Sunday, June 29, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower with Capers

Another odd farmer's market find: Orange Cauliflower. They had purple too, but I couldn't imagine using up two heads of cauliflower in one week.

This is my go-to cauliflower side dish. Cruising through I could not find a similar recipe, so maybe I should post it over there. Most of those use butter and/or cheese in theirs. Mine is more of a sour-salty version.

Roasted Cauliflower with Capers

1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. capers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dijon mustard
2 T. olive oil
2 T. chopped basil
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Put veggies in a baking dish. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except bread crumbs) and pour over. Mix well and top with the bread crumbs. Bake at 450 for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 mins.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fresh Figs with Honey Balsamic Syrup

Just wanted to post this picture today because after watching Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen and The Next Food Network Star (yes, I am a reality TV cooking show junkie), I've noticed that careful plating is half the battle. I can't believe that I missed the special Food Network's "challenge" episode about Food Styling because I'm really interested in that.

Now for the little plate. I went to the Antioch Farmer's Market today and found fresh Black Mission Figs from Tachella Farms. They were so gorgeous that I was tempted to eat them plain, but decided to step it up a notch and topped them with a honey balsamic syrup. I used equal parts balsamic and honey, 1/2 tsp each of black pepper and thyme. Simmer until reduced to a syrupy glaze. Cut the figs in half and lovingly pour the sauce over the figs. Flower arrangement is cute, but optional.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grilled Pork Chops with Spiced Peach Sauce

I have determined that white meat and fruit are kindred spirits. Some may not agree with me and that's okay. It just seems to me that it's a recurring impulse to pair these two.

This sassy sauce was made with fresh peaches and nectarines that we picked yesterday. I made a base sauce without the spice which was wonderful over ice cream (see below). Chicken or turkey would also work well if you are one of those rare people allergic to pork

Base Peach Sauce

4 cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. lemon juice

Spiced Peach Sauce for Meat

2 cups Base Peach Sauce
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. ginger powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. white vinegar

Season and grill the meat to desired doneness. I've heard that its okay to cook pork chops medium well instead of burnt to a dry crispy rock these days. The salmonella scare that shook our nation is not as prominent now due to better meat standards and packaging. By all means, if you are more comfortable with dry pork, go for it!

The sweet-spicy factor gives this dish a WOW effect for the standard blah pork chop and rice was the perfect back drop to absorb the extra goodness.

And for dessert we have:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Baja Style Fish Tacos

Just got back from a trip to sunny Carpinteria and had a great time cooking, eating, drinking and visiting with family. It was unusually warm and not foggy, which made the beach mandatory. Every day. The kids LOVED it this time... splashing, jumping, digging, screaming, chasing birds and doing all things a kid should do on the beach. It was great to see that maybe they will turn out to be beach rats just like mom was.

While we had much yummy food, this meal here is worth mentioning. My (much) older and adventurous brother is quite the fisherman. Turns out our dinner was a small portion of a 30 pound white bass caught off the coast of Santa Barbara. By my brother. With a spear. Seriously.

Anyways, many thanks to the whole family for making such a wonderful dinner. Everything was delish and the fish was so fresh and light, and had a beautiful crunchy coating that made a great base for all the yummy toppings. Other highlights include a lesson on Guitar Hero by my niece and nephew, a mean margarita from my Sis-in-Law and lick on the face from Otter dog.

Baja style tacos are basically battered and fried fish wrapped in a grilled corn tortilla and topped with a creamy tangy white sauce and other condiments. Cabbage seems to be the most unique of these toppings. I suggest not skipping it. I could look up the origin and some other interesting story about this style of taco, but I don't have the energy or time! You'll have to do your own research. Or better yet....just try it!!

The Basics:

Corn tortillas, grilled over flames
White fish, cut into 2 inch pieces
Oil, enough to fry fish

Fish Batter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. double acting baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water

Mayonesa Secret Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 T. milk

Condiments (any or all)

pico de gallo
sour cream
shredded cabbage

Directions: Mix up the batter and fry fish in batches until you have a nice little pile. Lay out all the condiments, mix up the secret sauce and grill those tortillas. Put a couple pieces of fish into a tortilla, top with secret sauce and condiments. Don't skip the cabbage!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Turkey Tenderloin with Papaya Mango Salsa

I had a brilliant idea the other day. How exciting would it be to make a cookbook based solely on ingredients from Trader Joe's?? I even thought maybe my foodie friend, Louanne, would be interested in helping me research and write it. So I Googled it to make sure nobody out there had a similar idea. ARRRRRGGHHH. Oh well.

Anyways, this is a complete and easy TJ meal. You can't even really call it cooking. Even the green beans were the "microwave in the bag" style, all trimmed and washed. Nice.

However, before you go out and buy this salsa, there is a disclaimer: We didn't really enjoy it all that much. It's texture was chalky and the taste was bland but spicy, if that makes any sense. While I love most Trader Joe's items, this was not one of them. You'd be better off to make your own with tropical fruit, onion, lime juice and cilantro.

Turkey Tenderloin with Papaya Mango Salsa

1 pkg. turkey breast tenderloin

1 container Papaya Mango Salsa

seasoned flour to coat

1 T. oil

Directions: Um, yeah. Let me babble for a minute because the directions are too simple to take up space here. My package of turkey cost $6.54. It was two gargantuan tenderloins. I cut up one tenderloin into four pieces, slicing out the thick membrane running through it. I decided this was enough for our family. And it was. Added bonus, I froze the second tenderloin and plan to stretch that out with a turkey veggie green curry or something.

Okay, so directions: Dredge tenderloin pieces in seasoned flour and cook in the oil until done. Top with salsa and serve with your favorite veggie and starch. We try not to do the starch with dinner. Later in the evening, though, we are usually rummaging the pantry for anything with carbs. Tall guy prefers handfuls of cereal.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

I was thinking of Mrs. Seinfeld's book when I went to make this soup. The Marketing Associate (aka MOM) touted this soup as "Super Duper Cheesy Soup" to her toddlers and Production Manager (MOM again) made sure that it's main ingredient was veggies.

My kids LOVE cheese, but this soup is mainly cauliflower and carrots with a just a little cheese. The carrots give it the "cheese color". It went over great with the 2 year old, not so much for the 3 year old. I didn't take that personally because he does not eat much these days unless it starts with the letters P-I-Z-Z-A.

Added bonus: This is another crockpot recipe.

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
1 head cauliflower, cut up
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cups broth
Dry spice of choice (parsley, thyme, basil, etc.)

Throw all of the above into crock and cook on high for 4 hours until tender.

Blend everything up in the blender to desired consistency. I went for really smooth. Return to crock and add:

1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated sharp cheese
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp sugar (optional)

Cook on low for another hour or so. I left it on warm for a couple hours and it was fine.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gigi's Cookbook

My husband's grandma (gigi to our kids) has been cleaning out her cupboards lately and we are getting some windfall from her spring cleaning. She's been kind enough to think of me and my blog when unloading cool retro dishes, tea towels and now cookbooks.

This one in particular I thought was pretty neat. It was printed in 195o and I've been perusing the pages and thinking that some of the recipes could make a comeback. I especially love the section on "Refrigerator Cakes" which are basically cakes made from cookies, whipped cream and other gooey stuff, which don't require any cooking. I see one of these in my future.

Here are some pictures that will give you the vibe of my new old cookbook:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas

Okay, well I wasn't going to post this because it was an experiment for me (and I wasn't thrilled about the pictures). I cooked the chicken for my enchiladas in the crockpot from about 8 am to 12 noon and after shredding it, realized that maybe it would work for the actual enchiladas too. It was worth a try. Looking online, I found many recipes for enchiladas layered into a type of casserole instead of rolling them up like I did.

From 2 bone-in breasts, salsa, a can of black beans, some cheese and a small can of enchilada sauce, I ended up with about 3 layers of enchiladas.

Here is the result: As I suspected, dishing it up and making it look good would prove difficult. Those first enchiladas were beautiful. Underneath was a complete mess. But hey, it all tasted the same...pretty darn good.

My recipe is usually about the same, with variations depending on what I have on hand.

Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas

Place chicken breasts and a cup of salsa in the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours. Shred meat and add some minced garlic and black beans (olives, corn and onions would also work well at this point). Stir until uniform.

Grate some cheese. Spray each corn tortilla with Pam and stack them up on a paper towel. Cover and microwave for about 45 seconds, until they are soft and warm.

Put a spoonful of enchilada sauce on the bottom of crockpot. Place chicken mixture and cheese on tortilla, roll up and place in crock. Continue this until you have the layer complete. Cover with sauce. Another layer and more sauce. Keep this up until you have enough enchiladas stacked up to feed your family.

Cook on low for a 2 hours or so.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Grilled Tri-Tip and Rajas con Crema

IMHO, Tri-tip is best done on the grill. We have a special seasoning that we use called "Susie Q's Santa Maria Style Seasoning" which we rub on the outside - it gives the meat a wonderful smoky flavor. I'm not going to go into detail about the grilling because it's not my forte and it's best left to Tall Guy, who is getting to be quite the Mr. BBQ. Maybe I should change his name to Mr. BBQ. We always serve our tri-tip in the Santa Maria tradition of slicing thin and topping it with your favorite salsa and a squirt of lime juice. This time a side of peppers completed the meal.

Check out these interesting bell peppers:

I found them at the farmers market in Concord and the woman who sold them to me could not give me any information except that the light purple ones were "very sweet" (and they were, especially when cooked). When I sliced them open, I was suprised that their flesh was about half the thickness of the red and green bells from the grocery store. They almost seemed like a cross between a bell and a poblano.

Anyways, I decided to do some sauteed Mystery Peppers in a classic Mexican style. I've never made this before and it turned out really good! I call it Rajas con Crema and here is how I did it:

Rajas con Crema

Sliced peppers of your choice

1 tsp olive oil

salt, pepper and/or favorite seasoning

1/4 cup milk

1 clove minced garlic

Heat oil over HIGH heat, add peppers and seasoning and let them get almost black before giving a stir. Once they start to soften up, turn the heat to low and add the garlic and milk. Simmer until the garlic is soft and half the milk evaporates.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wednesday Night at Bing's

I just saw in the newspaper that a band called Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums is playing at Bing's in Walnut Creek every Wednesday night from 7-10 pm. They are also offering complimentary swing dance lessons.

This band is so much fun!! I saw them several times before I was a mommy, when I didn't have to pay a babysitter to watch a cool band on a weeknight. But if you happen to have a free Wednesday night, go check them out!! Obviously, you might have to purchase a swanky martini beverage to enhance the evening. Here are a couple of song clips.


Where's My Gravy

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Crockpot Lemon Chicken

Another crockpot recipe, you ask? You could say I'm just a little giddy with my new cooking device. I'm trying to find my crock-legs, if you will. And the fact that I don't have to turn on my oven on an 85 degree day is a bonus!

I found the bone-in chicken breasts on deep sale at the store last week, and was looking for something easy to do while I was out all day. My inspiration was the lemon-pepper rotisserie chicken from Raley's. My version turned out moist and flavorful, and because I took the skin off before cooking, it is very healthy too. I know that you can probably do this recipe without first browning the chicken, but I prefer the nice browned skin the extra step adds.

Crockpot Lemon Chicken

4 bone-in chicken breasts
flour to dredge
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
Veggies for bottom of crock (peppers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, etc)

Dredge chicken in flour and brown in a big skillet. Put any veggies you want in the crock and top with the browned chicken. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6, and then check for doneness. Mine went for 5 hours on high and was a tad overdone. The taste was still perfection!

I seem to have a problem figuring out the timing on cooking in my crockpot. My friend Louanne said that older crockpots aren't as hot and therefore, less likely to overcook your meat. It's true - I'm going to start cooking my stuff on low and check the meat after 4 hours. I have three settings on my machine. High, Low and Warm. I wonder if "warm" would actually cook something. Is it worth a try?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Crockpot Korean Ribs

Crockpot Korean Ribs

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 T. sesame oil

2 T. rice vinegar

1 tsp dried ginger or 1 T fresh

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 package short ribs (3-5 lbs)

Put ribs in crock. Mix all other ingredients together and pour on top. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8. If you are home, go ahead and baste them every hour or two. If you want sauce to go over the ribs and some rice, then pull ribs out, skim the fat off of the sauce, add a little cornstarch/water mixture and boil for 2 minutes until thickened.

I loved was tangy, sweet and a little spicy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Garden Party Lemonade

Garden Party Lemonade

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 5 or 6 lemons)
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 sprig of fresh dill, roughly chopped
¾ cup sugar
1 cup crushed ice
4 cups water

Option Garnishes – lemon slices, dill sprigs, cucumber spear

Blend all ingredients in a blender.

Whoa. This was soooooo yummy! As I was browsing blogs yesterday I came across this recipe from Carol at Simply Gluten Free and something inside said "You must try". And then boom, like a flash of lightning, dill and fresh cucumbers at the farmers market....on the same table even. It was meant to be. Delish.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Turkey Patty with Bing Cherry Basil Salsa

If you noticed a theme, congratulations! I think its going to be all cherries, all week. If the cherry-basil combo sounds strange, I thought so too. But what the heck, I had all the ingredients on hand...why not give it a whirl? If you like any kind of fruit salsa, you would enjoy this too. It would also compliment a pork chop.

Italian Turkey Patty (stuffed with goat cheese)

1 package ground turkey

1/4 cup minced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 T. minced basil

1 T. minced sundried tomatoes

1/4 cup parmesan

1/2 tsp pepper

1 slice goat cheese per patty

Form a very thin patty and put the goat cheese in the middle. Top with another thin patty and smoosh together to make one big honkin' stuffed patty. Pan fry or grill until done.

Cherry Basil Salsa

2 cups chopped cherries

2 T. julienned basil

1 chopped jalepeno

1 tsp. lime juice

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

salt/pepper to taste

Okay, I'm not going to say much else other than I hope this inspires you to go out on a limb and try something new. If you do, please post a comment here and let me know how it turned out!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rainier Cherry Tart

So, cherry picking. Yay! Early summer is good livin' out here in the East County. It's all about fresh and local. A mere 5 minute drive puts us in the heart of U-Pick heaven. Today I think we picked about 10 lbs of cherries, half Rainier (the yellowish guys) and half Bing.

I am still pondering things to do with these juicy puppies beside eat them right out of the box.....let's see, cherry salsa, cherry soup, cherry brandy? Well, anyways, my first inclination was for a sweet treat.

Rainier Cherry Tart
1 1/4 cups flour
1 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter
2 T. cold water

Mix flour, sugar, salt and butter in food processor. Pulse on/off until mixture resembles small particles. Add 1 T. water and pulse, add another and pulse again. If the dough is damp enough to roll out, then do so. If not, add a couple more drops of water until you get it right. Roll it out and lay it into tart pan, pushing more dough up around the edges to make it thicker there. Poke holes with a fork and bake for 10 min. at 350. Cool slightly before adding filling.

1 block cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg

Mix everything but the egg together until creamy. Taste it several times until you are completely sure that it tastes good. Then one more taste for good measure. Add egg and mix until uniform. Spread over tart crust. Add fruit in a thoughtful symmetrical pattern (or not). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.