Sometimes I have thought about what to open that night before 8am...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quick and Easy Avocado Slicing

We are at peak avocado season right now, and to say I love an avocado is an understatement. When I was growing up, my mother and I would split an avocado for dinner. She would cut it in half, pour some Balsamic Vinegar into the center, grind pepper over the top and we would eat them with a spoon. Something about the smooth velvety avocado paired with the tang of vinegar is magic. One spoonful and I am twelve, standing at the kitchen counter next to my mom... no plate required.

As an adult, I cook with avocado a lot. We love them. They make a great burger topping, add something special to a salad, or make a scruptious cream sauce for pasta. Actually, I don't know if that last one is true, but I plan on finding out this week! Angela, at Oh She Glows, has posted many recipes with an Avocado Cream Sauce, and today's is just begging to be made: Vegetable and Edamame Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce. I am adding it to this weeks menu and will let you know what I think asap!

But as much as I like cooking with Avocado, many people find working with them dificult. So I thought it would be fun to include a quick and easy avocado slicing method here on the blog. This will speed up your avocado preparation by leaps and bounds!

So here goes...

Slice your avocado in half by running the knife through the avocado around the pit. Twist the avocado and pull apart.
This next part is fun. Take your knife and smack it into the pit. You need to give it a pretty good whack to make sure it sticks.

Holding the knife embedded in the pit in one hand, and the avocado in the other, give the knife a slight twist. The pit will pop right out! So simple and yet so satisfying. 
 Now, take the knife and slice the avocado top to bottom and side to side being careful not to go through the peel.

Take a spoon and scoop out your beautiful chopped avocado!
So simple! If you want slices instead of a chopped avocado only slice the avocado from top to bottom.

Here's to Avocado Season!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Black and Blue Chips

I am a big fan of Sweet Potato Fries. If we are having burgers... Sweet Potato Fries. Paninis? Sweet Potato Fries. Chipotle Sour Cream? Sweet Potato Fries. There are very few things that can't be improved by adding Sweet Potato Fries. So last night, when we were having burgers, I made:

Black and Blue Chips

I know it's confusing, but I had some purple potatoes to use up, and a gorgeous wedge of Maytag Blue just screaming my name.
Purple potatoes
Blue Cheese 
Olive Oil
Cracked Black Pepper
Kosher Salt

Thinly slice your potatoes. If you use a Mandoline you can be assured of a perfectly thin, uniform slice. This is the one I use. This is the one I wish I used. It has a finger guard. More on that later.
 Beautiful, thin purple slices.
And if you use the Mandoline that I have, make sure you leave a little nub at the end...

 Or you will end up like this.
Drizzle the sliced purple potatoes with olive oil.

 Enlist a helper to toss them, since you sliced your finger on the Mandoline.
Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes. Flip and bake for an additional 5, or so. Each oven varies, so keep a close eye. You don't want burned chips!

Sprinkle generously with blue cheese and put back in the oven for a minute or two, until it get's melty.
Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and kosher salt, and serve.

1. I know I called these black and blue chips and the potatoes are purple, but is a bruise really black? No. It is purple, and blue, and green. Just be thankful I didn't use green potatoes!
2. I received these potatoes in the Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag. If you live in San Diego, I can't recommended this highly enough. For $20 you receive an enormous bag of fresh produce. You order by Sunday evening, and pick it up Thursday or Friday at Specialty Produce. You never know what you are going to get, but it is always fresh, seasonal and unique. You can add on other specialty items like grass fed beef, gourmet cheeses, and gluten free baked goods and pick it all up at the same time.
3. Make more than you think you need, because these are guaranteed to be snacking material!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Charlie and the Incredible, Amazing, Stupendous, Really Good Day

I took Thursday and Friday of School Vacation Week off. I wanted to spend some time doing fun things with Karen Ray. So when the phone rang on Wednesday, and it was a friend and her daughter asking if we wanted to go to The Wild Animal Park on Thursday, we jumped at the chance.

We packed lunches, stopped for coffee and were on our way. If you have ever been to The Wild Animal Park (now called The Safari Park) in San Diego, you know that once you get off the highway, the drive in to the park is gorgeous! There are orchards, vineyards, Ostrich Farms, Horse Ranches, and you are surrounded by beautiful , untouched mountains. The Wild Animal Park owns 1800 acres. Of that number they have set aside more than half of them as conservation land. Their conservation makes the landscape (just 15 minutes off the highway) feel like an entirely different world.

The best thing about the day though, was the company. Both mothers and both daughters enjoy a good food adventure. So between the four of us, we were quick to decide to see the park, but to also cut out early and enjoy the farms, orchards, and vineyards!

Enjoy the story, as it unfolds in pictures...

Charlie and the Incredible, Amazing, Stupendous, Really Good Day!

Start with good friends.

And wild animals.

Indulge your inner child.
Head off the beaten path.

Enjoy the view.

Follow in a friend's footsteps.

Value individuality.

Marvel at the bounty of our Earth.

Make memories.

Keep your options open.

Try not to pass out from sheer joy.

Realize that art can be made from the ordinary.

Play hide 'n seek when asked.

Because you won't always be asked.

Never give up.

You hold victory in your hands.

And it is magnificent.

Work together.

Look for creative solutions.

Put some elbow grease into it.

Shake your groove thang.

And always eat your vegetables.
1. An Ostrich Egg is the equivalent of 23 chicken eggs. The flavor is the same (although Tim says it is a little meatier tasting). It is higher in protein and lower in cholesterol.
2. We made omelettes with the egg, as it would have been a little difficult to cook it over easy.
3. The Vineyard is Orfila. If you are headed out to Escondido, you should check it out. The wine was delicious, and they have a lot of fun events. We are headed back there for the grape stomp later this year.
4. The man that owns the Ostrich Farm, is a retired exotic animals vet from The Wild Animal Park. In addition to providing eggs, his ostriches have been used in many movies... including "Out of Africa". (You can't make this stuff up.) He was incredibly interesting to talk to, and he drove an egg out to the gate of his farm, when we couldn't find one at any of the local farm stands.
5. An enormous bag of organic oranges was $10, and reaffirmed my belief that fruit eaten in an orchard is twice as sweet.
6. And finally, the best plans are the plans you break... The proof is in the omelette.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dinner Tonight - Fridge Pasta

I was menu planning yesterday, and decided (for once) to be smart about it. 

I opened the fridge to see what produce I had left from the week before that I needed to use. I found an open bag of arrugula (from some tarts I am posting later this week), some tomatoes on the vine that were thinking about wrinkling, half a Spanish Onion, and some lovely fresh basil.

Pasta was what came to mind, but when I went to the pantry there was only half a box of elbow macaroni. Bummer. I needed to go to the store. On the upside, I did find a jar of marinated artichokes in the pantry, so I got those out to use as well.

I headed out to Trader Joe's and I picked up a container of Spinach, Ricotta, and Mozzarella Tortellini for $2.99. It was the only thing that I purchased for last nights dinner, which means I effectively fed my family for $2.99! All by deciding to check the fridge and not waste food! But I digress...

Chop the tomatoes into big chunks (if you have a carton of leftover grape tomatoes just half them), chop your onion, mince your garlic, chiffonade the basil, drain the artichokes.

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

While the tortellini is cooking, heat a skillet over medium high heat, add some olive oil, toss in the onions and stir for a minute or two. Onions always need an extra minute in my experience. Toss in the garlic, tomatoes, artichokes, and basil. Allow to cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

When the tortellinis are cooked, drain them and toss them in the skillet with the tomato mixture. Stir for a minute or two so that all of the flavors are combined.

Put your arrugula in a large bowl and squeeze a generous amount of lemon over the top. Toss to coat. Arrugula and lemon is one of my very favorite combinations.

Fill each bowl with a serving of pasta, top with your arrugula (salad on top of pasta, yes I am crazy, but it was really, really good) and sprinkle with some lovely aged Parmesan (leftover from a party we catered).

Tim liked it so much he went back for seconds!

Do you have a favorite fridge/pantry pasta? I love the feeling of making something out of nothing. The feeling of serving my family a beautiful, nutritious dinner. And most of all the feeling of doing it all for $2.99!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Broccoli and Tofu in Hot Garlic Sauce

I posted this on my menu plan a couple of weeks ago, and received a comment requesting the recipe. Never one to disappoint (just one to keep you waiting), I am posting it.

The recipe originally comes from Cooking Light (shocking I know), but as usual I've made a few changes! I am posting the original, with my changes in blue. The blue is a nod to my Mother in law. She always tweaks and improves things, and she will send you the recipe with her changes in blue. Trust me when I tell you, her changes are always better than the original.

Sweet Hot Tofu 
Broccoli and Tofu in Hot Garlic Sauce

  • (3 1/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil (3 tablespoons canola oil)
  • (14-ounce) package firm reduced-fat tofu, cut into (1-inch) cubes (I cube mine then cut into triangles)
  • One large head of broccoli chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth)
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • Dash of crushed red pepper (I vary this based on my audience. Personally, I am a big fan of spicy food!)
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Prepare rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
  • Place cut tofu on paper towels to drain excess moisture.
  • Put chopped broccoli in a large microwave safe dish, and cover with water. Microwave 3-4 minutes until crisp tender.
  • Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu, and sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. (I cook mine a bit longer than this because I like it to have a crisp exterior) Remove from skillet.
  • Combine broth and the next 7 ingredients (through pepper), stirring well with a whisk.
  • Add ginger, garlic, and onions to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in broth mixture; cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add tofu to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring gently to coat.  

 Divide rice evenly among each of 4 plates; top each serving with tofu and broccoli.
This recipe is really quite delicious. It makes a great change of pace if you are having company. Almost everything can be made ahead. Fry the tofu, steam the broccoli, and refrigerate both. Then all you have to do is make the rice, make the sauce, stir in the broccoli and tofu, and voila! Dinner is served.

Serve with some ice cold Tsing taos and chopsticks.

Now that sounds like a fun Friday night!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dear Sixteen Year Old Me

I clicked on this video that a friend posted on Facebook, expecting it to be funny. Really, the only funny part was that in a week that I have been missing my mom like crazy, I clicked on a link that is about Melanoma.

My Mom had a mole removed when she was 27 years old. It was Melanoma. They thought they got it all.

It came back in a 4 inch tumor in her thigh bone when she was 47. They radiated it.

It metastasized to her thyroid. They radiated it.

It metastasized to her brain. They radiated it.

It metastasized to her lungs.

At 48, she died. 7 months from when they found the tumor in her leg.

I was 20. My sister, Katy, was 15.

So please, watch the video, check your skin, and above all else, wear sunscreen.

Love and miss you, Mom... every single day.