Monday, November 29, 2010

A Boy's Sunday Brunch

When your kids grow up, the opportunities to eat together, let alone cook together seem few and far between. They are in and out, we're in and out, and even though I am cooking up a storm, it is often just for two. Pretty soon the nest will really be empty.

My youngest son knows time is fleeting. Days are down to those we can count and he is "out on his own."   I think we're both feeling the inevitablity of this major transition, even if we are not talking about it much. Around us, incredibly stressful and sad things are happening,  so this weekend he decided we must have a big breakfast. Let's make a happy memory together. Amazingly, he can be incredibly sensitive and perceptive.

With his brother in town we had perfect timing for Gigantic French Toast, Papa's Fried Potatoes and something Mama whips up.  Youngest made the grocery run and brought many of the fixings, mimosas and texas toast. 10am, my boys and I rolled up our sleeves and got cooking. By 1pm we were gathered together, with our significant loves and enjoyed an elegant brunch and each other's company. I know it will be harder and harder for these impromptu meals to happen, so this day, I just enjoy.

First up homemade mixed berry syrup

Mixed-berry Syrup

Next came Papa's Fried Taters - the family definitely prefers his to mine!

Home fried taters

Mama's impromptu creamy crustless Tomato, Olive and Spinach Quiche

"Look Ma, no crust!"

Texas French Toast

smeared with honey pecan cream cheese and drizzled with our mixed berry syrup.

Sunday Brunch

Recipe for crustless Tomato, Olive and Spinach Quiche

Friday, November 26, 2010

So Stuffed

I wish I had a camera with me when I asked the butcher to cut up my fresh, free range, organic turkey. His eyes nearly popped out of his head, but like always I was a gal on a mission. Thanksgiving san whole roasted turkey, but all the traditions wrapped up in a very neat bundle. 

Bacon Wrapped Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Turkey Breast


How to stuff a wild turkey

I tried finding caul fat (to wrap the entire creation before tying up) but it was not to be had in the whole of Santa Cruz County! The stuffing consists of sweet italian sausage, a pound mixture of shiitake and white mushrooms, yellow onions, bread crumbs and spices. Found the recipe while surfing FoodTV. Anne Burrell's Sausage Mushroom Stuffed Turkey Breast, but the Barefoot Contessa also had something like this. 

Sliced of Heaven

Pulling it together, family style

Like many families, we all pull together to make our Thanksgiving meals something special. We share the cooking and prep duties, the washing up and playing with my favorite grandbabies to keep them entertained. We take time to think about those we love who are with us, and heartfelt reflection for those who are not. We anticipate with joy the new additions to our family and smile as our own loves welcome their loves to our home. As my darling dear husband said yesterday, "with open arms and hearts." I truly wish that spirit rests well with you my friends.

A few visual delights from the rest of the day's menu

Baked Brie
C & B Bake Brie with Cranberry Chutney
Nicoise Salad
Nicoise Salad
Thanksgiving Pies
Chocolate, Bourbon Pecan & Pumpkin Pies
It is not just about the food that we are thankful....

Monday, November 22, 2010

The ones that got away this month

Sometimes the good food just happens. A creative process, going so fast and furious remembering all the steps or ingredients can be a real challenge.  I don't know about you, but this notion of writing down everything in advance, or while I'm cooking is just not my style.  Add in some real time distractions like actually eating or visiting with family around the table and soon there goes my short term memory again. 

Luckily for me,  photos are my little memory gems to help sort is all out later.  I used to call it a "Mommy Moment," then, "Can't remember stuff," and now my own personal "Senior Moments," are strung together.  Whoa, where does it all go?

Here are a few that got away from me...  you might like them.

Herb Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms

This is a keeper. Rubbed destemmed, clean shiitakes with olive oil and a melange of fresh herbs: sage, sweet marjoram, chives, Italian oregano, basil, pinch of salt/pepper, and loads of garlic. Roasted in the oven until nicely browned but not shriveled. The earthiness of the mushrooms combined with these herbs. Awwwww deliciouso! This could be the basis of many wonderful things.

Herb Roasted Shiitake

Roasted Shiitake and Chicken Campanelle Pasta

Case in point, burnt butter/chardonnay sauce using more of the herb melange over campanelle pasta. Marinated the chicken breast strips in same herb/olive oil mixture and it ties the meal together.

Shiitake Campanelle with Chicken

Guinness Porkchops and Sauerkraut

One lonely bottle of Guinness left in the refrigerator, pork loin chops, caramelized onions and bacon! Made a marinade of the beer with a pinch of caraway and fennel seeds, garlic. Used 1/2 of the marinade to soak the chops for about 1/2 hour while I crisped up the bacon and caramelized the onions.  Set those aside to drain and then seared the chops, added sauerkraut nestled around the meat, poured in the rest of the unused marinade. Cover cook about 15 minutes until done. Serve as you see topped with the onions and bacon bits.

Guinness Porkchops and Sauerkraut

Rustic Lamb Stew with Sweet Potatoes 

And on a weeknight to boot! I had never used sweet potato in this classic and boy was it good! Used other sweet root veggies as well: celery root, rutabaga, parsnips, some red wine and this turned into a bowl full of love. Great leftovers too.

Lamb Stew

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

I just love shortbread, simple, buttery bites. This batch flavored with Earl Grey tea and a little drizzle of semi-sweet chocolate and topped with sliced almonds. I'm going to continue to work on this as the tea flavor didn't shine through as much as I had imagined. Poor, poor me, will have to bake some more.

Shortbread with Chocolate & Almonds

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Empanada Style Steak and Potato Pie

Empanada style steak and potato pie
It is nearly Thanksgiving and everyone is talking about PIES. Pumpkin, chocolate, sweet potato, apple, pecan and the like. Well, this crazy girl has come up with another latin inspired dish that appears to be bucking the trends.

Many cultures have little meat pies, piroshki, pierogi, meat pasties but I have to say, I love, love empanadas! My first taste was sweetly offered by my dear friend Maria years ago and all this pie talk made me think of them. Couldn't wait any longer for her next batch to arrive, so I jumped in with both feet! Using ready made pie crust and leftover steak makes this come together very quickly. I also decided to make two large pies instead of the traditional small handsized offerings and that saves a bunch of time. My spice combinations results in a nice burst of flavor. I think Maria would approve! P.S. this is also inspired acknowledgement of the sweet little pastries Bentobird has been serving up.

These two pies can serve four easily with a side salad or veggies. Tonight's companion was an asparagus salad with scallions and grape tomatoes, tossed with an anchovy/mustard vinaigrette.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Must Go Blue Cheese Stuffed 'Taters

Start with a vision
Ok, you know me by now that steak was on sale this week at the grocery store. So my Wednesday vision is dinner for two, nice sirloin (plenty thick), mushrooms, red wine. I don't know why we think that a great grilled steak, some mushrooms and a potato is so special that we can only go out to get it, or indulge when it is good grilling weather. We can do this at home people! Get yourself a good grill pan, start on the stove and finish in the oven. It works when outside grilling is just out of the question, brr too cold or too dark.  None of this is challenging to prepare and reaps rewards in delicious flavors.
Cast Iron Grill Pan and A great cut of sirlion = Great Meat!

Put something green on your plate!
Artichokes with garlic, onions and olive oil
Papa always said for a complete dinner you need add something green to round out the colors on our plate. Tonight we have beautiful seasonal fresh artichokes fresh from the farm. We live so close to Castroville, CA (Artichoke Capital of the World) so we can have these often. Be sure when you choose yours that the leaves "talk" to you with a nice squeek when you squeeze them and the leaves are moist and green. Don't let the thorns prick you - easy to trim of with kitchen scissors.

Gots to have my Tater!
Must Go Blue Cheese Stuffed 'Tater
To add a little twist to the standard baked potato with toppings I started checking out the "must go" list of ingredients in the fridge. Awesome, I have stuff! (Note to self... thin out the condiments so I have more room for food.) This fridge diving adventure produced a winning accompaniment for my side. Viola, a stuffed baked potato, quickly put together with the help of the microwave. On the plate, a great steak, and great potato,  my mid-western born husband truly believed I was possessed.

Okay, is this crazy or what? But one huge "Costco sized" potato is the basis for my stuffed potato for two. I used leftover blue cheese crumbles, monterey jack cheese to get my inspiration juices going.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Arroz con pollo and memories of cooking shows

I have to admit, I have more than one guilty pleasure...  I like watching cooking shows. Surprised? Bet not.  Sometimes, they run in the background while I'm online. Sometimes they capture my attention and I am all eyes and ears.  This happened recently when watching America's Test Kitchen on PBS. I  could just taste their version of Latin Style Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo) while they were preparing it, and that's how it arrived on last night's dinner table.

So here is my results of preparing America's Test Kitchen's recipe. Some modifications (naturally, I am my father's daughter after all...) Let me know if you want to know how I changed it up.  What cooking shows made an impact on you?
Arroz con Pollo
The Galloping Gourmet -- Really?
The quirky cooking show habit started a long time ago when The Galloping Gourmet aired on a local channel. Graham Kerr just cracked me up while I began taking notice of preparation, ingredients and such.  But mostly, this fellow had panache, verve and he cooked! The entertainment value was huge. Kerr was just having too much fun cooking and relating to his audience.  That glass of wine at the end made me feel as if I was a guest at his table.

Long after I was married,  I distinctly remember my Dad going on and on about this new cook from Louisiana, named Emeril. He told me, "Robi, you should see this guy.... BAM!" What an impact it made on the both of us. The show gave us great opportunities to talk about food, prep and ingredients, a common bond that we could share. Great conversations.

Graham Kerr "Meets his match"

Influence warmly regarded.
My Dad wasn't much inclined to have you cook along side with him, far from it. More a solo act -- that's for sure. So our chats about what he was thinking of, how he was going to make a dish "his way" became so rich and textured.  With personality and charm his eyes would light up, laugh lines crinkling as he talked.  His enthusiasm easily matched an Emeril or Graham. He even started to subscribe to foodie magazines and sharing them with me. A favorite was Food and Wine (Gourmet was too, too stuffy and pretentious for his taste.) We both got excited when Williams Sonoma catalog arrived. Like some folk think of the Victoria's Secret catalog, we'd turn the down the page corners of those special goodies that caught our eye. To the day he passed, he was thinking about his next "good fix." I have decades to catch up to him.

Chips,  salsa and a chat anyone?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fennel Hinted Red Wine Sauce

I start out this morning thinking I was going to cook some ahi tuna for dinner. Ya know, something I've done a bunch of times, not too much thinking involved. Then, about 4pm my darling dear husband calls and tells me he bought steelhead from Costco today!  Switch gears girlfriend! So I was thinking, hmm, fish, red wine, something different to expand my repertoire. Resulted in a search for salmon and red wine. Inspired by the results = tonight's dinner! Lucky for me, I already had 1/2 a head of red cabbage left over from a previous culinary adventure.

I also used a bit of Sparrow Lane Balsamic Vinegar. Why is it so special? Barrel aged and getting better and better over time is only part of the reason I love it. One holiday, my Dad gave some extra wonderful Spanish Olive Oil and this bottle of Sparrow Lane Balsamic Vinegar. The olive oil is long gone. But this vinegar I have been holding onto it, using it with discretion. Dad has been gone a few years now -- which in itself is so hard to believe. But, when I touch the bottle, I feel his presence. Always working on hearing him say "you got a good fix"... I think he would have enjoyed tonight's meal. Thanks Dad!

Columbia Crest Merlot-Cabernet Savignon, Balsamic Vinegar, Chicken Stock
Steehead with Fennel Hinted Red Wine Sauce over red cabbage and onions.
Fennel Hinted Red Wine Sauce
serving suggestion:  pan-seared steelhead and braised red cabbage
serves 4

1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Fennel Hinted Red Wine Sauce
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup red wine (Columbia Crest Merlot-Cabernet Savignon)
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/16 teaspoon white pepper
kosher salt to taste
pinch fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon butter

Saute cabbage and onions in large pan 10-12 minutes until fully wilted, salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm until plating.
Prepare Sauce, warm over very low heat.
Pan-sear steelhead in scant olive oil, cooking 3-4 minutes each side, starting skin side up.
Plate cabbage and onions, place fish on top, spoon sauce over to taste.

1. Boil 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons suger until golden caramel colored and syrupy, about 6 minutes.
2. Remove saucepan from heat and add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, stir to blend. Turn down heat to low and stir to dissolve thickened syrup. Add shallots continue stirring.
3. Add wine and return to a boil. Cook 8-10 minutes to reduce to by half.
4. Add chicken broth, return to boil. Cook to reduce to about 1 cup. Lower heat.
5. Combine corn starch and 2 tablespoons water, add to sauce and whisk over medium heat until sauce is thickened. Lower heat to simmer.
6. Taste. Add white and black peppers, kosher salt, and pinch of fennel seeds, butter, simmer 10 minutes.
7. Serve over seared fish and cabbage.
Thin slices asian pears with sliced Holiday Grapes
Cook’s Tips
This was based on

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pulled Pork Sandwiches - Last of the Roast

As promised, the pulled pork sandwiches! My darling dear husband was wondering if I would ever really deliver on this promise I made a week ago.  I've been amazed about the variety this cheap (yes I said cut of meat was able to deliver.   One pork shoulder roast, four meals and only .97/lb! Sometimes I don't know if I am feeding 2 or 4 or 6 and these meals go the distance. By just adding more vegetables, or fruit, a little rice and these stretch with ease or freeze for later. Not a lot of time spent cooking, more time enjoying. How do you stretch your grocery dollars? Whatever way you choose.. make it delicious!

Meal 1 - Spice Roast Pork and Butternut Squash
Meal 2 - Easy Chili Verde Stew
Meal 3 - Hoisin Stir Fry and ?Cupcakes?
Meal 4 - Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Roasted Dinner Fries, Broccoli Slaw
Thin slice the remaining fourth of the roast  (about 2-3 cups)
1/4 yellow onion sliced
1/4 red onion sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons sliced roasted red/yellow peppers (from jar)
Saute together in 4 qt saucepan until onions tender, about 4 minutes
Add pork slices
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup favorite brand barbecue sauce
1/4 cup Roasted Pepper  Sauce "Good Ol Burger"

Mix sauce ingredients in measuring cup/bowl, whisk to blend.
Add to saucepan and bring to boil. Lower to simmer and cover. Simmer for about an hour until pork is tender and fork shreds easily. Serve on toasted sesame buns or your favorite roll.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hoisin Stirfry with Asian Yams and ?Cupcakes?

The third meal from that pork roast was going to be pulled pork sandwiches, then of course I changed my mind. Typical, right? I found these really beautiful purple skinned asian yams and just had to make something with them. So my Halloween menu got all turned around. The folks around the table thought it was a hit!
Red Cabbage, Asian yams, Ginger, Cilantro, Garlic etc.. stir fry in the making.
I really wanted this meal to be colorful, so added red cabbage, carrots, and bok choy to the wok. Lots of slicing and dicing, but worth it!

Ready for the wok!
I thin cut the pork and marinated it for about an hour in doctored-up SoyVay Garlic Hoisin Sauce. I've never used that brand before, but it worked out just fine. I usually use Lee Kum Kee, Hong Kong brand Hoisin Sauce as a base.
Hoisin Stirfry, Cucumbers in Rice Vinegar, Fuyu Persimmons
Modified Hoisin Marinade
1/4 cup Soy Vay Hoisin Ginger sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon course black pepper
dash ground red pepper

And for dessert..... Cupcakes!