Monday, May 26, 2008

Miso Petrale Sole and Wasabi Potatoes

Miso Petrale Sole and Wasabi Potatoes

Looks involved but it wasn't, really. Filet of petrale sole -- so thin it fell apart almost immediately but I don't mind -- sauteed in a bit of hoisen, soy, and miso paste, pan deglazed with orange juice. One baked potato, skin on, mashed with fat free half and half, wasabi paste, and chives. Poured pan drippings on the fish and a little on the potato. Sauteed baby zucchini. Simple Monday night supper.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dutch Baby for One

I'm hopeless at making pancakes. Always have been, always will be. I don't get the batter right. I turn them too soon, or not soon enough. I'm told to watch for "dry looking edges" and then flip, and when I do, the underside is either not browned, or has mottled black spots. I'm told to look for air bubbles having popped through, and then flip. Same result. My pan is too hot, or not hot enough. Oh fiddle. I just don't make them anymore. Waffles, occasionally, will make into my rotation because they are cooked in a waffle maker and I open the lid when it dings. But not pancakes.

Today, however, I decided I'd try a German Pancake -- a Dutch Baby. I remember my mother making them when I was teen -- but only when we had company over for breakfast. I'm surprised this was considered only "company fare" because there is no greasing of the griddle, no lifting the edges of the pancake to see if it was anything close to diner-style brown, no standing and cooking in batches. With four kids, I'm surprised we didn't see a big puffy pancake more often.

With this recipe for one, I knew I could try it in my toaster oven and do nothing but stare. There would be no scooping and pouring of spoonfuls of batter onto a griddle, tearing off and eating the brown edges of the previous failed pancake*, scowling. With the Dutch Baby, you pour it all in at once and leave it be until it's time to say "Taa dahhh!"

So how was it? Perfection, I tell you! I actually giggled out loud whilst staring into my little toaster oven. This was so easy, I may actually try making popovers.

Dutch Baby for One

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup fat free milk
1 egg
Dash of nutmeg
1 pat of butter

1-2 tablespoons of jam or syrup
Powdered Confectioners Sugar

Heat your oven to 450 degrees and ready an oven proof skillet by heating it in the oven. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, milk, egg, and nutmeg, beating to combine. Let the prepared batter sit a moment while you take the hot pan out of the oven, and quickly add butter to melt and swirl in the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I used a 6 inch personal cast iron skillet ($1.00 from Goodwill -- Score!), and one pat of butter was plenty. Try not to brown it. When coated, pour the contents of the batter into the pan, swirl it lightly to coat the bottom of the pan, and put in your hot oven for approximately 15 minutes, until well puffed with very brown edges.

Remove and serve immediately -- have your toppings ready because while this puffs up dramatically, it also deflates quickly. Quickly sprinkle with confectioners sugar, lemon juice, and top as desired with fruit or jam. I used a bit of sugar, a lot of lemon juice, and a dollop of Sour Power Cherry Rhubarb jam.

"As God is my witness, I'll never burn pancakes again!"

*Actually, I see a lot of pancakes on Tastespotting that look exactly like my "failures." Browned edge rings, but not an even amount of brown across the surface, etc. These are rejects, to me. When I was 8 years old, my family was driving late at night through Provo, Utah, with a car full of hungry kids and the only restaurant open was Bob's Big Boy. I had a plate of pancakes. They were unusually and deeply yellow, an even, perfect brown from edge to edge, and as big as dinner plates. They were so good, and I was so hungry, that this pancake became the standard by which I judge all pancakes.

Calories 306.0 Fat 9.5 g Carbohydrate 42.4 g Fiber 1.1 g Sugars 11.0 g Protein 11.7g

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gnocchi Gorgonzola with Peas Parsley and Pepper

Gnocchi Gorgonzola with Peas Pepper and Parsley

Northern California is having an identity crisis. A few weeks ago, we set a record for a week of 100+ degree days in early May. It was so bad it burned a lot of my garden.

Last week, it was so windy I couldn't ride my bike to work or I'd blow over.

This week, it's cold and raining. Today was so cold and blustery, I needed a hot pasta dish.

Trader Joe's Gnocchi Gorgonzola

Parsley from my garden

Peas from my freezer

Pepper from my pantry

The frozen pasta and sauce dishes from Trader Joe's, are, for the most part, very much to my liking. I particularly like the fact the sauce is is formed into individual frozen nuggets, separate from the pasta. Seldom do I need as much sauce as is provided in the bag. The finished product doesn't need to be saturated for me to enjoy it. Enter the plastic sandwich baggie. I fish about 50% of the sauce nuggets out of most of their products (there is a veggie entree with balsamic butter nuggets, another with marinara cheese nuggets, etc) and place them in a plastic baggie in the freezer. One night when you want to saute a chicken breast, just throw two nuggets of Gorgonzola Sauce in the pan afterward (makes a tasty addition to a pot of soup as well). It's "just enough" some nights.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chicken Escalopes with Lemon and Prosciutto

This is a perfect Friday night entree for both a single person and a family. It's just as easy to make a serving for one, as it is for many.


Assemble chicken breasts, prosciutto or Serrano ham, lemons, butter, salt and pepper.

Pound chicken breast to a pleasing thickness. I prefer thin.

Ribbon a slice of Serrano ham or prosciutto across the breast, being certain to leave some ruffled edges so that your other toppings may get to the chicken as well. See that little pan? I love it. It's a $1.00 mini pan from Daiso, a Japanese "dollar store" and I use it constantly. I've placed the butter pat there to show you the size.

Mix soft butter (I used one and a half pats for a single serving -- and first rubbed a bit on my little oven pan) with salt and pepper. I used sea salt, ground pepper, and then added a bit of smokehouse pepper as well. Chopped herbs, particularly thyme, would be good, but I was sticking to the simple recipe for this post. Dot the butter mixture over the meats. Top the buttered meat with thin slices of lemon.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes to get a crispy brown done-ness, or less if it is to your liking. At the last few minutes, I switched to broil to get the top crispier. Reduce and spoon any pan juices over the chicken and serve with a vegetable which was roasting along side.

Adapted from 400 Three and Four Ingredient Recipes by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow.

Have a lovely holiday Memorial Day weekend, everyone. May your memories of loved ones gone before, bring you comfort.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Carnitas Nachos

TV Night Carnita Nachos (fairly low fat!)

One of the perils of living alone or with one person, is that you have a lot of leftovers. If I make something, it's going to appear several times in a week. This week it was a pan of roasted carnitas.

My friend Liz and I were talking today about our memories of Taco Bell, particularly mine, and leaving the high school campus with my boyfriend on the noon hour in his Camaro, going to Taco Bell for lunch. That was a thrilling thing for me on so many levels. This was 1976. I was a teenage spaz. Having a boyfriend (even though he came out of the closet years later) was a really important thing. He had a great car, I'd never been to a Taco Bell, going out to lunch and not eating in the cafeteria felt so REBEL-like and grown-up at the same time, plus, other students saw me coming and going in his Camaro. That meant a lot.

What's sad, actually, is that when I was in high school in the mid 1970s, this was a "treat" event -- going to Taco Bell. Otherwise, it was the school cafeteria and the ladies, or you went home for grilled cheese and tomato soup. You didn't buy fast food on campus from vending machines. There was no Pepsi machine, no candy bar machine. There was a snack bar of course, open for twice a day for 15 minutes, and one hour over lunch. You could buy a snack or two, a candy bar, but it wasn't something you could get any minute of the day.

Twenty years later, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell battled to be sponsors of school lunches, soda machines became normal, treats were all day every day if the kids bring it or buy it, and obesity among teens went off the charts. There seemed to be no special occasion anymore. It seems to turn into this free for all. What you want, when you want, as much as you want. I'm not a parent, but, I'm still very encouraged by the schools who practice mindful eating (so long as they don't take it overboard and ban all peanut butter, for instance) and really focus on healthy cuisine.

Boy, I'm really digressing. So, talking about high school lunches with Liz today made me think of Taco Bell Lunches and I had some carnitas, so ...


1. Handful of tortilla chips in a small pan
2. A handful of my own leftover roasted carnitas crisped in a saucepan, and then added on top of the chips
3. A big spoonful (maybe 1/4 cup) of non-fat veggie refried beans, heated quickly with additional spices, because they were not only fat-free, they were flavor free
4. One slice of sharp white cheddar cheese, broken up into bits
5. Heated the whole she-bang until she bubbles
6. Topped with the dregs of a container of Trader Joe's cilantro dip (added a bit of FF milk to make it thinner and go further)
7. Topped with some creamy tomato salsa

Voila! Carnita Nachos.

I think my favorite part was the creamy salsa. I actually don't care for hot sauce or hot salsas. I had a bit of TJ's fire roasted salsa and it was okay, but a little sharp. I had a spoonful of FF Greek yogurt. Rather than dollop the yogurt on top (to stand in for sour cream), I mixed it right into the salsa, with a small chopped tomato. This took away the heat and made it creamy salsa and I liked it SO much better. It's pink!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Recipe Night: Carnitas Wrap

Carnita Wrap

Technically this DOES have a recipe because I made the carnitas the night before, but this is all stuff I threw together from the fridge. Carnita recipe to follow another time.

1. TJ's olive oil wrap (they actually have less calories than tortillas and are very similar)
2. Spread with TJ's cilantro dip
3. Lettuce and tomatoes
4. Roasted carnitas
5. Cabot's low fat cheese
6. Taco Bell mild taco sauce

Wrapped up tight and then sliced. Was very good but way too big for one person, even with only one wrap. Lunch leftovers, if the wrap holds up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

If a Fish Taco is good, a Rainbow Trout Burrito should be great!

I had a leftover rainbow trout fillet broiled with lemon and seasonings, and enough produce to whip up a Rainbow Trout Burrito. I can't imagine it wouldn't be terrific, but the noon hour will tell the tale, when I eat this for lunch today.

Update: I tasted a bit. It's good. Darn good. You can customize this is a dozen ways. Mix your own cilantro and sour cream or greek yogurt, add shredded cabbage instead of letuce. Add peppers. The lemony fish and the pungent cilantro dip was a winning flavor combo.


1 grilled rainbow trout fillet or other firm fish of your choice
1 tablespoon of Trader Joe's Cilantro Roasted Pecan dip
1 olive oil wrap or tortilla
Lettuce leaves
Chopped Tomato

Lightly grill or toast the olive oil or tortilla to give it some color. I sprinkled it with Penzey's spices while doing so. Schmear with a tablespoon of cilantro dip, layer with produce, the cooked fish, roll up, and seal the wrap with food pics. Keep chilled until ready to eat. I packed a sliced key lime to squirt over the fish when I take a bite.

1 Trout Burrito

2 Trout Burrito

3 Trout Burrito

4 Trout Burrito

5 Trout Burrito

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mystery Solved: Secret Service, you may return to base camp.

I have a large open loft space, and my galley kitchen is seperated from my living area by a self-made "wall" of sorts of various shelves and drapes. I pulled away my cookbook shelves to retrieve a tool I dropped, and there, behind the shelving, having fallen from the kitchen counter and behind the shelving to the floor, was the package of previously-missing-and-thought-stolen, now very rock hard, Ciro's garlic knot rolls.

The mystery has been solved, and I'm happy to report that it appears no one broke into my house to steal my panties and eat my garlic rolls. Not yet, anyway.

Incidentally, Kitty's comment on my garlic knot post has given rise to a saying we now use around these parts: "You Tube those bitches" which means, essentially "Watch out for those individuals, we fear they are not trustworthy."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gotta few bucks? You could have Orange Miso Shrimp and Oyster Mushrooms, too

Dollar Store Madness! I have had a box of Contessa Orange Shrimp in my freezer for quite a while. I need to clear that freezer out (it's always overstocked) and, I was in the mood for asian food, but not in the mood to order out or spend money. The frozen brick of pre-breaded shrimp and packaged orange sauce was a Dollar Store Find earlier this year.

So let's see how a one dollar box of shrimp ends up looking as tasty as this!

Step 1: Open your box of frozen Contessa Orange Shrimp. Pan saute until browned on each side. I'm impressed so far, the breading has held up nicely.

Step 2: Add the packet of sauce. I only added approximately 1/2 of the sauce bag -- it didn't need more of that orange sauce, although it was fairly decent tasting. I did kick it up a notch by adding a good dose of miso paste, for added flavor. Quickly saute, and remove the shrimp to await plating.

Step 3: Deglaze the pan by adding water (this is my idea, at this point) and toss in some baby spinach leaves and a handful of floppy, white, tender oyster mushrooms. The mushroom vendor at my Farmer's Market doesn't like to take her mushrooms home. I've learned if you walk by her table in the last hour of the market, she'll call out "Any bag, $1.00." That's shitake, oyster, crimini -- you name it. She's never "out" so I always get a pretty bag of shrooms for $1.00.

Step 4: Plate up the shrooms and spinach, and then reach for the orange shrimp. Dummy that I am, I set them aside in a deep bowl, where they steamed and clumped together. That was not smart. Oh well. Try to separate what used to be firm, crispy, glazed shrimp, and add to the veggies, and serve.

Verdict? This $2.00 meal was really, really tasty. I was VERY surprised, and I'm also surprised that the protein count outnumbered by the fat content by a wide margin. I decreased the sugar carbs significantly by only using half the sauce, as well. I'd actually buy this and make it again if I saw it on sale. Enlarge the last pic to see tasty mushroom goodness.

Bento Lunch: Tea Sandwich, Cheese and Crackers

Laptop Lunch 5-12-08

Zucchini Bread with Vanilla Bean Quark and Strawberries
Cottage Cheese
Sharp White Cheddar and Rye Flax Crackers

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Zucchini Bread

I clicked through from Tastespotting (aka my Porn Site of the Day) and read Au Naturel's recipe for zucchini bread made with chickpea flour, with interest. I had all of the ingredients on hand and was eager to try baking with this unique and healthy flour. I also wanted to try, and have on hand, high fibre coconut flour, so I gave this recipe a go, with a few adaptations.

At first, tasting the mixed batter, I was nervous. It tasted odd, gamey, too chick-pea'ish. But then, as I readied the batter for baking and cleaned up before baking, I tasted the batter again. Within a minute or two, I was tasting it again, scraping the bowl clean for washing. It was growing on me, minute by minute. Very earthy, nutritious tasting. It had personality and a distinct nutty flavor.

The completed bread was delicious. It was simply more interesting than your run of the mill zucchini bread. Mine wasn't nearly as moist as Au Naturel described, but I attribute this to using the coconut flour.

Without knowing I'd be making this quick bread this afternoon, I already purchased lovely, light, tasty Vanilla Bean Quark from a Farmer's Market vendor this morning, and it was the perfect spread. I learned that quark is a European style soft whipped cheese, much lighter than cream cheese, but with a similar taste and texture. It is high protein and much lower in fat. This version was plump full of vanilla bean, and was sampled by the vendor by presenting it on a strawberry. $5.00 later, and it was mine and I was on my way home to making something with it. Turns out, it was this bread!

My lunch for work tomorrow will be tea sandwiches -- high fibre zucchini bread with vanilla bean quark -- and an artichoke from my garden. Spring is here!


3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup chick pea (garbanzo) flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean pod
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini

Sift all dry ingredients (flour through salt) together, twice, to thoroughly blend, and set aside. Beat butter until light and fluffy, and add agave nectar and one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract, and beat. Add shredded zucchini, gently mixing in with a spoon. Add the dry flour mixture in thirds, stirring just until combined after each addition. Add batter to a buttered loaf pan, and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

The most significant change I made was the addition of coconut flour and using a full two eggs in my version. I did this because the package of coconut flour warned that you should only use a ratio of 20% coconut flour to regular flour, that it is very high fibre and absorbent, and will require an equal amount of liquid to help balance out that absorption which will occur during baking. By adding a full second egg, that extra moisture seemed to work just fine, but next time I'll add a bit more liquid. I also sprinkled my loaf not with cinnamon, as in the recipe I read today, but with vanilla flecked sugar, in very light amounts.

Slice when cool, and spread with quark, cream cheese, or fruit butter.

Verdict: Tasty as heck.
Skill: Easy to make, but unusual ingredients means not many will have all these things on hand.
Make again: You bet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Red Wine and Warm Olives

... or, how my blog got its name.

A day or so ago I was commenting on Michelle's hysterically funny blog, Thursday Night Smackdown (she smacks down my blog 24/7, not just on Thursdays), about favorite ways to spend Sunday Mornings, and I remarked about weekend hookups with my brothers and sister, during which we consume many spicy Bloody Mary's and eat well.

I am really lucky that I have two brothers and one sister, and the four of us are literally best friends. Although one lives too far away to participate in many of our activities, the three of us who live scattered up and down the state of California, get together as often as we can, and honestly, more often than most families we know. We enjoy each other's company.

This past weekend, my brother flew up from Southern California for a short weekend to work on my "Honey Do List" and hang out. My sister came in from Marin, and we consumed good food and Bloody Mary's all weekend. They are without question, my favorite people and it's my favorite way to spend a weekend.

The weekend, and Michelle's post, had me thinking about how my brothers and sister evolved from being part of a family that had a pretty basic and repetitive weekly menu growing up, to one where we get on a plane and fly to see one another, and stop for Bloody Mary's as the first order of business of the day.

My family has always been very travel and food-centric. My Dad loved his snacks and comfort foods, but he was not terribly high-brow. He wasn't interested in many ethnic foods (when he went out of town on frequent business trips, my Mom would pack us up and we'd head out to try Chinese food or Japanese food). He had the same homemade salad dressing (1000 Island which was just Best Food's Mayo and Ketchup, sometimes pickle relish) on every salad he ever ate in his life, but that man appreciated a good loaf of French bread with fresh, cold butter; very good brewed coffee with cream and sugar; most pastries, but especially Pecan Sticky Buns and Pecan Diamond squares; and when he was feeling gourmet garlic butter shrimp scampi over fettuccine.

So, while my family has always been fond of snacks, appetizers, good food and the occasional cocktail (it was always a Whiskey Sour, Bacardi Cocktail, or Strawberry Daiquiri), we never had anything terribly gourmet when eating together at home, as a family. We did freshen up the menu choices considerably when we moved from Washington, D.C., to California when I was a child, because all the fruit and produce was suddenly new and exciting and available. Avocados? What are THOSE? I still remember my first avocado on a pre-relocation visit to California, and my first tub of orange yogurt. Chilled Gazpacho was exciting.

My mother was more adventurous than my Dad, but not terribly interested in cooking or experimenting. She was a good, reliable and loving cook (no one on this earth makes better soups), but saved her culinary adventures for the restaurants. That was mostly because of my Dad. Dad never stopped us from enjoying new things, and always encouraged us to enjoy whatever we ordered, but there was just always an unspoken paternal loyalty that at home, we always served something he'd enjoy.
We'd never, for instance, change up the annual Thanksgiving Dinner with all new recipes (no, we will not be having roasted Brussels sprouts, we will be having boiled green beans), or, heaven forbid, frost the yellow butter layer cake with anything other than 1) chocolate butter frosting or 2) coconut butter frosting. You didn't "surprise" my Dad with Red Velvet Cake for Sunday Dinner. He'd just look at you, gently perplexed and confused, and then look off into the kitchen to see when the real dessert was coming out. It was fine if you wanted Red Velvet, please enjoy it, but ... where was his chocolate cake and glass of milk?

One year when I was a teen and fresh from a Pampered Chef party, I made their then-gourmet and innovative "Fruit Pizza" for Thanksgiving dessert. I don't care who you are or where you are from, that Fruit Pizza on a sugar cookie crust was damn GOOD. I took a wedge, my sister took a wedge, my mother probably tried a bite or two. But my Dad and brothers? Didn't touch it. What foolishness, bringing a fruit pizza to Thanksgiving. Pass the pumpkin pie and pecan pie, extra Cool Whip, please. I was terribly offended and my sister, who we call Weezie, sympathized, but said "Cheech, don't ever try to rock their world. They can't handle anything new like fruit pizza."

She remembered and took this to heart when she got married. For her feast, she had a lot of fancy schmancy eats, but she had a whole baked ham and a pile of biscuits, with dishes of mustard and other sauces. My mother took one look at that said "I knew you wouldn't forget to have something your Daddy will like."

I'm not trying to suggest we never had an interesting meal at home. We certainly did -- our move to California introduced fresh artichokes and mayonaise to dip, marinated kabobs cooked on the patio, homemade gazpacho, and a lot of fresh seafood. But, most of our interesting meals were on the road.
We were fortunate as children and young adults to travel every summer, sometimes all summer, with my Dad on his work assignments throughout the National Park System, so the family enjoyed new regional foods (even if Dad stuck to the fried chicken or turkey sandwiches) all across the United States. We are from the East Coast -- we migrated from Washington, D.C. out West with each new work assignment for my Dad. My two brothers eventually grew out of their culinary limitations (my youngest brother is the best cook in the family by FAR -- he'll disappear into the kitchen for a snack and come back with grilled Brussels sprouts with ginger wasabi dressing), but my Dad never really did.
As we made our way West, we'd try Hopi Indian Fry Bread and he'd have two eggs over easy, bacon on the side. We'd have San Francisco cioppinno and sourdough bread, he'd have the open faced turkey sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes. We'd try the walk away cold crab on the wharf and he'd -- well my Dad would eat that. He's was an East Coast Chesapeake Bay boy and would never turn away crab.
Weezie never hesitated to order something foreign off the menu (and she was the one most often disappointed too). Howard Johnson's Kiddie Hot Dog Lunch? No thank you, I do believe I'll have the fried clams. My youngest brother, at age 5, was like her, clearly destined to be a foodie. He was sitting in a restaurant in San Francisco when he stated with a lisp "Pwime Wib. Medium Ware" to the astonished waitress and my parents. This is the kid who, as a teenager, made chocolate milkshakes and thought "You know what would be good in this? Brandy." He served me a glass and I said "What is this?! This is GOOD." "Oh, I call those my Brandy Alexander Milkshakes" he replied.

Although childhood instilled in us a love of travel, exploring new places, trying new things, it also meant hunkering down into often humble vacation rentals. With a family of six, staying in resorts wasn't something we knew or expected -- our vacations were always a rented cottage by the sea or somebody's vacation home with weird linens, mismatched pots and pans that were not ours, and unusual brands from local grocery stores which always weirded me out. We'd grocery shop on arrival and cook vacation meals in the rental kitchen. No wonder my mother wasn't that big of a foodie -- the poor woman never got a break, even on a vacation. Still, somehow, making spaghetti and meatballs in a vacation cottage was better than spaghetti and meatballs at home.

One year many, many years ago, my parents home-swapped with a family in Carmel, California. My parents traveled to Carmel and took up residence in a little house by the ocean, and my siblings and I, by now all living on our own, each made our way to Carmel for a vacation.

That's the Spring it happened. My sister Weezie ignored her own advice and decided to rock our world.

Weezie came down from Marin County (north of San Francisco), where she lived and had access to GOURMET GROCERY STORES with things like rosemary crackers and artisan cheeses. Wrapped in paper, even. Miniature fruit tarts. A dozen different kinds of baguette. Imported butter. House made granola. Roasted garlic heads. We were young, in our 20s, and this was the beginning of HIGH LIVING (what we now call "taking it up a notch" or "stepping it up" which has nothing to do with Emeril). I remember driving almost two hours to see Weezie and specifically browse through the beautiful grocery stores like they were art installations. They were destination worthy.

By being the first to move away from our Sacramento Valley suburb to the San Francisco Bay Area, Weezie quickly developed a more refined palate than the rest of us and was always experimenting in the kitchen. Honestly, though, if I wrote about her too often, I'd need a whole other blog called "Well, you tried" or "What were you thinking?" Weezie is famous in our family for going to a gathering of her friends and neighbors for a potluck, and deciding, a few hours before, that she's going to make Floating Islands in Zabaione. Never having made it before in her life, mind you. And not having a copper pot. Or enough eggs.

Anyway, so there we were in Carmel, my Mom, Dad, my siblings, and Weezie shows up with goodies from her local grocery store, so that we can all sit around and have a little snack and catch up with one another on the first night of our arrival.

At that stage in my life, I would have brought a package of Knorr vegetable soup mix, a tub of sour cream, a brick of frozen spinach, and a loaf of bread to hollow out, and thought I was really delivering on the California Lifestyle.

Not Weezie. She brought a bottle of red wine, a tub of mixed olives with rosemary which she warmed in the microwave, a box of imported Italian sea salt crackers, and a hard Italian cheese, from a little import food shop, which she cut up into little cubes. This was of no interest to my Dad, of course.

My brothers and sister and I sat there talking and laughing, eating the warm olives, cheese, crackers, sipping a deep red wine. It was so different from anything we'd ever had before. I remember my parents stayed at the dining room table enjoying whatever they were having -- probably my Dad's ice cold Pepsi and some fresh Lay's potato chips -- while my brothers, sister and I sat around the sofa and on the floor in front of a fireplace, foggy sea air creeping in, feeling very grown up.

It was a revelation, I tell you. I began to understand what "eating well" was all about that night. A little bit of something REALLY good was far better than a big plate of something mediocre. I've never forgotten that evening. For all my sister's culinary disasters adventures, she broke through it all that weekend with a simple dish of warm olives that I enjoyed so much, I named my blog after it, and her (betcha didn't know that, did you, Weezie?).

Photo Credit:

Monday, May 5, 2008

My Favorite Things: Progressive Lime Squeezer

I was slow to get on the citrus press bandwagon. I had a juicer (big clunky electric one). I had the plastic kind you balance over a dish and then twist against. I had the small wooden reamer you jam into the fruit. I had the glass dish our grandmothers all had. None really fired my jets, and I usually ended up just squeezing fruit directly into whatever I was making, and then fishing out the seeds.

Then I watched a cooking show with a citrus press type, which basically turns a half lemon or lime virtually flat or inside out with almost no effort, and doesn't corrode, and I thought "Now, that's what I need."

Trouble is, I get kinda fussy about buying a $10.00 gadget when I already have 3-4 others. I can blow a paycheck on cookbooks and clothes and a new Italian leather purse, but then bitch and moan about a $10.00 lime press. I finally broke down and bought a lime squeezer because I buy bags of key limes voraciously. I use fresh lime juice in many many things -- it freshens virtually everything it touches. Key Limes are notoriously difficult to juice, not only because they are small and many are required to get a decent cup of juice, but because they tend to harden very quickly, even when they still have usuable juice, so can be tough to squeeze by hand.

Now that I own this press, and learned how to properly use it (I didn't realize at first that you place the fruit with the flat cut side facing down into the bowl [I was cradling the curved side of the fruit IN the bowl], so that when you press, it turns inside out). I can honestly say, I LOVE this tool, and I use it constantly. It was worth every penny of that $10.00 at Target.

Now, that said, I wasn't nutty enough to buy a yellow one for lemons, a green one for limes, and an orange one for oranges. One will do ya. Available at Target and housewares stores everywhere, but here's a link to Amazon anyway:

My Progressive Lime Squeezer

Update: Ok, now I understand why people buy all the color coordinated versions, because my huge lemon didn't fit in the lime press last night. Damn them to hell, they made them all different sizes to sell more product. Ok, buy the biggest one. Probably the orange. Not the small green one. Otherwise you'll have to quarter it, like I did. Still works.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lame Series: Tartar Sauce

This may be the lamest post ever, but, I can't help it. I'm happy with myself.

I confess. I confess without reservation, that I actually like tartar sauce on fish, and, I like certain kinds of "fish sticks." Not pre-formed frozen sticks of unusual origin and uniformity, but, nice pieces of breaded fish in slender portions, and, I like them with tartar sauce.

What I hate, though, is commercial tartar sauce. It's so gloopy and weird tasting, isn't it? And yet, I keep buying it, trying one after another to find a good one. I recently bought the version at Trader Joe's -- I like most everything they have -- but it was vile. I then settled on whatever brand is most often found at the seafood counter at the grocery store -- Captain's something or other. Equally vile. What is so damn difficult about making a decent jarred tartar sauce?

Frustrated, I decided to make my own, which I really didn't want to do because I didn't need THAT much, but then decided, what the heck, just make a little bit following the standard principles in whatever recipe you find.

Boy, am I an idiot or what? It sounded easy, TOO easy, and I said "That's it? That's all that is in tartar sauce? Seroiusly?" And then I made a small bit of it and just grinned. Finally. A good tartar sauce! I never have to buy that crap again. Am I totally lame because I keep dipping my finger in it and licking my finger? Does this mean I have trailer tastes? So be it.

I adapted a basic recipe I found on AllRecipes and made it "my way" -- which means thin and soupy.

5 spicy bread and butter pickle slices from a jar of pickles
1 large green onion or scallion, including white portion
1/2 lemon, juiced
Best Foods Mayo
Salt and Pepper

Puree pickles, onion, and lemon juice in a little blender cup or mini food processor until very wet and smooth. Stir in a few tablespoons of Best Foods Mayo until it's fully blended and a thin, soupy consistency (or add more mayo if you like it thick but why not then just say it's green flecked mayo?). Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit in the fridge as long as possible, preferably all day to blend flavors (or so they recipe advised).

Add to fish. Lick plate, spoon, lid of the jar, and dip finger repeatedly after fish is gone. Wonder if it would be good with dill? Know that it would be good with horseradish. A great base for all things creamy on a sandwich. Marvel that sometimes simple stuff is best kept simple.

Update May 5, 2008: It occurred to me this morning, that tartar sauce, being simply mayo, onion, pickles, and spices ... is the perfect base for making any spreadable salad, especially if I chunk up some celery or capers in it next time (who am I kidding, I seldom use capers). This morning I quickled drained a can of albacore tuna, threw in a few teaspoons of my home made tartar sauce, added a handful of sliced almonds, and I was good to GO! Almost zero prep. If I make a full bullet blender cup of tartar sauce, I can make tuna, salmon, shrimp, egg, crab salad ... anytime, very quickly. Hooray.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Not Your Average Pork and Beans

Pork Chops and Beans

I had leftover asian influenced marinade from Kitty's Tuna night, and thought it would be a good match for some boneless pork chops and green beans. I really like the thin, delicate haricot vert beans from Trader Joe's. They are not my Mother's Green Beans, which were always soft and mushy from a can (sorry, but true, Mom). Those soft mushy beans have their place (boiled to death with potatoes and served with Easter ham), but I like these much better.

No recipe, but this is what I did:

Pan-fried the chops in a high heat non-stick skillet under an iron press (like a bacon press or panini press) to get a good and fast browning, and added the leftover marinade in the last few minutes, swirling to reduce and caramelize. Removed chops to a plate, and added frozen green beans with water. Brought to a quick boil, and reduced, adding more leftover marinade. Removed beans and pan sauce to the plate, topped with the chops, and sprinkled with crushed tamari almonds. Done. On the plate and under the camera in about 14 minutes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Make this because it's good for you: Homemade Blueberry Orange Butter

Blueberries and Oranges are two of the world's recognized SuperFoods. I try to eat a lot of SuperFoods, at least several each day (see to the right? I even have a category for it). My sister and I just found a cookbook specifically for SuperFoods and I spotted inside a recipe for making Blueberry Butter (not dairy -- think Apple Butter). I recognized it as a good start -- a culinary canvas waiting my improvements.

First I have to give you some important warnings, before you get started. These are very important, so write these down.

~Use a pan twice as deep as you think you need. This stuff spatters up something terrible.

~If you use a wooden spoon, it will forever be purple. Use a silicone spoon if this bugs you.

~A hand blender will not work to puree the butter.

~Wear an apron. I mean it.

~Have a wet sponge and towel near by.

~Have a container washed and ready to fill when the butter is done. Unlike me.

I'm not even going to reference the cookbook or the author because I adapted it so thoroughly (the oranges and seasonings are mine for instance), they are really different animals. So, this is how we rolled in my kitchen:

Step 1: In a deeper pot than the one you see below, add one 10 oz bag of frozen blueberries (don't use wild, they actually are kinda gritty for this purpose, according to the author); one whole orange which has been peeled and de-seeded (save the peels for zest); 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce; 1 cinnamon stick; 2 shakes of ground clove; 2 big splashes of vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup of brown sugar (I used Splenda brown sugar with perfect results).

Step 2: Stir this mixture thoroughly, constantly, while the fruit boils and combines, as shown below. Cook until the fruit is combined and very soft, approximately 20 minutes.

Step 3: The recipe calls for pouring the entire thing into a blender, and then after thoroughly blended, pouring it back into the WASHED pot (why on earth would you rinse and wash away all the remnants of the fruit in the pot only to add the now blended fruit back into the pan? Lunacy). So, I took a stick blender to it. After a good 10 minutes, I realized this wasn't happening, because either my stick was underpowered for the fruit, or more likely, the pan was too shallow and I couldn't get the thing tilted enough to really mix it under the blades, without spattering everything purple all around me (See Notes: Get a deep pot, wear an apron, and have a wet sponge or towel near by). So, after 10 minutes of what you see below, I actually hauled out the full sized blender and did what I was told and it was much better. But I didn't wash the pot. I poured the fruit back into the unwashed blueberry pot.

Step 4: Continue to cook the now pureed fruit in the pot, on a heat enough high enough to pop and bubble, but not so high it boils up, or spatters too much. I had it on medium low and it simmered away, with me stirring frequently, for about 30-40 minutes. You want to be able to drag a wooden spoon (see warning note about the spoon and notice how my wooden spoon, below, is permanently a bright purple now) across the bottom of the pan and have the fruit not seep back too quickly, as shown below.

Step 5: After the fruit butter is thick and hearty, pour into a container which you have ready (See Warning Note: I didn't have one ready because I'm lame that way). I am glad I actually grew impatient and took the butter off the stove before it was as thick as I wanted -- it thickened considerably when it cooled and I could put a finger or spoon in, and it did not run off the spoon at all. This was what I wanted. Also, once it was cool, I could really taste the subtlety of the cinnamon, the clove, and the orange. Avoid overseasoning while it's cooking -- because I didn't think I'd added enough while I was tasting it during the cooking process.

Verdict: This is not like any blueberry flavored product I've had before. I'm not a huge fan of blueberries because blueberry muffins are kinda boring and I'd never eat a slice of blueberry pie. Too fake tasting. I want to get blueberries into my daily menu however, and I eat a lot of Fat Free Greek Yogurt, so I thought this was a good way to get blueberries in without too much straight blueberry flavor -- and this fit the bill. It tasted of deep rich purple - more berry than blueberry, sweet orange, clove and cinnamon and vanilla. It was not overly sweet (I didn't add nearly as much sugar as called for) and was fabulous with a big spoon of yogurt to test it out. I'm very happy with it.

If you're on a diet, dollop this Blueberry Orange Butter on:

Greek Yogurt; Oatmeal; Cereal; Toast; Granola; Cottage Cheese

If you're not on a diet, dollop this on:

Pound cake; ice cream; rice pudding; tapioca pudding; any pudding; under desserts; over desserts; or with a spoon and a can of aerosol whipped cream.

Also, because of my crappy camera skills, that photo looks like brownie batter. It's actually VERY purple, as shown on my cottage cheese bento lunch, here:

Bento Lunch 05-02-08

An Open Letter to Nabisco

Dear Nabisco:

Regarding your decision to offer Triscuits in Deli Rye flavor, complete with toasted caraway seeds, which product I just discovered, purchased, and ate for lunch today ...

THANK YOU. I am in love.



Urban Tales: Psst. The Throne is Vacant. Spread the word.

I've got to revive my "Urban Tales" category. I had a blog a year or so ago that wasn't food related, and I included various tales from living in a very urban, downtown environment. They are seldom food related, but who else can I relate these little moments to, if not you guys?


TIME: 7:30 A.M.

An elderly woman is there, and she frequently talks to me. Sometimes she's a little batty, sometimes funny, sometimes smart. Sometimes all three.

Elderly Woman: Are you Catholic?

Me: No.

Elderly Woman: Oh, I was hoping you were.

Me: Actually I am, baptized anyway. Just not a very good one.

Elderly Woman: I recommend you work the rosary IMMEDIATELY.

Me: I see. Perhaps I will.

Elderly Woman: The throne is vacant. That's code.

Me: Pardon?

Elderly Woman: THE THRONE IS VACANT. That's code and it's very devilish. Are you a Mason? That code is very bad news for those who know what it means.

Me: No, I'm not a mason. My grandfather was.

Elderly Woman: (Looks at me like I suddenly stink) Get away from me. Stand way over there. SHOO!