierced through.  After pureeing the beets, pulse in the blue cheese a few times leaving it somewhat lumpy. Add pepper if desired. Stir in by hand  the 1/3 Cup chopped walnuts. Spread over whole wheat tortillas and top with spinach. Roll like a burrito and place in ziploc bags for transport.

Beach Picnic Tuna Salad with Chard Confetti

This week is spring break and I have done the unthinkable. I’ve gone to Disneyland, Sea World and Legoland with my two small children in the past 5 days.  I’m in need of my own break and a good deal of therapy as 2 of the 3 parks do not sell alcohol to their adult visitors. Add in our friends visiting from Boulder with their 2 kids and we total 4 kids 4 years old and under. We spent the majority of our days thankful our tubes were tied and wandering around each park in search of adult beverages. When we asked one of the parks why they were treating us so poorly by refusing to sell us anything to make our day more tolerable, they said that they had sold alcohol in the past but “people kept leaving their children behind”. Shocking, yet totally believable.

Another shocking discovery is that not all parks let you bring in your own food. As if we weren’t shelling out enough money to get inside, now we’ve got to cough up $7 for a kiddie hot dog and $9 for a beer (well actually, I’d have paid twice that with the 4 kids in tow).

I hit a wall eating burgers and park food very quickly, so when we decided to take a “break” and do a beach day with the kids (not really sure that counts as a break) I felt I needed to bring out something portable and healthy.

Last week I’d committed to adding more confetti to my life (see “Mixed Green Salad with Chard Confetti”) and because I didn’t have any celery it was just the crunch my tuna salad needed. I also added some dill-flavored Majestic Garlic spread (see “Majestic Garlic” for purchase info) and it added the perfect zing without any extra work. My Boulder friend who was visiting neglected to tell me she did not like tuna salad and I sensed she felt obligated to try some when I brought it to our beach day. She tells me it was the first time she has ever liked tuna salad. I take that as a major victory! That and the fact we didn’t have to wait in any lines with crying children wishing we had $9 beers to console us.

Yes, Beach Picnic Day was a victory indeed….

 

Beach Picnic Tuna Salad with Chard Confetti

3 cans tuna, I like 2 cans all white and 1 can light chunk

1/4 C. mayo

2 Tbl. Dijon mustard

2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Dill (see Majestic Garlic for purchase info)

10 Stalks multi-color chard stems, diced fine

3 kosher dill pickle spears, diced

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Crackers for serving

Drain tuna and flake into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup mayo, 2 Tbl Dijon and 2 Tbl Majestic Garlic Dill. Combine. Dice chard stems and 3 kosher dill pickle spears and mix into tuna. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pack in portable container over ice. Don’t forget the crackers!

 

Mixed Green Salad with Radishes, Cashews and Chard Confetti

As I was sitting in the audience at Rock of Ages the big-hair 80’s musical, getting shot at with glitter confetti guns and rockin’ my head so hard I may need to visit the chiropractor today, I came away thinking I needed to add two more things to my daily life- more big hair metal downloads and more confetti.

 I must confess, for a former vegetarian I’m not particularly fond of salad. It’s possible that part of my issue resolves from the fact that most salads are filled with an “everything but the kitchen sink” vibe to them. Don’t ask me why but my tastes trend toward simple salads with a handful of ingredients- Cesar, The Wedge, Arugula and Parmesan. Having been on the CSA for 9 months now I’ve become quite persnickty about my mixed greens and lettuces. If you are a salad person and are not growing your own lettuce and still haven’t joined a CSA you really don’t know what you are missing!

Here is a money-saving tip, make your own salad dressing. Seriously. It takes 5 seconds and tastes 100x better. With the average price of dressing around $3.50, I cannot think of a better waste of money.  With that $3.50 you save you can download 3 songs from Poison or Bon Jovi and relive your youth. Trust me, it ain’t “Nothing But a Good Time”…

 You really only need 3 main ingredients to make a good dressing and you likely have them on hand Olive oil, Dijon mustard and some type of vinegar -I like Apple Cider, Balsamic, White Balsamic and lemon juice (fresh squeezed). With those items stocked in your pantry, you can make several great dressings. I’ll save ranch and blue cheese for another blog.

I saved the Chard Stems from my Chard Fritters. As chard leaves and stems cook very differently it is usually best to separate them before cooking. Tonight, I decided to chop them up very small and sprinkle them in the salad, the same as you might do with celery. Because my CSA has Chard of all colors it added this beautiful confetti look. The crunch was perfect just like celery. Toss in some thinly slice some radishes and a handful of cashews and top with your homemade dressing.

This quick salad is perfect for a weeknight dinner or something fun enough for your inner-Rockstar.

Mixed Green Salad with Radishes, Cashews and Chard Confetti

6 oz mixed greens

1 small head butter lettuce

5 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 C. raw cashews

Chard stems, diced

For the Dressing-

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard

Whisk all ingredient together. The mustard helps to emulsify the dressing. You can make extra and it will hold in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 I used lemon juice here instead of a vinegar because I was also serving the Salmon with Grapefruit Salsa and I thought the citrus in this dressing was a nice pairing. I think white balsamic would be nice too with this salad. I really like the olive oils and vinegars coming from Temecula Olive Oil Company.

Grapefruit Salsa a great topping for Chicken or Fish

The baby is like a daily reminder of the great Pavlov Dog experiment where Ivan Pavlov would ring a bell and the dogs began to salivate in anticipation of the food. The baby’s Pavlov experiment involves the tasting corner at Trader Joes. He will lip-smack and point until we get to the station, heaven help us if we’ve timed our day wrong and they don’t have any treats ready. The baby generally has a good appetite and will eat anything, especially if it comes out of the tasting corner. That was until they tried to sell him on their new Ruby Rio Grapefruit Juice. The sour contorted look on his face was priceless. Him tossing the full cup on the ground in disgust however was less than priceless.

As mentioned in my previous blog Pomelo Margarita, I am not a fan of grapefruit. Yet, there it is in my CSA basket this week. If I had to endure a diet that consisted of grapefruit for breakfast I’d rather starve. I don’t believe you can put enough sugar on it to make me want to eat it especially at breakfast, a meal which I believe should consist solely of carbs and coffee.

At least the baby has my back. I decide we must do something to make this fruit palatable. It will never suit my palate at breakfast so when the in-laws brought over some salmon to grill, I decided to whip up this quick salsa to accompany.  Hubs soaked some cedar planks and smoked the fish in the pouring rain (the 30 minutes it decided to rain this week had to occur when we were grilling outdoors).  The result was actually quite good and would also be great on chicken and other types of seafood.  

Grapefruit Salsa

2 medium-sized grapefruit

1 large orange

1 Roma tomato

5 Tbl. freshly chopped cilantro

1 Tbl. Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Peel and slice grapefruit and oranges. Chop the tomato into smaller pieces. Toss gently with olive oil and chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over cooked fish or chicken.

Chard Fritters with Spicy Aioli

The in-laws were coming to Sunday dinner and to watch the Mad Men Premiere. I suspect my father-in-law would eat anything I put in front of him, however, Ma-in-Law is not the veggie lover.  I did let them know I’d be testing out some recipes on them and my Ma-in-Law said that was great, as long as I was alright with the fact she might not eat anything. This ratchets up the stress level a wee bit.

It was a complete gamble and I was in the gambling kind of mood. Due to a variety of distractions over the week I had a surplus of my CSA goodies and needed to use as many as possible in one dinner. It’s still technically winter in terms of what we are receiving. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how excited I am for spring and summer veggies to hit my basket. I’ve come to learn and love all things winter veggies but a part of me has a much better understanding for what it must have been like living off the land like the days of our ancestors. How tired they must have been of eating the same items over and over, with no taco shops to break the monotony.

I decided to tackle the chard. If I can get Ma-in-Law to eat chard, it will be a huge victory. I’ve made it many different ways (see Winter Greens series) however tonight by necessity was going to be different. We had breakfast at this wonderful new diner we have recently discovered and on the menu were corn fritters. My Granny used to make them every time she would visit us when I was a child. Why not substitute chard for corn? A quick look online tells me it’s never been done which means one of two things- 1. I’m going to create something brilliant or 2. It’s so unbearable no one would dare eat it, let alone Ma-in-Law.

So I went about it in a corn fritter meets zucchini pancake sort of way. More eggs than flour, but let the vegetable speak for themselves. It was likely my biggest culinary gamble yet. But, over the years I’ve found you can get people to eat all sorts of strange things if they are fried (at least that’s how I was duped into eating Rattlesnake one time in Arizona).  Let’s hope Ma-in-Law approves.

First taste, it was good but needed a sauce of some sort. Ma-in-Law likes mayo, I decide to make a spicy aioli.

Final result at the dinner table- Outstanding success! Ma-in-Law asks for seconds on the fritters and mentions how I could make them smaller as an appetizer for parties. Everyone agrees its fabulous.

Clearly my devious plan to trick the world into eating more veggies is starting to take hold. Watch out other veggie-loathing kin-folk I’m coming for you next….

Chard Fritters with Spicy Aioli

1 bunch chard, stems removed and saved, leaves chopped

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 C.  All-Purpose Flour

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Vegetable oil for frying

Remove stems from chard and set aside for tomorrow’s recipe. Coarsely chop leaves and place in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 eggs which have been beaten and Dijon mustard mix together. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and then sprinkle and mix into the chard mixture. Add fresh ground pepper to taste. The “batter” will look mainly like greens that are a bit wet with egg. This is not a heavy batter fritter.

Heat your oven to 200 degrees so you can keep your fritters warm.  In a large frying pan over medium to medium high heat pour vegetable oil to coat the pan. Add about 1/4 cup of batter at a time frying 4-6 fritters at once.

Fry each fritter until brown and crispy and set in oven to keep warm. I dabbed off any excess oil.

Spicy Aioli

Mix together equal parts mayo and Majestic Garlic Cayenne (see Majestic Garlic for link to purchase). Serve on top of fritters.

Broccoli and Sun-dried Tomato Pizza

I haven’t made pizza since Hubs did that whole P90x thing and threw us into the semi-mythical world I refer to as  “Proteindom”. It is a carb-less world, so in essence very sad, but there are lots of skinny people there who seem to be happy or at least are pretending quite well.

I suspect many of you have made a trek or two into “Proteindom” either through Atkins, Zone, Sugarbusters or some other diet where you weren’t entirely sure what you had signed up for. As the wife of a man in “Proteindom”, I wore a constant scowl- mama loves her some carbs. My options were slim- either make multiple meals (me, new-muscle-man Hubs, and the kids), let Hubs starve, or jump on the bandwagon and pray this nonsense ends soon. Thankfully, I find that most journeys here are round-trip as one can only give up the carb-love for so long.

There was one good thing that came from that fateful summer I grew only 2 tomatoes and 3 very small shriveled beets…and that one thing is making Pizza.  As per my Animal, Vegetable, Miracle experience (see CSA Junkie), I started making homemade pizzas on Friday nights. It became a wonderful ritual at the end of our very busy weeks. I came up with a million different pizza recipes and this one sticks out as one of my favorites. I of course, have a wonderful recipe for a very easy pizza crust listed below but please note that several grocers will sell raw pizza dough and I find that these are a perfectly acceptable substitute for time and sanity.

I have all sorts of pizza making gear- the stone, the pizza peel, the fancy cutter. After buying the Breville Convection Countertop Oven (see Must-Haves), I make most of my pizza in there. It comes with a pizza pan and even has a pizza setting. It is almost idiot-proof and best of all won’t make your kitchen 1,000 degrees on a hot Friday summer night.

Broccoli and Sun-dried Tomato Pizza

If making your own dough-

1 envelope active dry yeast

1/2 C. tepid water

1 2/3 C. All-purpose Flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbl. Olive Oil

Combine flour, salt and yeast in a bowl and mix. Make a well in the center. Add water and olive oil and stir to combine. Knead dough on floured surface 10 minutes or in a mixer with a dough hook for 5. Rub oil over dough and return to bowl. Cover with cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour. Roll out for a 12 in base. Makes 1 pizza.

Toppings-

about 6 oz Roasted Broccoli (see How I get my family to eat “it”)

6 oz pizza sauce

6 oz shredded mozzarella

3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, drained

Cornmeal (for pizza stone or pan allows for no sticking and easy removal)

For Kid-Friendly Pizza– I take the roasted broccoli and blend it in the mini-prep food processor. I layer it first on the dough, then top with sauce and then with cheese. I leave out the sun-dried tomatoes. We usually have two pizzas ours and the kid-friendly version. If you do so the same double both the recipes listed above.

For Regular Version– layer sauce, cheese and top with tomatoes and broccoli. I bake at 450 for 18 minutes in the Breville which is 4 minutes more than the setting for a 14″ fresh pizza is set for. I like my cheese a bit crispy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slim-Down Southern Spanakopita

Just when I thought I’d named every bacon there was in last week’s blog, I sat down to lunch with my girlfriend today and nearly fainted. Bacon Sushi. Yes, it exists and it is every bit as wonderful as you imagine it would be. No, it is not raw bacon. It’s merely all your favorite rolls with bacon shoved inside. Clearly, I’ve recovered from my cleanse and what better way to dive head-first into my foodie lifestyle than with a new amazing concoction? To be honest, I’m tres disappointed I didn’t come up with it first.  I suspect it will be Hubs and my next date night. www.sabukusushi.com

So what does Bacon Sushi have to do with Slim Down Southern Spanakopita? Well, for starters there is bacon in both. Second, as I dined with my Tennessee born-and-bred friend I was somewhat saddened to hear that she had not be reading all my blogs (insert a lone tear). Why? Because she, like so many others don’t like veggies. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe, but they are out there in a somewhat massive force. They are likely the same people my children will end up to be if my efforts to get them to eat greens via this CSA journey fails.

I’m used to tricking small children into eating my treats, but the grownups who dislike veg, well that is a whole other problem. I decide I must attempt in this recipe and moving forward to include recipes that will eventually bring them into my devious farm-to-table vegetable eating world (insert- maniacal laugh).

I decide to leave out the vegetable in the title. Why scare them away so quickly? The next trick I shall use will be adding the word “Southern”, which implies fattening and possibly deep-fried. I then quickly add the words- “Slim Down” so as not to lose everyone else.

The result is damn good, one part ode to the South with the turkey bacon and collard greens. Yet, also a slim down version that only requires 1% milk which results in a slightly more Spankopita product than Quiche (which is how it originally started).

Will it work to lure in the non-veggies eaters? I can’t be sure, but the fact that there is pie crust makes it more possible. 

 I can only hope that like the non-sushi eater who walks into Sabuku in search of the next bacon craze, that they fall head over heels in love with a completely new experience. 

Hubs nods his head in agreement, “They will dear, it’s got bacon in it…”

Slim Down Southern Spanakopita

1 9in frozen pie crust, thawed

2 C. 1% milk

4 eggs

2 bunches of greens, I used collard and kale

1 bag spinach

6 oz turkey bacon

2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Cilantro

1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Note- I use a deep dish pie pan and 1 trader joes pie crust. If using a store-bought crust already in the tin you will likely need 2 as the amount of filling will be excessive.

About 1 hour prior to baking, thaw the frozen pie crust on the counter.  Begin to cook the bacon and collard greens in a  large skillet over medium heat. Add a little olive oil if the turkey bacon or greens start to stick. Salt and pepper the greens and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Add the spinach and cook down for another 5 minutes. Lower heat to low and add 2 Tbl Majestic Garlic Cilantro and simmer on low for 20 more minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together eggs and milk and add salt and pepper to taste. In a pie pan press down the frozen crust and fill with greens and bacon. Add the egg mixture and top with 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes or until the egg has puffed up and no longer jiggles in the pan.

Beet and Cranberry Bread

Even the Foodie must go on a cleanse sometimes. I just finished my first 24 hour cleanse, compliments of my children. It’s called the stomach flu and getting back in the kitchen has been harder than I thought. Mainly, nothing sounds good.

Hubs recovered quickly and was snarfing down chunks of BBQ pulled pork, some leftover corned beef and tri-tip not even 12 hours later. I marvel at his iron gut.  The kids and myself seem to share the same sort of  post-cleanse digestive diversion and days later can barely manage past white rice, broth and plain orzo. Not the kind of diversion a foodie needs with a fridge full of veggies.

I finally decide to make something bread-like. That seems somewhat appealing. I decide to use the rest of the pureed beet that was leftover from the Princess Pancakes. Knowing I’ll have a hard time explaining to my daughter how the bread turned pink I must choose carefully. Cranberry bread seems like a legitimate excuse, they are after all, pink.

The real problem here is I am not a baker. It is entirely possible that my children will grow up thinking that cookies come from a tub in the freezer that I buy in bulk each year at the school fundraiser (it’s really no wonder her class always comes in first place). There are so many reasons why I’m a cook and not a baker, but the top two are basically this-

 1. I don’t like to be precise

 2. I have no patience

The latter continues to be a problem as a mother of two.

I’m in no mood here to break from the mold. I reach into the cabinet and scrounge around for a box of Trader Joe’s Cranberry Bread Mix. It does require some measuring and mixing. I will tolerate this step. 45 minutes to bake however, reminds me that this whole baking nonsense will not become a habit.

In the end, the result is a lovely and quite tasty Cranberry Bread with a lovely pink “beet-ish” hue. It has no flavor of beet whatsoever. The children love it smeared in butter, so do I.

After I snapped the picture I proceed to cut a slice and half the loaf crumbles. Which brings me to the 3rd reason I don’t like to bake…

3. I’m just no good at it.

Beet and Cranberry Bread

1 box Trader Joes Cranberry Bread Mix

1 Large egg (my CSA eggs are smaller so I use 2)

1/3 C. Vegetable Oil

1 C. Water

2 Tbl. Beet Puree (see Princess Pancakes for how-to)

I follow the directions quite precisely on the box, minus the second smaller egg and the beet puree (which of course isn’t precise after all). I bake at 350 (non-convection) for 45 very long anguishing minutes.

 

Beet Greens with Bacon, Beans and Walnuts

 Hubs always says “Everything tastes better with bacon”, which is why when I’m serving him things I normally throw in the trash I had better add bacon to get a warm reception. Oh don’t worry, I’m not really feeding him trash. It’s just that I’ve been feeling guilty about throwing away all those beautiful greens attached to the beets. They fill up my CSA bag so nicely each week and then fill up my kitchen trash can shortly after.

Hubs is a hard-working “bringin’ home the bacon” kinda man. The least I can do is feed him a warm tasty meal, but bacon cannot make an entire meal.

Hubs shakes his head vehemently  in disagreement and goes into his “Hubba Gump” style trance “bacon, jalapeno bacon, peppered bacon, candied bacon, chocolate covered bacon, chipotle bacon, bacon hash, turkey bacon…”

Ok, maybe for some and certainly in his bachelor past, bacon can indeed be a meal. I decide most the options he mentions are probably not the best combo with my beet greens, I decide on turkey bacon, lest we both start to look like “The Gumps” from behind. 

Having always thrown out the beet greens, I realize I don’t have enough in one bunch to made a decent side.  I have both collard and red chard in this weeks basket. I decide to add red chard which is in the same family as beets and looks quite similar.

I add a  little turkey bacon to my greens, white beans for a pop of color and walnuts for crunch. I might actually be on to something here. “Hubba Gump” agrees.

Look whose bringin’ home the bacon now…

Beet Greens, Red Chard with Turkey Bacon, Cannelloni Beans and Walnuts

1 bunch beet greens, chopped

1 bunch red chard, stems removed, greens chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

5 oz turkey bacon, diced

1 can cannelloni beans (white northern beans)

1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Saute diced turkey bacon over medium heat with diced yellow onion for 5 minutes. Add chopped beet greens and red chard and saute for 5 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Rinse 1 can cannelloni beans and add to pan along with 1/2 cup walnuts and warm.

Serve immediately.

 

 

Can’t Beet These Princess Pancakes!

Do you ever feel like your can’t understand your children? I’m not referring to the baby whose boy-man-grunts and growls and finger-pointing makes perfect sense. No, I’m talking about how this morning my daughter asked me for “Princess Pancakes”. What was she talking about? I’ve never seen a princess eat pancakes in any of the movies or at Disneyland for that matter.

“Um, what exactly do you mean?” I instantly regret asking. Rule #5, With children, less is often more. Heaven forbid she come up with some sort of unattainable vision of a pancake shaped into a princess and I spend all morning trying to modify a plastic bottle to use as a design tool…

Oh, c’mon Mom…YOU KNOW what I’m talking about…” she replies. Clearly, we are no longer speaking the same language. The baby grunts, stomps his feet and points to the fridge. Looks like I’m the only one that didn’t get the breakfast memo.

Rule #57- “If the children ask for food that doesn’t exist and you create it using vegetables, they can’t possibly turn their noses up at their own creation.”  Or, can they?

Note- Rule #57 is just a working theory.

Ok, Princesses like pink…pink pancakes? What turns my hands and sink pink every time I use them? Beets! A-ha! I’m feeling very clever. The baby grunts his approval.

Hubs is the pancake maker in our family. I’ve listed his amazing recipe below. No joke, this man has probably flipped 10,000 pancakes in his life. He’s spent years perfecting this recipe and I highly recommend you use it the next time you make pancakes.  However, I’m not Hubs and he already left for work. I pull out the bottle of Bisquick Shake n’ Pour.

I put the beets in the microwave and cover with water and cook. I use the reddish water to add to my Bisquick instant mix. I then pull out my mini food processor and puree the beets. I add just enough to give a lovely pink hue, but not enough to give away my secret.

I put a plate in front of my daughter. She eyes the pinkness with suspicion. “Mommy, how did you get them pink?” she asks.

“With Princess Dust, of course”, I reply.

“I thought only Faires used dust”, she says.

” Did I say Princess? I meant Fairy-Princess of course!” and throw in my best fake-Royal accent to seal the deal.

“Oh, ok” and she eats them without another word.

Rule #58- “Lying to your children is acceptable if it means they eat veggies for breakfast”.

Princess Pancakes

2 C. All-Purpose Flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs

2 C. buttermilk

1 tsp Vanilla

2 tsp. Honey

2 Tbl melted butter or margarine

Beet puree (4-5 small beets)

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Combine first 4 ingredients into a sifter and sift into a batter bowl. If you don’t have a sifter put into a large ziploc and shake and combine well.

Whisk eggs, vanilla, honey and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Add melted butter slowly after it has cooled slightly so that the eggs don’t scramble.

 Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and combine. Add beet puree a few tablespoons at a time until correct color and texture is achieved.

Heat griddle over medium heat. Pour 1/3 c batter for each pancake.

Keep pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven. When pancakes are cooled they fit nicely into ziploc quart-sized freezer bags. We keep several in the freezer for easy breakfast for the kids. Just remove from bag and heat in the microwave 20 seconds.

Quinoa Casserole with Black Beans and Spinach

After yesterdays rear-expanding gorge on radishes smeared in salt and butter I felt I had to get out of my stretchy pants and redeem myself. Some would redeem themselves by sweating it out at the gym. I however, will always choose redemption in my kitchen over redemption in some sweaty germ-infested gym. My motto has always been- “Skip the Lamisil and grab the Olive Oil instead”.

 Here is a fun lowfat take on rice and beans that is easy to make and high in protein and iron. Hubs remembers it well from my years of vegetarianism. He certainly never complained, although he is a smart man who knows the saying “happy wife, happy life” are words to live by. I added spinach this week since I had a bag to use up and I think it is one of the best versions of the recipe I’ve ever made.   It can also be a great side dish to chicken or carne asada.

Quinoa Casserole with Black Beans and Spinach

1c. Quinoa

1 15oz can black beans, rinsed

1 12oz jar Roasted salsa

1 bag baby spinach

2 Tbl grated Manchego or other Mexican cheese

1 avocado, optional

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook quinoa to package directions. In the meantime, in a nonstick skillet, cook spinach in a little olive oil and 1 clove minced garlic over medium low heat for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1 can of rinsed black beans to spinach and 1 jar of roasted salsa in the skillet to warm over low heat. When the quinoa is finished add all the ingredients together.

Serve with grated Manchego or other Mexican cheese and avocado.

This dish is wonderful served warm but also great at room temperature.

Radishes with Sea Salt, Butter and Baguette

I have to admit I had never really eaten radishes. Let alone whole. Hubs eyed me with suspicion when I read a cookbook about how this used to be a French children’s snack. He then mumbled something about the French in general.

The bunch of radishes was tiny. Not those big husky things you see at the store. To slice them would be like trying to slice a grape, I’d probably have lost a finger. Best to eat them whole I decided. So I piled them on a bed of sea salt, with a luscious mound of butter on the side.

I dipped the radish in each.

Wow. That’s damn good.

Add bread and suddenly it feels like a very Provencal snack.

Did the children eat it? No. But not because they turned their nose up at it. Merely because I ate them all greedily and didn’t offer them any. Besides, I hate rejection so why even go there?

Hubby says I’ll eat anything that is smeared in salt and butter. Well, duh. Who wouldn’t? My mom was from the South, it’s in my genes, I really can’t help it.

So next time you feel the need to clog your arteries, do it a healthier way, with baby radishes.

Baby Radishes with Butter, Sea Salt and Bread

1 bunch baby radishes

1 hunk of good butter

a mound of sea salt (don’t even think about using iodized, good grief)

1 baguette

1 pair strechy pants

I’m certain you can figure out how to put it all together. Enjoy!

Collard Greens, Kale and Chicken Savory Crepes

Every once in a while something amazing happens to me at Costco. More amazing than buying bulk discount diapers with a coupon. Every once in a while I find something that makes my life easier and tastier. Last week I found pre-made crepes. I had to buy them. I knew exactly what I would do.

In college there was this fabulous restaurant called Foolish Craigs. I never met Craig but after eating there once I’m certain he was no fool. He was on to something brilliant.  His restaurant served all sorts of savory and sweet crepes. Recently, Guy Fieri found him and put him on his show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (http://www.foolishcraigs.com/foolish-craigs-featured-on-food-network/).  Foolish Craigs falls more into the last category but dive only in that quirky beatnik Boulder way.

I quickly perused his website and menu. It appears he does not make any with winter greens. I’m not deterred. He does make many varieties with chicken and all seem to have this “veloute sauce”. Hmmm, not sure what that is.

In the end, on a very lazy Sunday afternoon I decide to whip up the following concoction. The family loved it, even the kids. That being said I gave them far more chicken than greens in their crepe. My daughter said it was the yummiest burrito she’d every eaten. Spoken like a native San Diegan that one….

Collard Greens, Kale and Chicken Savory Crepes

 My advice here is DON”T be an overachiever. Buy the pre-made crepes and store-bought rotisserrie chicken. Every cook deserves to make a no-brainer meal at least once a week.

1 small bunch Collard Greens

1 small bunch Kale

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken

Pre-made heat and serve Crepes

1 tub of Philadelphia Cooking Creme, Lemon and Herb flavor (my answer to whatever Veloute sauce may be)

3 oz of shredded Manchego Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a non-stick pan, cook down the collard greens and kale with some salt and pepper for 10 minutes over low heat. You may need a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Add 4 minced cloves of garlic and cook for 5 more minutes over medium low heat.

In the meantime, shred the chicken off the bone into a seperate bowl and mix with half of the tub of Philadelphia cooking creme.

Add the chicken and creme mixture to the greens and garlic and warm over low heat.

In the meantime, microwave each crepe per package directions. Stuff each crepe with filling and sprinkle with shredded Manchego cheese. For kids, I rolled up tight like a burrito.

Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Raisins

 This is Part 2 of my Boulder Inspiration (See Trout with Collard Greens and Bacon). Having left behind a head of red cabbage (I can honestly say I have never bought one) I was perplexed as to what to do with it upon my return. My husband suggested it as a topping for fish tacos. Well, that was more clever than what I had been thinking which was coleslaw. Poor red cabbage, no wonder it’s never in my fridge.  Is it’s only purpose to be a sad side-note to a recipe? Is it destined to play second fiddle to green cabbage in coleslaw and iceberg lettuce in a bad attempt to make something boring seem colorful and healthy? Why shouldn’t red cabbage play center-stage?

When my table mate ordered the Chicken Schnitzle with braised red cabbage at Q it was the inspiration I’d needed. This dish is stand-alone, especially if you are vegetarian. It’s sweet yet tangy, full of flavor and really fantastic. I served it with a frozen pre-breaded chicken from Trader Joes (admittedly sheer laziness) but a pork chop, sausage or even an unbreaded chicken thigh would be far more fabulous. I also served it with roasted potatoes.The cabbage can be made ahead, reheated the next day or even frozen for future use.

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Raisins

1 medium red cabbage, thinly sliced

2 yellow onions, chopped

2 apples, peeled,cored and chopped

1/4 C. apple cider vinegar

zest from 1 orange

2 Tbl. brown sugar

1/3 C. raisins

olive oil

Core cabbage and thinly slice. In a dutch oven (I use Le Crueset), season pan with olive oil, add chopped onions and saute until yellow. Add cabbage and saute another minute. Then add apples, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins and orange zest. Cook over low heat or transfer and to a 375 degree oven and cook for 1 hour or until cabbage and apples are soft and a deep red.

 

Collard Greens with Bacon and Broiled Trout

I was inspired this past weekend. I was visiting my niece in Boulder and was lucky enough to land in town for the beginning of restaurant week. Boulder is such a great visionary for food and foodies alike. It’s likely that phrases such as “farm to table”, “sustainability” and “locavore” may actually have been born and bred there. While I couldn’t afford anything past $1.99 all-you-can-eat pasta in my college days, I’ve been lucky enough to travel back many times and I am inspired every time.

This trip my inspiration happened at Q restaurant in the Boulderado Hotel. I always steer clear of menu items I can make at home. While I did order the duck pate and a red wine flan which were amazing, I know I could never hope to repeat either in my home kitchen. But, I did sense that two of the entrees ordered by my tablemates could make an appearance in this week’s kitchen.

Having left town with a fridge full of CSA veggies nagged on my mind. I was desperate to find a new way to use them. When someone at my table ordered the Trout served with a side of greens I realized I hadn’t eaten trout in years and it’s simplicity would surely go with that bunch of Collards currently in my fridge.  Tomorrow night I’ll attempt the Schnitzle  with braised red cabbage.

Here’s is Part 1 of my ode to Boulder-

Collard Greens with Bacon and Broiled Trout

1 lb farm raised or fresh trout

1 large bunch collard greens (about 8 oz)

3 slices bacon, diced in 1″ pieces

2 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Dill

Fresh Dill to garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

About an hour before dinner, rinse and dry collard greens. Place in a non-stick pan over low heat with 3 slices bacon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally over the lowest heat for an hour or until bacon is crisp and greens are soft and tender. About 10 minutes prior to serving, heat the oven to broil. Place a foil liner on a rimmed sheet pan and place the trout on the foil with the skin side down. Spread 2 Tbl of Majestic Garlic Dill over the trout. Broil for 7-9 minutes or until done.

Serve trout over greens and a side of rice.

Serves 2-3

Chard Stem, Celery and Parmesean Salad

This is round 2 for finding something tasty and useful to do with chard stems this month. As I mentioned in my last post, winter doesn’t last long around here and with an 80 degree day yesterday I felt the need to come up with something more “summery” to use with the chard stems.

The following recipe is so easy it borders on obscene. More shocking is how good these crunchy veggies can be in a stand-alone dish. It hails from a Barefoot Contessa recipe but she only uses the celery.  The recipes downfall, however is you probably don’t keep most the items on hand.  I didn’t have many of the items in my pantry. Once you do invest in the items I suspect you’ll make this a dozen times and impress your guests everytime.

For those with a seafood allergy, I don’t know of a good replacement for anchovy paste. So unless you are actually allergic to it don’t leave it out. Chances are you won’t know it’s in there anymore than you do in a real cesear dressing. It really seems to be an essential part of the dish. Anchovy paste can be found in a small tube at a larger supermarket. You can keep it in the fridge for months.

This would be a great dish on the side of barbecued wings in lieu of boring old celery sticks and ranch.

Chard Stem, Celery and Parmesan Salad

1/3 C. olive oil

3 lemons, juiced and zested

1 tsp. celery seed

1/2 tsp. celery salt

1/2 tsp. anchovy paste

8 stalks chard stems

8 celery stalks

4 oz shaved parmesean

2/3 c. toasted walnuts

In a small bowl combine the first 5 ingredients. Thinly slice chard stems and celery. Toss in dressing and refridgerate for at least 1 hour but no more than 4.

To serve, top with shaved parmsean and toasted walnuts.

 

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Winter Veggie Medley

It feels like winter in San Diego. It’s briefly dipped into the 60 degree range and gasp! last week it rained! The usual items have occurred- car wrecks on the freeway, hours spent figuring out where you put your 1 umbrella you use twice a year, and of course a head cold. Yes, this is San Diego’s winter. It will likely last 10-15 days and in the meantime us natives will be forced to hunker-down and ride it out.

With that in mind, I couldn’t think of a better recipe to make. This is one of my all-time most requested dishes. It’s not the kind of dish that you are likely to whisk home and whip up on a weeknight, at least not if you have children. I personally find a dish that requires chopping lots of veggies somewhat tedious. The truth is this soup is actually better the longer it sits. I always make up a batch thinking I’ll freeze some up for an emergency, there never seems to be any left. I have too many people on my “next time you make that would you PLEASE bring me a bowl” list. I can promise you though, once you make it you will never make an other chicken noodle soup again. This recipe is perfect as a get well present to someone you love who is sick.

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Winter Veggie Medley

1 store-bought Rotisserie chicken 2-3 lbs, shredded into bite size pieces

12 oz egg noodles

3 1 qt boxes of Chicken Stock or Broth (preferably organic)

1 c. chopped onion

1/2 C. chopped carrot

9 minced garlic cloves

3 C. Assorted winter vegetables (chard, kale, leek, zucchini, cabbage,etc)

1 C. fresh baby spinach

1 Tbl Emeril’s Bayou Blast or Essence (no substitution)

4 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce for extra heat (optional)

Olive Oil

In an 8qt or larger pot, drizzle some olive oil and saute chopped onions and carrots for 4-5 min. Add 3 C. chopped and assorted winter veggies (unless you are using spinach and cabbage add those with noodles) and garlic. Add the cooked, shredded chicken and 1 Tbl Emeril’s Bayou Blast and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Saute all items together for 5 minutes. Add 1 C. baby spinach and 4 bay leaves and saute 1 minute more. Add 3 qts of the chicken stock or broth and let come to a boil. Add the 12 oz egg noodles and simmer for 8-10 minutes or according to package directions for al dente. When the noodles are al dente, remove from heat and cover soup for up to 2 hours. Reheat 1 bowl at a time in the microwave. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and hot sauce for maximum effect.

Winter Salad with Roasted Ruby Red Chard Stems and Pomelo Viniagrette

We headed out this past weekend for a RV trip and were in charge of Friday night’s dinner. My husband is an expert on the whole “Man vs Wild” camp cooking where he digs a hole in the dirt, starts a fire, and sets up this 3 pronged contraption with something that looks like a cookie cooling rack on which we grill our steaks. Move over Ruth Chris, your butter-soaked filet ain’t got nothing on Hubs dirt and charcoal infused rib-eye.

 I however, am far more of an RV-luxury camper. Outside of a 4-star spa mud wrap, dirt holds no appeal for me. Skip the sleeping bags and pass me the 800-thread count sheets, thank you. So when I do camp and have to “camp-cook”,  I prefer to have things washed, chopped, roasted (at home) carefully tucked away in ziplocs for last minute and easy prep. I wanted to make a salad but wanted something unique.  I also didn’t want it filled with bugs and dirt.

I lucked out when I received Ruby Red Chard. Lucky because I also got beets and believe it or not these two items are from the same family.  Chard is kind of a two-fer veggie. This increases it’s versatility but also adds to most people’s confusion. Rarely do you find recipes using both the leaf and stem of chard together. For leafy chard recipes refer back to my series on Winter Greens in January. This month I’m going to do my best to use the Chard stems that are left over. I already like roasted beets and am certain the red chard stems would work this way as well.

 I decide on feta as a cheese accompanyment and all I need is a dressing. In my CSA basket are two pomelos and perfect to use in a dressing. My husband reminds me that our bottle of Patron tequila was getting a “little low” and maybe I should  “discover” a new use for Pomelos besides my Pomelo Margarita (see January for addictive recipe).

So this is the salad I came up with. It feeds 10 and was well-received around our hole-in-the-dirt campfire.

Winter Salad with Roasted Ruby Chard Stems and Pomelo Vinaigrette 

1 bag mixed greens (about 6 oz)

1 head butter lettuce

1 head red leaf lettuce

8 oz crumbled feta

6 oz ruby red chard stems

8 oz beets

Pomelo Vinaigrette

the juice from 2 pomelos

the juice from 2 lemons

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. Dijon

salt and pepper to taste

Measure the juices from the pomelo and lemons if they do not equal 1/2 cup continue to add more juice, if you are out of either item add a little white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar to equal 1/2 c. Combine all ingredients for vinaigrette, and set aside. Will easily keep 1 week in fridge.

Peel and chop beets. Chop chard stems into 1-in pieces. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, wash and dry all lettuce and tear into similar sized pieces. Combine all items in a large salad bowl and toss with dressing.

Lemony Carrots with Chinese 5 Spice

Confession- I dislike carrots.

“Hardly dear”, my husband smirks as he leans of my shoulder,”you despise carrots”.

Fair enough.

When my daughter figured this out, she of course used it as an excuse not to eat her carrots and everything else she disliked. “Remember, Mommy, how you don’t like carrots?” she starts out her plea each night. I cave. Carrots are…well…not my favorite.

I must find a way to like these pesky orange things that show up in my CSA basket.

Solution? The following recipe has won me over. I can honestly say it is the only time I have ever gone for seconds on carrots, let alone pushed my hungry husband aside for fear he might finish them before I did. They have a wonderful asian flavor due to the Chinese 5 spice.  I served them with jasmine rice and chicken marinated in Stonewall Kitchen’s Sesame Ginger Teriyaki but Soyaki from Trader Joes is an easier find and would be tasty as well.

Result? No leftovers…

So whether you live a hectic life and need an uncomplicated veggie side, or you live in New York and have a kitchen that doubles as a hallway- this 6 ingredient, 1 pot recipe might just be for you.

Lemony Carrots with Chinese 5 Spice

1 bunch of CSA carrots (or one small bag baby carrots)

2 Tbl. unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion

2 lemons

1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice powder

1/2 tsp Salt

For bunch carrots, peel and slice into matchstick size, for bag baby carrots, no additional prep necessary. Chop onion into thin slices. Zest both lemons, set aside. Juice both lemons and set aside.  In a saucepan over medium-low heat melt the butter. Add carrots, onions and the zest from 2 lemons. Mix and cover pot and return to low heat for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Check pot occasionally and stir. When carrots are tender stir in lemon juice, Chinese 5 Spice and salt.

Serve immediately.

Turkey Thighs a’ la Orange

It’s the same story every time we go to Disneyland. Hubby gets a grumbling in his tummy and wanders off to Tomorrowland. Not in search of Space Mountain, Star Tours or Autopia, but in search of an item you can only get in this section of the park- The Smoked Turkey Leg. 

I had never even seen one until I met him. They are jaw-dropping huge. The are also fantastic. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when wandering Sprouts poultry aisle I came across a package of turkey thighs. I didn’t realize they sold them by themselves. But as my father-in-law said- “think of all those turkey legs at Disneyland, those thighs must go somewhere”. The somewhere they went is home to my fridge where I decided to experiment.

One of my most requested dishes is Lemon Chicken, from the Barefoot Contessa. Living in Southern California we have this wonderful winter navel orange that I get weekly in my basket. So this is my take on the Barefoot’s concept, although several ingredients have changed. You certainly could substitute chicken thigh, chicken breast or any poultry but you would need to experiment with the baking time accordingly.

Turkey Thighs a’ la Orange

4 Turkey Thighs

9 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 c. olive oil

1/3 c. white wine

the zest from 2 oranges

the juice from one orange

12 sprigs fresh thyme

1/4 tsp. cardamom

salt and pepper to taste

1 orange cut into 8 segments

Over medium heat in a small saucepan, heat the minced garlic cloves and olive oil just until it begins to bubble but not brown. Remove from heat and add in white wine, orange juice, orange zest and cardamom.

Sprinkle turkey thighs with salt and pepper and put in a 13×9 dish. Wedge orange segments in and around thighs and pour the garlic-wine-juice mixture over the thighs. Sprinkle fresh thyme around. At this point, you can wrap in plastic and keep in the fridge for several hours.

Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. Make sure temperature hits 165.

Mexican Breakfast Quiche- by popular demand

Thankfully, I had some leftover CSA eggs I stockpiled to get through this “famine” while the farmers are out-of-town. Here is a highly requested dish I made for a friend’s brunch last weekend using my all-natural, cage-free, CSA eggs. This recipe started out as your typical “Paula Deen” style casserole. I took out an entire stick of butter and swapped the regular sausage for soy chorizo. I also used low-fat and reduced fat cheese all with fabulous results. I haven’t tried it with egg beaters as I’m not sure it will have the same texture and flavor but if someone out there does try it, do let me know how it goes!

Mexican Breakfast Quiche

1 dozen eggs

1. 5 lb Soy Chorizo

1 16 0z. bag frozen sliced peppers

2 C. low-fat cottage cheese

3 C. reducded-fat cheddar cheese, shredded

1 can (4oz) green chilies

1/2 C. All purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 jar black bean and corn salsa- see note

I think this dish is best made the night before, not to mention easier!

In a nonstick pan, “cook” the soy chorizo and the frozen peppers, until warm and well combined. Set aside and let cool.  In a mixing bowl, beat the dozen eggs. Stir in cottage cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, green chilies, 1/2 C. flour and 1 tsp baking powder. In a 13×9 rectangular pan, spread all the peppers and chorizo on the bottom. Pour the egg, cheese mixture on top. Put plastic wrap over dish and refrigerate overnight.

Half and hour before baking take the dish out of the fridge and allow to start to come towards room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until set in the center and browned on top.

I served with Two Sisters black bean and corn salsa, which was the perfect blend of flavors. To purchase visit-

http://www.partylite.biz/sites/CandlemamaOf2/productcatalog?page=productdetail&sku=T610&categoryId=55351&showCrumbs=true

Serves 8

 

Getting this weeks “fix”

I knew I was saving money. I wasn’t sure how much because quite frankly I never checked. But, I just knew I was saving money doing this CSA.

Come to find out (as my husband has learned over the years)-  I was right.

Like most people I had to learn the hard way. I had to wait until the CSA farmers went on vacation. Now that I won’t be getting my first CSA basket in 9 months, I’m running around to each and every store trying to replicate my CSA goods. Like a good junkie, I’m a day away from my next scheduled hit and I know it aint’ coming and I AM FREAKED OUT.

I totally don’t begrudge them. I really don’t understand how they do what they do anyways- the planting, the farming, the chickens, the fruit picking and then the schleping it 6 days a week from Rainbow, CA to farmers markets all over San Diego county. Yet, they never seem frustrated, angry or tired. It must be all the veggies they are on.

The very veggies I’ll be without this week. My hands start to shake.

I try to perk myself up by rushing out to Sprouts for some discount veg. Sure it’s on sale, but it’s not organic and it’s grown in Mexico and Peru. Off next to Trader Joes, where yes the wine is cheap and fabulous but if they try to con me into buying one more globe of garlic flown in from China when we live 5 hours away from the garlic capital of the world, I am… GOING TO FREAK OUT.

Ok, calm down. I leave with a case of wine and a crying baby, nothing else.

 Ok, let’s start over. At least I find every item on my CSA list (with the exception of that heavenly Majestic Garlic tub) at the good ole Albertsons. I do not, however, find any of it in the organic section and most items are not locally grown but thankfully at least grown in this country. A quick peruse through the store, some quick addition on the phone calculator suggests that I’m receiving $29 of weekly goods (at Albertson’s prices) which of course does not account for the organic and locally grown aspect which would indeed cost more. Add to that the fact that I’m taking part in supporting a local farmer, I leave feeling vindicated, brilliant, eco-friendly and sadly yes, still shaky and depressed I cannot get my veggie fix for another week.

So wish me luck. It’s going to be a long week of heaven forbid- bagged romaine lettuce, extra-large white eggs and whatever other random year-round grocery produce I decide to buy. Better yet, it’s probably a good week to eat out.

Pasta with Chicken and Spinach Sauce

I love spinach and we have gotten it weekly in our CSA from the beginning. Of course in the summer it always goes in a salad, but I must admit when winter comes (and every once in a while it does dip below 60 degrees in San Diego), I have a hard time eating salad for dinner. This is a great alternative to using fresh spinach in a salad. The sauce is not cooked but rather warmed by the hot pasta as you toss it together.

You can call it whatever you like. Some days it’s the “Oscar the Grouch Sauce”, other days “Alien Sauce”.  Whatever you want to call it, I can assure you if you have a picky eater like I do, DO NOT call it Spinach Sauce. Not unless you want them to turn their nose up at it. They will never know what is in the sauce and your secret is safe with me.

The store-bought rotissere chicken has been a recent addition. However, if you are vegetarian or don’t want to add chicken, know that the sauce holds court on its own. I also started buying the high-protein, high-fiber Barilla Pasta in the yellow box and it has become my preferred pasta. It doesn’t get mushy like some whole wheat and is a whole lot healthier than the regular pastas out there.

So surprise the kids this week with some “Shrek Sauce” I’m sure they’ll like it as much as mine do…

 

Pasta With Chicken and Spinach Sauce

1 lb Barilla Plus Multigrain Pasta (Rotini or Penne)

6 oz fresh baby spinach

4 oz reduced fat cream cheese

1 Tbl. Majestic Garlic Basil flavor

1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese, grated

1 store-bought rotissere chicken, cooked

Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil 1lb pasta according to box directions, reserving 1 cup of cooking water when you drain. Meanwhile, in a food processor pulse the baby spinach leaves, cream cheese and Majestic Garlic and season with salt and pepper. Shred chicken from bone and set aside.

In a large serving bowl, toss the pasta and spinach  sauce, add enough reserved water to coat all the penne. Gently stir in the chicken,  sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 4 

 

 

Majestic Garlic Spread- A new staple for your fridge

One of the items we have most enjoyed getting each week in our basket is a garlic spread called Majestic Garlic. It is a raw garlic spread that is also vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. Normally I will be the first to admit all the “free” usually translates into “flavor-free” (a rarely advertised label), however, this could not be further from the truth.  Majestic Garlic comes in several different flavors such as basil, cilantro, dill, curry and cayenne to name a few. Even though it is raw it does not have a strong or pungent garlic flavor. I find in recipes that call for raw garlic there is a bite and a heat that is nice, but never consistent and not ideal in a recipe you want to serve your children or anyone you want to kiss later for that matter. This spread is creamy and almost irresistible. The baby loves the curry one on crackers, that is how mellow the garlic flavor is. Our toddler eats the basil garlic spread on pretzels and exclaims “it’s sooooo good”! I too am most guilty of eating it with pretzels or crackers as a dip, but it is also fabulous on sandwiches, stirred into soups and about a million other uses. Yes, it is life-changing good. No, I am not a paid representative of Majestic Garlic, I’m just likely another lunatic fan.

You will see me use it in several recipes on this blog and if you were to try to substitute it would be difficult to replicate the delicate flavor it imposes. You can of course substitute raw garlic but I would substitute at best half what a recipe using majestic garlic calls for. My best suggestion is to track down a few tubs (which keep in your fridge for up to 3 months) and see how amazing and versatile this wonderful  item is. For their direct website go to www.majesticgarlic.com

Roasted Broccoli- How I get my family to eat “it”

If you were to ask him, he will tell you he has always eaten it. He will even tell you he liked it. But, I know better. I’ve lived with him for 7 years and I have watched him push it around his plate and ignore it every time it was served. Naturally, when our daughter refused to eat it, I would see a smirky grin creep across his chin, a mental “fist-bump” to his daughter that yes- they were both suffering together at my cruel broccoli-loving hands.

We’ve been getting broccoli in our CSA for months now. You can imagine their disdain. I had tried it every way imaginable to no avail. So, I’m not sure what possessed me to roast it in the oven, but ever since that day, every single person in this house eats every bite of broccoli on their plate and… amazingly asks (or baby signs) for seconds. This week I had to buy extra broccoli because lately there wasn’t any left for us adults after the kids ate.

My husband says it’s the crunchy texture. My daughter says it’s because “it doesn’t taste like broccoli”. The baby grunts and shovels it in his face and hair. We eat this one night a week and will likely never eat “it” another way again….

Roasted Broccoli

2 heads broccoli

3 cloves garlic, whole

2 Tbl. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Chop the broccoli very close to the head and break them into small pieces. The less stem the better it evenly roasts.  I also break apart the larger pieces into smaller “trees” as the children call them. On a rimmed cookie sheet toss the broccoli, garlic cloves with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Winter Greens (Part 3)- Winter Green and Walnut Pesto Pasta

I don’t just use my CSA for the family dinners. If I’m planning a party or bringing a dish to someone else’s I buy extra of some items the day I pick up my basket.  Of course, this requires you to pre-plan a dish that you need for Friday or Saturday before you arrive at the market (in my case Tuesdays). I realize that this is not entirely ideal. I make the effort though because so many people are curious about the CSA and often ask if I’m eating anything other than lettuce and potatoes in the winter. For the record, there have been no potatoes in my winter basket.

Recently, I was invited to one of those “adult-only tupperware parties”- you know, the kind where the guests are all women and they aren’t really selling tupperware? Of course, I offered to bring a dish. The hostess suggested something “in theme”. In addition to my CSA produce,  I just had to bring a dish with…nuts.

Winter Green and Walnut Pesto Pasta

1 1/2 Cups of walnuts

1/3-1/2 cup olive oil

2 bunches of winter greens, chopped with stems removed

2 lbs of butternut squash peeled, seeded and cube

1 lb pasta, any shape

3/4 Cup grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

Earlier in the day, peel, seed and cube butternut squash. If you have never done this before, ugh- it is a chore.  occasionally you can cheat and places like Trader Joes sells pre-cut squash in a bag for a premium. Perfect if you don’t like the hassle or don’t own very sharp knives. At this point I would bag squash and save for later. I also like to roast the walnuts in the morning and make the pesto. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the walnuts on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes until browned. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they form a paste  then pour the olive oil into the processor while pulsing. Add salt and pepper and half the parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and start a large pot of water on the stove. Take the pesto out of the fridge to come to room temp.  Spread the cubed squash on a rimmed cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 min. In the meantime, add a little olive oil to a saute pan and cook the winter greens on medium until soft reduce to low and continue to simmer. Cook the pasta according to box directions.

Drain the pasta and add to the simmering greens. Pour the pesto over and toss. Add the butternut squash and parmesan. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-5

 

 

 

Winter Greens (Part 2)- Sneaky Meatloaf

Let’s get this out there. I never grew up eating meatloaf. My mom never made it. My first encounter occurred when I was 7 at the school potluck.

“Mrs. So and So, what is that?” I asked

“Meatloaf dear, surely you’ve had it.” she replied.

“Never heard of it” I said.

“Never heard of it! Well what does your mother make for dinner?” she asked.

“Top Ramen” I replied.

She raised her eyebrow and shot my mother a disapproving look. The look on my mother’s face said it all. She was going to kill me. I had just thrown her culinary skills under the bus. My mother was a wonderful cook and likely could have run circles in the kitchen around the parents at this potluck. Mom didn’t make meatloaf because she was too busy making chicken cordon blue or halibut with a coffee brown butter sauce. But, I liked top ramen and mom had a tendency to give into my whims.

After high school I become a vegetarian and the next 15 years were certainly meatloaf free. Then on my second pregnancy with my son, my vegetarianism went out the window and in came a whole new world of recipes that I had never tried, including meatloaf. I love meatloaf and I love it’s versatility. Beef or turkey? I’ve done both. Maybe meatloaf’s most amazing trait it its ability to hide vegetables within, allowing me to serve them to my children without the usual “Mom, that is DISGUSTING” commentary from my 4 year old. Here is my sneaky recipe….

Sneaky Meatloaf

2lbs ground beef or turkey or both

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

2 bunches winter greens (about 6 oz), washed, chopped and stems removed

1 small bunch carrots, washed and peeled (see note)

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbl Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Ketchup

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. On a cookie sheet (one with raised sides) cut a piece of parchment paper to fit. In a nonstick pan, cook winter green leaves with a little olive oil until soft.

Note- The carrots from the CSA are far smaller than anything you will find in the store. They are also thinner. 1 bunch here is equivalent to 1/4 of a bag of carrots you would find in a supermarket.  In a microwavable dish, place peeled carrots and 1/2 cup water and cook until tender (approx 5-7 min). Mash or finely chop carrots when cooled.

 In a large bowl- beat 1 egg with 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and 2 lbs ground meat. Add cooked carrots and winter greens. Mix well with hands. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Shape meat on parchment paper and cookie sheet into a low rectangle.

Bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.

Serve with ketchup.

Serves 2 happy kids and 2 parents with leftovers

 

Winter Greens (Part 1)- Kale, Collard Green and Chard Stuffed Shells

Winter greens have proven to be far more versatile than I originally imagined. Prior to my CSA committment I never bought anything outside of spinach unless it was required for a recipe. I certainly couldn’t distinguish the differences between kale or chard and collard greens, let alone identify which was which. Since they come almost weekly in my winter CSA basket, I’ve had plenty of time to experiment and have really grown to love all these items.

 In fact, when my CSA friend texted me a photo of red kale last week and asked me what it was, she mentioned her husband saying it looks like it was something they could use to clean a toliet bowl. Fair enough, it does look a little like a green toliet brush. And, heaven forbid don’t eat these things raw! Tough, chewy and really kinda well, let’s just say some items are destined to be cooked and “complimented” with others.

 So, would you believe I can get my children to eat an item that looks like a green toliet brush?  The most shocking thing is that I can hide them in these recipes and my children will eat them (gasp!). Nothing short of a miracle in this house. In this 3 part series are my favorite ways to use Kale, Collard Green and Chard. Please note that because I never receive the same rotation of items you can easily swap out, double up or even substitute any of these winter greens in these recipes.

Kale, Collard Greens and Chard Stuffed Shells

12 Jumbo Shells

1 tub of ricotta

4 oz of either cream cheese or goat cheese, at room temperature

2 bunches of dark winter greens (about 6 ounces) washed, stems removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

 1 jar of Marinara Sauce

1 package of uncooked italian sausage (omit for vegetarian)

Salt, Pepper to taste

In the morning if I have time I usually boil the jumbo shells according to box directions, drain and cool them and put them in a bag in the fridge. This could also be done the night before. That way, at dinner time you have one less step. Meanwhile, wash and dry winter greens, removing the tough stems. Chop into smaller pieces. In a nonstick pan on medium heat, add a little olive oil and cook the winter greens with 2 cloves of minced garlic for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and cook until soft. When finished, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat one egg and add in 1 tub ricotta and 4 oz cream or goat cheese and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg. Mix the cooled winter greens with the cheese (cool greens enough so that the egg in the mixture doesn’t scramble).

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 13×9 dish, cover the bottom with half of the marinara sauce. Stuff the jumbo shells with the cheese and greens mixture. Back in the nonstick pan, remove casings from sausages and crumble. Cook over medium heat until browned. Top shells with cooked sausage crumbles and cover with remaining marinara sauce. Bake for 30 min at 350 degrees.

Serves 4

Sure beets the canned stuff- Roasted Beet and Orange Salad

Beets are truly awful from a can. Avoid them at all costs. I never liked beets as a kid. Of course, I’d never seen a real beet until one showed up in fancy-form on my plate at a posh restaurant in Boulder, Colorado on one of my husband and my “reminiscing our college years” trips. Then I had the “Animal Vegetable Incident” as my husband calls the summer of 2008 (see CSA Junkie for details) and tried desperately to grow my own.  Fast forward to my CSA where this winter they have come almost weekly. The best way I have found to cook them is to roast in the oven, it brings the best flavor out. Microwaving is a back-up option if it is summer and too hot. But I would skip the microwave for this particular recipe. Sometimes we get golden beets from the CSA, which I really love.  They taste just like the regular ones but don’t leave the red stain all over your kitchen and hands making it appear as if you had killed a small pinkish mammal. This dish is best served as a side dish to chicken or pork.

Roasted Beet and Orange Salad

1 bunch beets- peeled and quartered

3 oranges, peeled and segmented

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and quarter beets, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper on a cookie sheet. Bake for 35 minutes or until soft and carmelized. Peel oranges, segment into smaller pieces and place in a bowl. Toss warm beets in bowl with oranges and let come to room temperature.  Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

Ugly fruit, meet tequila…the Pomelo Margarita

My phone was blowing up with texts from my CSA friend who had beaten me to the market. “Pomelos!!!” she said.

“Is that a grapefruit thing?” I replied.

“I just showed your text to the CSA lady and she laughed” my friend replied.

She’s probably laughing because she gave me one last week and I said “it looks like a grapefruit” and made an ugly contorted face when she put it in my bag. I really dislike grapefruit. In fact that very pomelo was still in the basket on my table. Dang it! Clearly the pomelo was this month’s fruit.

This is the deal with the CSA- you don’t get to choose what you want. It forces you to be flexible.

“What do I do with it?” I asked the farmer who supplies me with my weekly goodies.

“You eat it” she said. Super helpful, thanks.

Round 1- Cut pomelo in half. Appearance, part yellow-green, part pink, fat pithy skin, ugly. Tastes- tart and like a grapefruit.

Round 2- When life gives you lemons make lemonade. In this case I’m making a cocktail. After a quick perusal of our bar I surmised that patron and triple sec would make this ugly fruit far more palatable…

Pomelo Margaritas

2 Pomelos, juiced

1 orange, juiced

2 shots of Patron or other good tequila

2 shots of triple sec

Mix ingredients and pour over ice in salt rimmed glasses

Serves 2