A place for me to share my love for all things cooking, wine and Bento.  The research for this blog is going to continually be grueling my friends.... ;)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two New Healthy Recipes For The Season

Monday's are usually my day off. I either clean bathrooms, cook or organize the house.  Today I'm doing quite a bit of cooking to make up for a few days of us being under the weather, and for the sake of using some great produce I got before we got feeling bad.  Tuesday is the day I get the new Tally Farms produce box, so by today, I like to have used up all of the last one.

Part of today will be just a new twist on the recipe seen in my last post. First however, I want to share a recipe I came up with this time last year when asparagus started showing up on the produce shelves.  I personally like the thin tender asparagus especially when cooked this way because they don't require as much cooking time.  The tomatoes don't get pulverized waiting for their buddies to catch up.
So this is :
2 bunches of thin tender asparagus cut to lengths you prefer. These are about one inch
1 lb Pear or Cherry tomatoes whole
EVOO to taste
Salt to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Zest of half a lemon
Squeeze juice of half a lemon

Toss it all up till coated and spread in a baking pan.  Place in oven at 350* for about 30 min, more or less depending on your texture preference and the thickness of your veggies.  Just taste along the way and you will find your sweet spot.

Once cooked they should not look too much different.  As you can see, some of my tomatoes have not made it but that's fine.

Let cool and then place in a large mixing bowl.

While that cools, you need to cook your quinoa.  Quinoa is a highly nutrition packed "grain" from South America known for it's low glycemic index and high protein   It's actually the seed of a plant in the Swiss chard and spinach family so I'm told.  It cooks just like rice only quicker and it has to be rinsed to remove a powdery layer that will make it taste bitter if not rinsed.

I prefer to rinse mine in 1/2 cup segments, thus the 1/2 cup measure that remains in my quinoa bucket.  That way, I feel I get it rinsed more thoroughly   Sorry, I took the picture of the sifter after sifting...not such a glorious capture but for your benefit to see what I use.

Another huge flavor enhancer for quinoa is to cook it i n chicken broth.  I usually have some TJ's around but when I don't I always have a wonderful fresh bullion. 
For my pan of veggies, I cooked up 1 and 1/2 cup quinoa with 3 cups of broth.  Like I said, it measures just like rice in solid to liquid ratio.
You don't have to stand right over it if you get it to a good simmer but check it now and then to be sure it does not burn.  The above picture is about half way there.

Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, I turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot.  I walk away for five minutes and come back to a nice fluffy quinoa.

Add that to your bowl of roasted veggies and either do one of things... place in a dish and top with feta..

Some kind of toasted almonds.....

..and drizzle with EVOO before serving it up warm.  OR you can let it cool, then add the feta, and the almonds, toss to mix and fridge for later.  It's quite good at room temp or a little cool.  Drizzle a little EVOO on if you like before enjoying.  Mmmm...I love this dish. I'm having it for lunch as I write!  Look out!  Those lightly roasted tomatoes will burst in your mouth!!

Quinoa with roasted tomatoes and asparagus....DONE.
SO, to wrap up the rest of that:
1 and 1/2 cup quinoa
3 Cups Chicken Broth
Cook till liquid absorbs at a simmer, heat off, cover and let set five min
Feta crumbles to taste
Almond slivers to taste
EVOO ...you got it...good job....TO TASTE!  (Can you tell I'm not very scientific!?)

SO!  On to recipe two for today.  My last post told of a wonderful quiche recipe I found to use up the lovely leeks and broccoli in my Talley Farms produce box lately.  They are in season and everywhere!!  This time I took the quiche mixture and baked them inside slices of honey ham for quick breakfasts, healthy protein snacks, or bento lunches for the kids and Rick.  I sure hope there are a few left for me too. This allows a low carb quiche on the go.

Don't worry, if the egg spills outside of the ham a bit, pretty is not everything.

I also baked a few in flattened out biscuit dough for those who need a little more carb burst.

You should have seen the pan on the biscuit ones though!  As the dough cooks, it pushes the mixture up and since it's not set yet, a bit of it spills over.   Don't over fill them...I kinda did and they made a bit of a mess.  They still came out good though so I'm not sad at all. Cut them out, take a picture (or not) and don't look at the mess till later lol.  
The only variation from the recipe was that this time I used diced turkey ham instead of bacon.  We don't buy bacon a lot and the ham is just as tasty in here.  I also did not add the butter recommended in the quiche recipe and I think it was fine without all that fat.  The cheddar cheese adds enough and I cooked the veggies in EVOO.  So refer to this post for that mixture.  You could easily play around with it and add or take a way many things in your egg base.    

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Broccoli Bacon Leek Quiche

It sounded lovely. It seemed a great use of all the leeks in my produce box from Talley Farms..I did the whole process and almost posted but decided to wait for one important factor. Did it taste good?
Oh, my goodness did it!!!
Here is what you need (I made two at a time so this is a double recipe)
2 pie shells
1 pkg bacon
1-2 cups shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
2 brocolli heads
2-3 leeks
10 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup melted butter (melt ahead of time to let cool a bit)
1 tsp thyme
I keep my bacon partly frozen so I can cut it in nice chunks.

Wash your leeks well in a sink of cold water.
Two pie shells par cooked at 375 for about 20 min.  I put foil and beans in mine but it still bubbled a bit.  I need to get one of those forms.  I'm not good at pie dough on any level.

Chop your leeks, and broccoli (try to cut small and take off all stems but don't throw those away!) Mix butter (cooled a bit), egg, milk, thyme, and S&P.

Cook the bacon till crisp. I like to use a soup pot to keep the grease down.  Plus, you will use some of the drippings too cook your veggies.

Drain on a napkin or towel and set aside.

Pour out most of your bacon fat but save enough to cook greens. 

Cook for about 10 min until tender.  Season with Salt and Pepper while cooking.

Sprinkle bacon in pie pans and top with veggies.

Add shredded cheese.

Wisk up egg mixture and pour over each pie.  I had two very different sized pie pans. 

Bake at 350* for about 25-30 min

Let Cool.  I served with Honey Greek Yogurt and fruit.  It was amazing. I'd add a muffin on the menu too, that would go well. 

EVERYONE wanted more.  Emma is having a second slice.  It was rich and yummy and full of veggies too that had that perfect softness kids go for.

The recipe I used had too much butter and egg mixture.  I had enough left over for another pie. I have changed the amounts in the above recipe but depending on your pie pans you may have too much or too little. I put this in a jar because I can pour it over anything interesting to make another quiche.

This weeks produce box has more leeks and brocolli so I will be making more of these.  Because bacon is fatty and expensive, I will be trying it with finely chopped turkey ham.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pazole Again...I Know...

I've written twice about Pazole (perhaps on other blogs) but guess what!?  I'm going to do it again. For two reasons (1) I cannot tell you how much I love this soup but I'm trying again.  (2) The way I made it this time was beyond perfection in my mind and my husband agreed it was the best.

The funny thing is, it's the simplest method I've used yet!  Isn't that so true of life that simple is better? I usually cook my pork (usually do a picnic roast) in a big stew pot with the chopped onion and let that cook for hours.  With working now, I don't have time to watch a pot anymore.  So, I put the pork (I think I did a boneless pork butt roast this time which was better) in the crockpot, covered it with water and seasoned it with salt, pepper and lots of powdered garlic.

When I got home from work, I pulled the meat out and put it in my dutch oven (I had to put some in a second soup pot there was so much.  I picked out the fat and then poured the broth from the crockpot in ladle by ladle through a strainer to keep the ugly bits out.  I did not add chopped onion or even cilantro to the soup like I usually do.  I just put in some oregano, chili powder, lots of cumin, pepper and salt, more garlic, and my own idea of some smoked paprika.  I add the strained Hominy  (I use the large can) and chop up the meat with a spoon in bite size pieces.  I let that come to a simmer and cook a bit and then turned it off.  I also took one lime and squeezed the juice in.

Traditional Pazole has dried Ancho peppers in it that are re-constituted in warm water, blended and then strained into the soup.  However, since I needed an easier method this time, I did the large can of red enchilada sauce.  I thought it was better.  Easier and better make a great team. If you want more from scratch though, go for it!

I chopped up the toppings of: Cabbage (some Mexican's do lettuce too), sweet white onion, cilantro, radishes, avocado and lime wedges. The lime is squeezed into the bowl before eating.  This additional lime is optional for the one eating.  I also shred cheese for the kids but it does not need it traditionally. I think the amazing difference of this soup is that the veggies are sweet and fresh and crunchy but do get nice and warm the moment they meet the soup.  It reminds me of Pho which is made by the Vietnamese.  The cilantro and onion being fresh made much better flavor per bite.  

I had never kept the basic soup so simple or cooked it on the stove so little.  I had also never had sliced avocado on top.  I served it with soft maza corn tortillas with butter (not warm because it will drip all over, instead keep it room temp and dip in the soup to melt the butter with each bite).  It was so amazing!

Some of my kids don't do anything but cheese.  I let them decide on this dish.  It is of course better with everything in it!

So here is the content list: (sorry, I don't measure. Go by taste. I probably do a teaspoon, or half of one for the seasonings)

1 Pork Roast (Boneless is easier)
1 Large can hominy (when I say large, I mean the Food For Less LARGE one)
Broth from the Pork (remember I just covered mine with water in the crockpot and that was enough for sure)
Garlic Powder
Chili Powder
Cumin Powder
Smoked Paprika
Juice of one Lime (I plunk it in the soup after I squeeze it to get some flavor from the zest)
1 Large Can Enchilada sauce or two 14oz cans

Onion chopped
Cilantro chopped
Sliced Limes
Shredded Cheese (optional)
Crunched Tortilla chips (optional)

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Year Of The Jar...Apparently

(This is a double posting.  I posted it at my other blog and realized perhaps that I should have posted it here. So I did both)

I was so intrigued when I saw this idea popping up on Pinterest (here is my collection of links there) .  It combines healthy, with make ahead, with appetizing.  I spent a bit of time looking up all the possibilities of jar salad combos, fruit and herb infused water, and breakfast to go in a jar.  Trust me, the ideas are amazing and endless.  I've come up with a few of my own I want to implement.  With these and Bento, lunch just got even more healthy and fun.

We are trying to get healthier in our house.  Trying to motivated the kids to move more and eat more good foods.  I'm very thankful I've been working with them since they were young to explore their palate.  They do however have their preferences and since I wanted healthy to be fun I decided to ask them all what their favorite veggies are. I realized I can be glad they have many they like. 

So, today we made our first infused water.  I did one that was all citrus.  It was orange, lemon and lime.  That seemed to be the most popular.  Second enjoyed was the raspberry lime one.  That turns a nice pink to and really holds that raspberry flavor.  The last one was cucumber which I liked but the kids did not really.  I'd like to put some watermelon or honeydew in there next time. The kids have been drinking them all evening and we had them as choices with dinner.  You can technically add a little honey or sugar but I did not mention it because I wanted them to start to gain an appreciation for the simple infused water taste.  I don't have a garden for fresh herbs but there are many combos to use those as well. As you drink these, you keep refilling the water. They can be used for many days.  It's amazing how long those flavors can seep out of the fruits.  Plus, you are getting vitamins from them.

So, our salad for tomorrows first try at this is some of the favorites they mentioned.  Dressing in the bottom (ranch for the kids, blue cheese for Rick, sundried tomato vinaigrette for me), celery and carrots, cucumber, radish (except for Emma), chopped boiled egg, bacon and then the fresh lettuce.  These will keep in the fridge I'm told for up to five days and still taste really fresh.  You do of course want to always keep the leaves on the top and the acids away from anything but tough veggies or cherry/pear tomatoes.

In order to eat this at school, I'm sending them with an empty container but hope to just send paper plates in the future that they can throw away.  The plastic jar lids, found cheap at Wal-Mart are easy for the kids to open and close.  The method I'm suggesting is that they open the jar, put the lettuce on their plate, close the jar, shake up to coat all else with dressing, and then dump that on top of the lettuce bed.  It will be fun to hear their report of how it goes. As Caedmon was going to bed tonight he asked to have some cucumber water in his cup he takes to bed instead of regular water.  As I opened the fridge he said "oh, those salads look good!"  Yep that's what I'm looking for, appreciation and excitement about these changes.  Made me feel encouraged. 

I'm also excited to try out the oatmeal yogurt ones the lady has on her site.  Anything healthy that is ready to go is fabulous. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Wine Memberships: Sculpterra

I don't know a lot about wine. I may know more than some, but I am no expert. We started going tasting to get to know our local area and we have found that we really have only touched the surface. It did not take long however for our palate to develop and for us to fine tune what we liked.  That is really what we have found, one must go for what they like.  The price tag really means nothing unless it's something worth buying for YOU.  My husband likes wine almost more than I do so it's also something that we enjoy together and allows us places to get away from the daily routine. 

I have had people ask me though, who do know less than me, how we can afford to have memberships (we are not rich people ah, hem...we are not even close) and how they work.  I've been asked often what they cost.  I don't know about everywhere but I'll say what we have found and how we look at the wine membership. 

First we have requirements:

  • We try to limit our memberships to three for now.  Though memberships don't cost, they have buying commitments that have to be considered.
  • They have to be filled with perks.  They have to have a good discount.  I will tell more in the next few days what each one of ours does.  What I really mean by perks though are events. Release parties are the biggest way to really get a deal out of your membership.  We dropped one winery recently because there were NO events.  Release parties are usually free or at minimal cost to the member.  They have amazing food, usually music, and great ambiance.  When you choose your winery, make sure you like it's location and atmosphere because those events in that setting will be your future get away. 
  • They have to have friendly staff.  Every one of our memberships are a delight to visit.  Sculpterra is our favorite for many reasons, I'll tell soon, but each one has friendly people behind the counter.  Wine tasting, and wine in general is a social experience.  Rick likes to hear the history of the places, as well as the details about the wines.  You have to have people who seem interested to talk to you.  I've been to some places that make you feel like you are bothering them and that is NOT cool with me!  Or, they are snobs and seem to have you socially labeled the minute you come through the tasting room door.  You should be able to come in your jeans or your fine attire and be treated the same. If you enjoy this winery, you are going to be seeing these people a lot, so make sure they are people you want to revisit and who seem to want to see you again too. 
  • The wine must be amazing!  For our three membership's, we went down the tasting list and loved each wine more and more.  That is not what we find at all places.  Make sure you like it all because you will be getting all kinds of their wines at different times. 
  • For us it needs to be local. I know many people, including my boss, like memberships far away.  We want to take full advantage of our memberships and be able to visit our wineries often.  We have a home we are content with but we don't have a nice view, or a great yard etc so getting away has to be a usable benefit.  I have to say though that at every pick up we meet people from hours away who drive to make the party and enjoy doing that.

So, let me just skip to telling you about our memberships and why we like each of them.  I think you will see in the end that choosing a membership can be a great idea over all. 


   I first heard of Sculpterra from my boss.  We do the taxes for the sculpture artist out there.  He was telling me that I should head out there with Rick and check the place out.  We loved it right away.  The ambiance was nice for us getting away and still lovely for when we want to bring the kids.  In fact, we tested them out right away and asked if we could have our Easter egg hunt there for our kids amidst the garden and they let us!  That was so fun. 
The wine was amazing as we went down the list. Very fruit forward, which is what we like.  The owner is a local Dr. who use to partner with our MD growing up.  I even saw him once as a kid when I had strep throat and my regular Dr. was out.  He helped start a great ministry called His Healing Hands. You can find a book about the ministry there in the tasting room.  His son, Paul is the wine maker.  A graduate of Cal Poly, he is an amazing hard worker and it's paying off!  

 One of the other things we love about Sculpterra is that every Sunday from 1-4 they host Song Writer's At Play, the product of a local radio station THE CRUSH 92.5.  We have enjoyed many Sunday afternoons there either with the kids or on our own.  There are tables and we bring our food and buy a glass of wine. Through this venue I was introduced to one of my new favorite artist Sara Petite. It was really fun that she came again a few days after my birthday and played in the barrel room.  Our all time favorite afternoon however was the Celtic themed line up.  It was fantastic!

 Our first event there was the Greek Festival dinner.  It was their event for the Zin Festival which celebrates Paso Robles signature wine, the Red Zinfandel.  We both love Greek food and the event was free for members.  It was pouring rain but they put up some tents and it was complete with authentic singing and dancing.  It was a great way to start off our membership!
 We love that our membership obligation is just 2 bottles four times a year (they have other larger quantity options as well).  At member cost that averages $40-60 for each pick up of two bottles.  Each pick up has a party free to members with amazing food done by local cooks.  The food always blows us away.  The events have pourings the whole time, and always music. 
 This is a picture from the LOVELY summer evening party that had perfect weather!  Each party has been great and a family friendly atmosphere if you want to bring the kids.  We figure, with wine and food, the event is well worth the money plus, we take home two bottles of wine!  Of course on top of that we can do free tastings anytime on our own or with a few friends. We get discounts on all wines and member specials that change monthly and can be up to 30% off. 
 Other events, like the Labor Day Fiesta are amazing perks as well.  I believe this cost us $10 as members and included our food and a full glass of wine.  The events always last for hours so you can pace yourself and sit for a good long while.  The Dr. was there giving tours of the vineyard just before the end of picking season.  It was beautiful!  The band was a real Mariachi band in costume.  It was fabulous. Did I say yet that it was wonderful?? LOL
 On other, more daily basis, it's a great place to meet a girlfriend for a chat, a taste and a glass.  Both my girlfriends have memberships here so we love meeting up when we can.  We caught this great pic of my friend Michelle's baby Wyatt putting up with our girl time in the tasting room.
So, you're looking at four to six dates a year to get out and have somewhere beautiful to go and eat and enjoy great people having a great time.  It's well worth it. We have met some of the nicest people out there who are always a joy to go see and to run into on a regular basis as well.  They make Sculpterra even more of a special place than it all ready is on it's own.

Over the next few days, I'll come back and tell you about our other two memberships. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Olive Garden Get's Mocked

I think it's my favorite place, though I don't get to go much.  Technically I like the local expensive establishments better for flavor but if one were to add bargain with product, then it's my ultimate favorite.  Sometimes eating something good for a good price can make one happier than eating something awesome for the trade of a mortgage payment.

So, a few years ago we went and had a soup that I just loved.  It turns out it's called Zuppa Tuscana which means, guess what?  Yep you guessed it, "Soup of Tuscany".  How hard was that?!  It's no wonder I love it since I seem drawn to anything related to all that is Tuscany.  I had no clue at the time this was it's name but I was none the less, drawn in.

There are many mock versions out there but I'm kind of a perfectionist when it comes to getting mocks done well.  They all have a few variations of the same idea.  Some say it is supposed to have mild sausage, it's not.  Some say it's spinach, it's not.  So, here it is.

In your soup pot or dutch oven saute in olive oil:

One large onion chopped
2-4 fresh garlic cloves
 (depends on you love affair with garlic....mine happens to be passionate)
Add 1 lb. ground spicy Italian sausage
(Of course... if you have kids that can't do spice, do regular and spice up your own bowl) I used link Italian spicy sausage in my last bit which the picture was taken from but I did not like the texture of it as much.  I did however get it on a great deal! So, I told myself to cope and deal.

Add one carton of Trader Joe's Chicken Broth 

I'm specific  here because truth is THIS IS THE BEST chicken broth around.  Of COURSE, you can use what you have (I hereby give you my permission:) and I broke the rules even more on this batch and used what I had which was beef broth (* loud gasp*).  It still turned out good but is darker in color.  I prefer the chicken taste as well.

Bring to a simmer and add 3-5 sliced potatoes

I always slice mine too thin.  Most recipes say to do thin, I say 1/4 inch is best if you want to let this get real happy before eating it.

Let that simmer with the lid on for a good while (can you tell I'm not a specific cook!?) till the potatoes are near fork tender.

Add a couple hand-fulls of chopped Kale greens.  

Most places are selling these in pre-washed and chopped bags which is great because Kale can actually be priced a little high and you are going to get more in a bag.

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Once the kale has wilted down into the soup....

Add one cup heavy cream (or light if you are having to be careful, but really?  must you?)

Let that warm to serving temp and serve!

I like to make a similar Olive garden salad and I hear there are mock recipes for the Italian dressing out there but you will have to do that homework.  Sorry.

It's so good, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Food Ideas

Our annual Halloween party is this coming friday night. We host a party to invite the neighbors and the kids friends and have a fun time.  For the past three years I've done a scavenger hunt through our yard with clues hidden in different Halloween decorations resulting always in finding the loot of candy.  After three years it's seeming that it's time for something new.  So, we are putting together a spooky tunnel and having snacks.  I came here though to talk about the food ideas.  Since I tend to go overboard I'm making myself keep it to a few food things.  The kids invited are supposed to bring something to share also.

I'll be serving a few of these, watermelon brains (google image). You can make the white thin but it looks too bloody for me that way.  There is another google image showing that.  Most kids like watermelon and this is a healthy food for a change at a party! Yes, we will be slicing into the brain...

Going to make these I saw on Pinterest.  Bloody fingers.  Ew!!!!!!!Love nice and easy stuff.

Finally dirt and worm cups.  We will be serving ours in little white cups with ghost faces.  These are so easy to make and the kids have fun making them too.  We just get simple tiny dixie cups.  (all google images. I'll take pics of mine at the party).   I personally like the pudding to be green but the kids prefer the chocolate.
The green can be used as "slime".
I like to serve carrot sticks and olives (black and orange) and sometimes celery too.  This above is a cute dip bowl idea.  I've seen other ones where the hand looks more like it's coming out of the dip palm up too.

Some other black and orange simple snacks are:

  •  Take a plastic black bowl or cauldron and fill it with any orange snack.  Nacho Doritos  BBQ chips, Cheetos or cheese balls.  
  • I do have a plastic black cauldron but I like to put ice in it and some really orange pumpkin beers for the adults.  Especially from Shock Top since they have good orange color.  
  • You can do orange slices on a black plate.  
  • Last year I put blue (hey close) corn chips in an orange bowl. 
  • Black bean dip in a pumpkin bowl for chips
  • Orange cheese bites with raisins on toothpicks
  • Black bean and orange cheese nachos (throw some green in there with jalapenos) 

So, those are some ideas and some things we are doing.  Feel free to share some more ideas in comments! (oh, and for some reason the comments are not showing up as a link option at times. Every post should have a comment link.  If this happens and you want to comment go back to the main blog and open this post title in a new window).