Monday, August 16, 2010


My how life can get busy. Seems like things all tend to happen at once! Over the past three months, Alex graduated from UCSC, I finished my nursing pre-requisites (and sadly was faced with the fact that it will be a few years until I can start nursing school proper, thanks to budget cuts) and we both quit our jobs in preparation for our big move to Portland.

Amazing how life changes isn't it? Change is bound to happen though. I suppose it isnt so much life's changes that surprise me, I think the astonishing thing is how life changes us.

Our new elected hometown is changing me already. Portland is a weird and wonderful place. That picture up there? Its an automated fortune teller that someone installed on the side of a building in a sort of seedy part of town. It is odd, and amazing, and so typical Portland. The whole city is infected with a do-it-yourself spirit and quirky back to basics/sustainable tendencies. The town is crawling with food carts, obsessed with microbreweries (Alex is like a kid in a candy store, or rather a grown up in a beer themed amusement park when walking the streets) and there is basically a farmers market everyday. Thats right folk, the local food moment is alive and well in wet, rainy Portland. People there love to recycle, take public transit, and reuse stuff in magical and unsuspected ways. And people MAKE things in Portland, build them, craft them, shape them.

Apparently Portland is turning me into a bit of a hippy. I use this term lightly of course, I am wearing jeans from old navy right now and I am pretty sure that the hippy crowd will kick you out for that offense alone. What I am trying to say is that my focus on sustanablity and reducing my personal carbon footprint has been deepend by the time that I have spent driving up and down the North West coast of California and Oregon over the past few months. It is hard not to think about the importance of our resources when you are surrounded by people that better understand their link to the earth and its gifts better than you do yourself. So be prepared people, things are changing around here. Look forward to recipes featuring locally grown food, canning, recycling ideas, home made bread, and other general harebrained things of that sustainable sort.

And of course many token photos of myself dwarfed by a gigantic pint of local brew! Portland here we come.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pesto of a different sort

During the summer when we stay at Alex's house in Sonoma there is always fresh basil, and by virtue of that fact we eat a LOT of pesto during the warm summer months so it has become a food that I associate with dinners on the porch soaking up the early evening sunshine. Looking outside at the damp gray world I can't think of anything in the whole world that sounds more enticing right now then grabbing a bowl and heading in the back yard to pick fresh basil in the sunshine. Sadly, right now in the dead of winter here in frigid California (ok, so maybe its not that cold, but it did rain today) there is little fresh basil to be found. We could buy frozen or jarred pesto which does the trick in a pinch. But somehow in the middle of winter when you really begin to miss summer, eating foods like pesto that bring to mind flip flops, and dining al fresco, just seems more sad than satisfying.

Thumbing through the latest Martha Stewart Everyday magazine I found what one could consider a compromise between my need for pesto, and my aversion to foods that make my heart ache for sunshine. It's a simple recipe for pea and parsley pesto. A thick green oily sauce like traditional pesto, but this sauce doesn't have that summery aroma of basil that screams summer. The lack of basil goodness is made up for with a nuttier flavor than its summary counterpart, and a healthy dose of garlic. And it is DAMN good. In the same way that fancy warm winter coats and boots totally save winter fashion from being boring, the walnuts and peas make this winter pesto exciting. Basically this recipe made my whole week and I am once again able to embrace winter. I like to think of this recipe as Martha's midwinter gift to me, and lord knows that in the midst of gray sky's and midterms I needed a little pick me up.
Pea and Parsley Pesto
Everyday Food
  • 1 cup frozen peas (I will not stop you from using fresh if you got 'em)
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 garlic cloves (3 regular sized, only two if they are large) smashed and peeled
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

If using frozen peas cook them for a minute or so in the microwave covered with two tablespoons of water.

In a food processor combine the peas, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and one tablespoon of water. Pulse until everything is blended to a paste. While the machine is running slowly add in the olive oil and continue to run the food processor until the mixture is blended.

Add salt and pepper to taste. We followed the serving suggestion and served this over pasta that we added another cup of frozen peas to during the last minute of boiling and it was wonderful. It would also be fantastic on sandwiches, mixed into hummus or salad dressing, or in an omelet. MMM...winter pesto.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


We had an Oscar night picnic tonight, and the spread included these little bruchetta's with fontina and greens which were meant to be simply complimentary to the rest of the meal but they were the biggest hit out of everything. Now let me tell you, dear reader, that we also had chocolate peanut butter cookies with a big ol' plop of jam right in the center. This bruchetta was actually better than those cookies. That's how insanely delicious these little toasty snacks of wonder are.

See? Nice picnick huh? It was. The food made up for the fact that after suffering through all of the boring Oscar categories our DVR cut off right before they opened the envelope to announce best actor. That's right people we missed ALL of the good stuff; best actor and actress, director and picture. Sad as that may have been we had that bruchetta and it was crunchy, and garlicky, with warm melty fontina cheese all over the top. Outrageously good, I am surprised that we weren't reduced to blows fighting over who got the last piece.

So maybe our cookies were a bit meh, and yeah, we did miss watching the first female win the best director category and "the dude" getting his Oscar, but there was warm delicious bruchetta and I gotta say that was enough for me. I can go to sleep happy.

Bruschetta with Fontina and Greens
From Giada De Laurentis

  • 1 pound loaf of ciabatta with the ends cut off and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

  • 1 Garlic clove sliced down the middle to rub on toasts

  • 3 Garlic cloves minced

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil to cook greens+ roughly 2 more to drizzle on toasts

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 12 oz baby spinach

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 cups (4 oz) fontina cheese, grated

To make the toasts preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the slices of bread on the parchment paper in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and allow to bake four roughly 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the toasts and allow to cool slightly and then rub the toasts with the cut portion of the garlic halves. Set the toasts aside and get to work on the spinach.

In a skillet heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the three minced garlic cloves along with the red pepper flakes and cook until you can smell the garlic, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted then season to taste with salt.

Top the toasts with the spinach and then sprinkle with cheese and put them back into the oven to season with salt and serve.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I have been on a total sweet potato bender lately. I'm pretty sure that I have roasted, boiled, baked, and fried more of these delicious little spuds in the last month than I had in the previous two years. We have had sweet potatoes in just about any possible incarnation imaginable and I am still not sick of them. Alex might be, but he is too much of a sweetheart to let me know it.

Tonight, thanks to the Moosewood cookbook that I have renewed from the library for the third (and last allowable) time now, we discovered my new FAVORITE way to ingest my current favorite food. Sweet potato pancakes. These things are so delicious it is slightly unreal. The sweet potatoes keep the pancakes moist, and the sweetness is balanced by the cumin and chili powder so they are delicious with savory foods, but you could always omit the cumin and chili powder, add nutmeg and some sugar along with raisins. Oh the possibilities! Tonight we topped ours with poached eggs, salsa, pepper jack cheese, Greek yogurt and tomatoes.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

  • 1 cup peeled and grated raw sweet potatoes (the potatoes should be grated as finely-using a small hole grater if possible)

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel (can be omitted if you don't want in a savory rendition)

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 cup milk

  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl mix the sweet potatoes, lemon peel, egg, milk, oil and butter.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon.

Sir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to over stir. Set the batter aside.

Heat a oiled skillet to medium high heat. For each pancake pour about a ladle full or a little less of batter into the skillet and allow to cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until they reach a golden brown color.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The big easy, California style

I have never actually been to New Orleans. For god sakes I have never been to Louisiana, or even it's bordering states for that matter. This simple fact does not seem to have any bearing on my overwhelming and slightly fanatical love for New Orleans. I have this strange and misguided theory that in some strange way I am a defacto native of the area. In college we had a guy on an exchange program from LSU and I followed that poor boy around and badgered him for any information about his hometown that I could get out of him. I hung around his dorm and struck up a friendship with him just to hear him talk, and to eat the crazy food he made(his mom sent alligator!! we made stew). It was as though I thought that some of his awesome cool Luisiananess would rub off on me. It did not, but I did fall even further in love with New Orleans.

About three weeks into my stalking stint Hurricane Katrina blew through his hometown. He told me all the stories that he was getting from back home. We watched the news coverage. It was horrifying. I remember being so devastated by not only the madness of the political situation and the mind numbing amount of pain was being absorbed by so many, but also at the loss of such an amazing place. My heart went out then, and still goes out now to all of those that lost so much in that disaster; people they loved, the places they called home and everything within, and the culture of a city like no other. To this day I am amazed by the resiliency of the people from that region and I am so grateful that they have worked so hard to rebuild and preserve New Orleans. Hopefully one day I will actually get my ass down there.

All that to tell you that I was really excited that the Saints were going to the Superbowl!!! In honor of this occasion Alex and I had a Louisiana inspired evening. There was even Sweet Tea wine that I found at Cost Plus. It was actually a little too sweet for my taste, I had to mix it in to some white wine to get a sangria effect, which worked nicely. Look at that bottle though...ahh soo cool.

I actually got my act together and chopped/organized my ingredients.
Makes life so much easier.

We made (Just like your mawmaw's) Shrimp Creole (we used chicken sausage not shrimp to save $$) from the Trader Joe's Companion cook book that I got from some friends for my birthday this year. My preparing this recipe marked a monuments occasion. I made my first roux. A roux is simply a mixture of fat and flour that is used as the base for a lot of Cajun stews. The flour and fat are combined in equal parts and then cooked until it becomes a dark brown color. The roux has a deep nutty taste that it lends to the dish as well as giving it a rich color that is hard to resist. It is a bit of a tedious task but it is well worth it. The creole was perfect, spicy, thick and satisfying. The roux gives the stew an almost smokey flavor, a very subtle richness that is perfectly offset by the spice of the chili powder and the sausage. And I really recommend using the fresh tomatoes, the acidity is perfect and the texture of the skins makes the dish a lot more interesting.

The roux in the beginning

Finished Product

Go Saints!! Creole

Adapted from (Just like your mawmaw's) Shrimp creole from The Trader Joe's Companion

  • 1 lb Andoullie Sausage sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup, carrot chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (could use chicken)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cup chopped tomato
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

Begin by making your roux. Using a flat bottomed pan over medium-low heat warm up the oil. Slowly add the flour and whisk together. Once the flour is Incorporated you need to continue to stir the mixture until it has turned a light brown (a color similar to peanut butter). This should take about 15 minutes. You can cook the roux for longer, my understanding is that the longer it cooks the more authentic it is.

Once you are satisfied with the roux add your onion, pepper, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, until the veggies have softened.

Add the garlic, thyme, broth, wine, chili powder, tomato and tomato paste. Stir until the paste has dissolved and the entire soup is well blended. Allow everything to simmer for about 30 minutes. The creole will have thickened up a great deal, add as much extra liquid (stock or wine preferably) as you feel you need.

Once you have the consistency you want add the sausage and cook for about 10 more minutes.

We served ours the way they do at our favorite Louisiana style restaurant, with a scoop of rice on top, and we added a bit of Greek yogurt to the top because we put in extra chili powder and it was hot!! Stick to 1/4 teaspoon chili powder if you are adding spicy sausage!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

If you give a moose a Quiche

He is probably going to ask for...More quiche!!!
Ohh, so there you have it, the years of Nannying are beginning to go to my head. More often than not I am thinking of some strange children's book when I should be milling over slightly more adult ideas. Oh well.

The good news is that this quiche that I made earlier in the week was so good that it just about brought me to tears.

I need to backtrack a bit I suppose. I had a few weeks post holiday's/pre school semester to enjoy a few precious moments of free time, which is a rarity in my life. During this period of time I finally made it to the Library, something I have been talking about doing since, well my last break from school. I love the library. I prefer old dusty books to new ones, a strange quirk that I can't exactly explain, it is just a fact of life. So I went, I found some books, and it was awesome. And on the way out I though that maybe, just maybe, the Library might have cookbooks. Oh and did they ever!! soooo many cookbooks it was slightly overwhelming. I checked out so many books that I could hardly get them back to my car, it was embarrassing. But worth it.

One of the books I got was the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. The Moosewood Restaurant is a bit of a mystery to me seeing as I have never actually been there, but I have at least thumbed through most of their cookbooks, all of which are rather large, with very few pictures of the food, and a whole mess of crunchy granola type recipes. I was a vegetarian for a long time, so I have a bit of a soft spot for all things Tofu and veggie laden which is what attracts me to these books I think. On the other hand I am a bit confused by recipes like kasha with red cabbage. What does that even MEAN!?!? These confusing dishes aside, they always have strange new twists on old meat heavy foods which appeals to me. So this cookbook I checked out is gorgeous, but it is scary. There are just so many recipes I don't know how to even approach deciding which ones I need to make before I have to return the damn thing.

There was one recipe however that I had to make ASAP the second I read the title. Seriously.

It was Ronald's Fennel Quiche. I love fennel and I love quiche so it was sort of a shoe in. This quiche is freakishly delicious. The fennel lends it's deep and rich flavor, but the eggs are still light and fluffy and balance the rich flavor of the crust and fennel, especially with the tangy feta blended in. The whole dish is so beautifully layered with flavor and texture and is completely addicting. I found myself day dreaming about it in class when I was supposed to be focusing on the effects of bacteria on their hosts. It takes an extremely good quiche to make you think about food when learning about giardia.

Ronald's Fennel Quiche

Loosely adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant new Classics

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup chilled butter

  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil

  • 3/4 cups diced onions

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel

  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes

  • 1 cup diced zucchini

  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

  • 2 tablespoons dried basil (recipe calls for fresh, use it if you got it, our Safeway was out)

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup feta cheese

  • 1/2 cup grated dill Havarti cheese

  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss

You could of course use any cheesed you want, just stick to about 1 cup total, grated, plus the cup of feta.

To make the crust:

Mix together the flour and salt. Work in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture is similar to a coarse meal. Slowly incorporate the water into the mixture, using about a tablespoon at a time.

Push the dough away from the sides and into the middle of the bowl until you are left with a ball that sticks together. Turn the ball out onto a dry clean surface, cut it in half and than stack the two half's and press down to mix. Do this a few times until the moisture seems to be evenly distributed.

Add a bit of flour to your work surface and roll your dough out into a circle that is about 12 inches. Place the dough into a 9 inch pie place, fold the edges over and crimp the edges until they adhere to the plate. Make sure to put the crust into the refrigerator when finished.

Preheat oven to 375

In a skillet heat your oil and add the onions and salt. Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add your fresh fennel and cook for 3-5 more minutes.

While the onions and fennel cook, halve the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp and juice, reserving 1/2 cup of the tomato juice/pulp. Chop up the tomatoes and add it, along with the zucchini to the skillet and continue to cook on medium heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat off the skillet and add both the basil and the pepper

In a blender mix the eggs, tomato pulp and juice along with the feta until it is a smooth custard.

Take your crust out of the refrigerator and place the veggies on the bottom. Top with the grated cheeses and then pour the egg mixture on top.

Bake for roughly 50 minutes until the top of the quiche is golden and puffed up and the crust is golden as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

German Apple Pancake

This recipe has been tacked up on the cork board that we have in our kitchen since September. When I found it in Cooking Light and pulled it out, apples were in full harvest. At some point during the earl fall we even drove down to Watsonville to pick them straight out of the orchards. Somehow in the midst of all the other feverish apple induced cooking, these pancakes were never made.

Maybe my reluctance to try this skillet pancake has something to do with the fact that I am not actually much of a pancake person. I love them in theory, but when push comes to shove and breakfast plans must be made, I am ALWAYS going to pick an egg dish for breakfast. I have this ongoing love affair with poached eggs and they trump pancakes week in and week out. I think this absence of pancakes makes Alex sad at times, but he is to sweet to say so. I do however make pancakes often when people are over for breakfast because they are easier to orchestrate than eggs for large groups. So this weekend, when I had my mom and brother over for breakfast, this recipe, oh so patient a recipe it has been up to this point, finally put its foot down and insisted that it be made. Thank god. It is delectable, and because it is from Cooking Light its good for you to right? Even with syrup all over it...

A word of warning for those of you about to make this dish, this is not your typical pancake. It's a sort of a crepe/pancake hybrid with a delicious crunchy caramelized bottom. Though not entirely like a pancake it is fluffy, and a bit sweet, and I am sure any fruit would taste wonderful embedded in its warm center. It also smells wonderful as it cooks and comes out looking so puffy and cheerful.

German Apple Pankake
Adapted from Cooking Light

-The recipie called for egg subsitute but I had one of those cartons of liquid egg so I used that instead and it worked fine.

Batter Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg (pregrated would be fine as well)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup liquid eggs-or substitute
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Mixture Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divded
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup thinly sliced apple, preferiable Granny Smith or similar. Our was a pink lady though and that worked well.
Begin by making the batter in a medium sized bowl. Combine the flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a bowl and stir with a whisk.

In a smaller bowl combine egg substitute, milk, butter and vanilla, whisk together and add to the flower mixture and combine. Set the batter aside and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

While the batter sets, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cover the bottoms and the sides of an ovenproof skillit with cooking spray or whichever grease you choose. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and sprinkle this evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.

On top of the sugar, arrange the apple in a single layer along the bottom of the pan. A spokelike pattern looks nice, but as long is it is a single layer you should be fine. Once the apples are in the pan sprinle the last 1/4 cup of sugar over the apples. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and apple juices begin to bubble. Once at this point pour in the batter slowly.

Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, and then reduce the temp to 375 and cook for an additional 13 minutes. The center of the pancake should be set.

Remove the pancake from the oven and serve either directly out of the skillet or remove it with a spatula and serve on a plate. You can sprinle powdered sugar over the top for effect if you like just before serving.