Who’s Your Mama’s Kitchen?

I was sick last week, and I’m finally catching up this week!  I hate being sick.  Who doesn’t, I guess?  It hurt to even look at a computer screen let alone type something.  One day I even put a piece of bread in the toaster – with the plate.  Yep, I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Fortunately, a bad cold passes.  I’ve been wanting to write about my visit to Mama’s Kitchen (http://www.mamaskitchen.org/).  I’ve heard about the organization in passing, and I’ve seen volunteers at Ralph’s collecting non-perishable goods, but I didn’t have a clear idea what it was all about.   It’s a non-profit organization with around 800 volunteers who deliver meals to home bound people affected by AIDS and cancer every day of the year in San Diego County. Not only is enough food delivered for the person battling a disease for every day of the week, if there are any dependents living in the home, they receive meals as well.  There is no charge for this service (people do have to be referred by a third-party, usually their physician). And (drum roll!!) Mama’s Kitchen is about to celebrate its 20th Anniversary!  On top of that milestone, they delivered their 6 millionth meal this year in March.

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These numbers from 2011 are staggering:

-796 volunteers donated more than 31,000 hours of service and drove 131,664 miles during the year.

-347,690 meals were delivered to 572 individuals in San Diego County.

-Dollar value of volunteer service and mileage is estimated at $809,430.

I met a volunteer, Ann, who works in the kitchen.  She’s been volunteering at Mama’s for 15 years.  Not only does Ann have to think about what to make, but she has to think about how food will taste if someone is on a particular medicine or is receiving a certain treatment.  She clearly loves what she does and the people she serves.  She happily told our tour group “I’ve found my calling.”   The number of people who need this service isn’t slowing down either.  The biggest increase in requests comes from single mothers with breast cancer.

In addition to Mama’s Kitchen, Mama’s Pantry is on site as well.  Mama’s Pantry is a place where low-income, HIV positive local residents can come and shop for food – perishable and non-perishable.  All items are given points, and each customer is allowed a set number of points each month.  Mama’s Pantry has 769 clients, and it’s been serving San Diego County residents for 8 years.

So why am I writing about this place?  I want you to help them!!!  Around the holiday season, the organization is inundated with donations.  That’s a great thing, but around this time of year, donations dwindle.  The very cool thing is that it is so easy to do a little bit which can turn into a lot of help for people who greatly need it.  Aimee Halfpenny, Development Manager, and Denise Scatena, Media Relations, filled us in on the next big Food Drive and Fundraiser Campaign, Independence from Hunger 2012.   Throughout the month of July, they will be accepting donations.  So here’s one example of what you can do: 1) Plan a 4th of July party 2) Send out your evites and tell everyone to bring a certain number of non-perishable items (I have their wish list below) 3) Let friends know that whoever brings the most items will win a prize (bottle of wine perhaps?) 4) Call Mama’s Kitchen and ask them to deliver a barrel for the food donations (see photo below) 5) Have a fabulous party 6) The next day, call Mama’s Kitchen and let them know they can come and get their barrel 7) Smile because you just helped out a lot of people who really need it and really appreciate it.  This is just one thought, but you get the idea.  Even if you aren’t having a get together, but you are attending one, ask the party planner if they could do it.

Mama’s Pantry’s Wish List:

box of cereal

package of flour

instant oatmeal packets

bottle of cooking oil

jar of peanut butter and/or jelly

bag of rice

package of dried beans

spaghetti sauce

box of pasta

packets of pasta dinners

canned goods – fruits, soups, vegetables, chili, pasta and beans

mac & cheese

tuna fish / salmon

cake mixes and icing

small box of dry milk

I have to note the awesome people who took the tour with me: Angela (Mira Mesa Mom: http://miramesamom.com), Sean (The Gifted Horse: http://thegiftedhorse.com), and Danielle (Simmworks Family Blog: www.simmworksfamily.com).  It’s always reassuring knowing there are some good people out there!  It was great meeting all of you!!

Take Care and Happy Eating – and get your party plan on for July!

Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars

Today is my Mom’s Birthday!  Happy Birthday, Mom!  I wish I could be in Cleveland to celebrate with you!!  If I were there, I would give you one of these Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars with a candle in it!  Then I’d have to listen about how they are not healthy.  Yes, I know.  Hope your day was awesome!!

I made these for a bake sale last week for the UCSD Hearts & Hands Volunteer Doula Program, and I thought I’d share the recipe (from Sunset, October 2002, and was created by Linda Tebben.).  I love these bars because it combines the best of 3 worlds: butter, gooey caramel and chocolate.  Yes, please.

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Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, chilled
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 ounces individually wrapped soft caramels, such as Kraft
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Cut 1 cup butter into chunks.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups flour (8 3/4 oz), 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and the butter chunks.  Whirl until dough comes together.  Press evenly over the bottom of a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking pan.  Bake in a 325 degree oven until top feels dry and is just beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.  Let cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, unwrap caramels and place in a microwave-safe bowl with milk.  Cook in a microwave oven for 1 minute.  Stir mixture, then cook and stir at 30 -second intervals until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes longer.  Spread caramel mixture evenly over cooled crust and chill until firm, about 20 minutes (I’ve even left it in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.).
  3. In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom should not touch water), stir chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup butter often until melted and smooth (**I just put chocolate and butter in a heavy bottom pan and continuously stir at very low heat until it’s melted, and I’ve never had a problem.)  Remove bowl from water and, with a whisk or mixer on medium speed, beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.  Stir in remaining 1/2 cup (2 oz.) flour, baking powder, and salt until well blended.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over caramel layer and use a knife or spatula to spread level, completely covering the caramel.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven until wooden skewer inserted into chocolate layer comes out mostly clean (Recipes always seem to note that it’s done when the skewer is clean, but usually that means it’s over done.  You want a little crumb sticking to the skewer.), 35 to 40 minutes.  Let cool completely, then cut in to 12 or 24 bars (I prefer larger bars, so I would opt for 12 bars!).

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Let Them Eat Royal Rice!

I returned from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio the other day.  I had family stuff going on (isn’t there always?), so I didn’t have a lot of time for anything else.  I did manager to get in a couple of meals out.  In Cleveland Heights, we celebrated my brother’s birthday at Night Town (http://nighttowncleveland.com/).  I love the live music and their house special, The Dublin Lawyer.  In Rocky River, we had a pre-birthday celebration at Salmon Dave’s.  Order their lobster bisque & you’ll be a fan.  The cheesecake with strawberry and mango puree was great as well.  Of course, I found time for something sweet at Mitchell’s Ice Cream (http://mitchellshomemade.com/).  I had the BEST Banana Ice Cream with Homemade Pieces of Shortbread Crust and a scoop of Dark Roast Coffee Ice Cream – what a perfect combination!  Also, I went to Tommy’s (http://tommysplace.weebly.com/) in Rocky River – twice.  Yep, my family likes to eat out.  I even manged some time to have a couple Dortmunder Gold Lagers by Great Lakes Brewing Company.   Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  As a side note, I was so preoccupied with other things, that I didn’t take photos of my food.  I apologize.  Next time!!

While I was at Tommy’s, my Mom and I discussed whether it’s faster to go out to eat or to make something at home for dinner.  I love eating out, but I try to keep it for the weekends.  I really believe by the time you go to a restaurant, order, wait for the food, get the bill, pay, and drive home, you can make a meal faster (and healthier!) at home.   She claims that because of my background, it’s easier for me to make a quick and tasty meal.  I completely disagree.  Anyone can make a great, fast and healthy meal.  I told her I’d post some recipes, and I’ll see what she thinks.  Let me know what you think, too!

I love the recipe I’m sharing with you.  I came across it on the Whole Foods website about 5 years ago, and I’ve been making it ever since.  What I love is that you can make it at the beginning of the week, and eat it for lunch or dinner throughout the week.  And you can swap out any ingredient for something you like better or for something else you have in your veggie drawer in your refrigerator.   If someone you know follows a gluten-free diet, this recipe will work for them, too.  If you don’t care for a vegetarian option, add some chicken.  Doesn’t get easier than picking up a rotisserie chicken at Costco or the local grocery store!  I had never heard of Forbidden Rice until I came across this recipe.  It is a Chinese black rice, and it is rich in antioxidants.  Apparently for a period of time, only royals could eat this rice, hence the name “Forbidden Rice”.  Here’s the recipe . . .

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Forbidden Rice Salad with Vegetables (Serves about 4)

  • 1 cup forbidden rice, prepared according to package directions and cooled (it’s sold at Whole Foods)
  • 3/4 cup grated carrots
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup sliced cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons walnut or macadamia nut oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
  • avocados, sliced (as many as you like!)
  1. Toss rice with carrots, yellow pepper and cucumber in a large serving bowl.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add zucchini and scallions and saute for 5 minutes or until zucchini is crisp tender.  Add to rice mixture.  In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, nut oil, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne together until slightly thickened.  Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Top with slices of avocados (and I always drizzle with Sriracha).

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Bake Sale Results and Vegan Voyage in Ocean Beach

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San Diego Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale, outside of Great News! Cookware and Cooking School, was a huge success this past weekend. The total amount raised at the sale for Share Our Strength: $3034! Rumor has it that we did very well nationally.  I can’t wait to hear where we ranked!!  I’m hoping the Food Blogging community will do more of these for charity. What a great way to raise money!! Thanks to everyone who bought some goodies either at the sale or online. I was so bummed that I couldn’t be there.  I was there in spirit and in the form of a Mango and Coconut Bread with and without Macadamia Nuts.  Later that evening, Marie, super-organizer of the sale and author of the blog Meandering Eats (http://www.meanderingeats.com/), had a get together for the bloggers.   I was able to try a delicious cookie from one of the participants, Seaside Sweets (http://www.sdseasidesweets.com/sweetspot/), called a Chocolate Chip “Pillow” Cookie. Basically, there is a brownie inside of the cookie. Oh, and there was caramel in there, too. That’s right. Kelly is the baker, but her brother/ business partner, Casey, told me to warm the cookie in the microwave for a few seconds before eating it. Wow. Seriously, check out their website! I’m a fan!  Another delicious treat I had: a French Macaroon made by Deepti of It’s Life… A Miracle!! (http://deeptibhogle.blogspot.com/)  I’m not usually a huge fan of macaroons.  Deepti’s were soooo good!  I had a raspberry and chocolate one – it was full of flavor and it had the perfect texture.  I would love to order these from her so my sister-in-law (who LOVES macaroons) can try some!!!  Brava!!

Over the weekend, I finally had the chance to eat at Stephanie’s Bakery (4879 Voltaire St. in Ocean Beach). Be forewarned: it’s Organic and Vegan. Check out this video to get you in the Organic mood: Organic!  O.K., settle down, you bacon eaters! I’m one of you, too! Having said that, this place is really good. My husband and I opted for the Veggy Edgy (a sandwich with a good amount of roasted veggies and a spicy mayo) and a BLTI (a marinated tempeh sandwich with mayo). All sandwiches are served on focaccia that is made in-house. Sometimes focaccia can be a little oily, but Stephanie’s didn’t leave my hands an oily mess, it and was really good. I loved the roasted red cabbage in my sandwich and the spicy mayo was perfect. I wished the BLTI had the same mayo. I think next time I’ll request the spicy mayo on any sandwich I order. Pizzas are on the menu, but I didn’t get a chance to try one nor did I see one served. We opted to completely indulge and ordered 2 slices of cake. We shared slices of the German Chocolate Cake and the Vanilla Passion Cake. Both desserts were very good, but the Vanilla Passion stole the show! It was super juicy and had delicious bananas and strawberries in it. And I’m usually a chocolate person! Again, don’t let the Vegan part scare you off if you aren’t usually a veggie/vegan kind of person. The flavors are solid! You won’t be disappointed. I’d be so happy to get a Vanilla Passion Cake for my birthday!! (It’s in August. Just FYI.) The only drawback is that Stephanie’s Bakery is only open Friday through Sunday. Keep in mind that only cash is accepted. For 2 sandwiches, 2 tasty Vegan Root Beers, and 2 slices of cake, we spent about $32. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

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