Melissa’s Produce San Diego Food Bloggers Challenge!

Recently, I received an email from Barbara from Barbara Cooks (http://www.barbaracooks.com/) asking if the bloggers of San Diego might be interested in receiving a box of items from Melissa’s Produce (http://www.melissas.com/).  The “Challenge” was to take what was delivered to you and create a delicious recipe.  First, I love getting things shipped to me.  I feel like it’s Christmas!  Second, no surprise, I love food.  Third, I love playing around with food to create something new.  Fourth, I love knowing that a bunch of people out there have the same ingredients and will come up with very different recipes.

I’ve heard of Melissa’s Produce, but I didn’t know much about the company, which the owners, Joe and Sharon Hernandez, named after their daughter.  It’s basically an online grocery store for very unique items.  There’s everything from organic fruit baskets to organic blue agave syrup to Pinot Noir and Chestnut basket.  Can’t find Armenian cucumbers at your grocery store or Farmers’ Market?  Just go to Melissa’s Produce.  There are a ton of recipes online created by their five Corporate Chefs.  Say you bought quinoa at your grocery store and you don’t know how to cook it, or maybe you’ve cooked it a million times and you need a fresh idea for dinner.  Just type in “quinoa” on the website’s recipe search engine, and several recipes are at your fingertips.  Maybe Muscato Cashew Quinoa will strike your fancy.  My only question, are you hiring, Melissa’s Produce???

I must admit that this service is pricey.  Here’s what I received: Fava Beans (shelled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8.8 ounces), Baby Beets (peeled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8 ounces), Brussel Sprouts (10 ounces), Leeks (cleaned and sliced, 6 ounces), Red Quinoa (6 ounces), Dried Chanterelle (.5 ounces), Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes (1.5 pounds), and Ojai Pixie Tangerines (1 pound).  I received smaller quantities than if I were to have ordered the items myself.  I estimate the total amount for the portions I received to be around $40.  For certain items, overnight shipping is required, so you can add almost $20 for the FedEx delivery.  Everything I received was in perfect condition and tasted great.

Melissa Leeks

Melissa Brussel

Melissa Chanterelle

Melissaquinoa

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

My mom was visiting from Cleveland, Ohio when the shipment arrived.  She was excited to see what was in the box and what I’d make with it.  A few days after I received the box, I just started sautéing things.  My Mom asked what my plan was, and I honestly wasn’t certain.  It just kind of came together.  We were talking, and I’d roast Brussels Spouts.  We’d talk more, and I chopped Fava Beans.  We’d talk some more, and I sautéed leeks and cook quinoa.  Next thing I knew, I created  Quinoa Stuffed Chicken with a Spicy Soy Orange Glaze and, as I call it, Mish Mosh Potato Salad.

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

For the potato salad, I halved the Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes and put them, sliced side down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  I covered the sheet with foil and put them into the oven at around 400 degrees.  Once the potatoes were soft, I removed the foil, flipped those bad Dutch Babies over and continued cooking them in the oven until they were nicely browned.  I roasted the Brussel Sprouts in the oven at around 400 degrees, as well, until they were browned and softened slightly.  Once I removed them from the oven, I did a rough chop on those lovely mini cabbages.  I placed the potatoes and Brussel Sprouts in a large bowl and added the Red Beets which I roughly chopped, as well.  I took walnut oil and balsamic vinegar, whisked it until it emulsified, and added it to the potato salad.  I usually do a ratio of one part vinegar to two parts oil, but I must admit I don’t really measure.  I added a little salt and pepper, too, and that was it!

The final product for the main course!

The final product for the main course!

Like I mentioned earlier, this was a “do whatever I felt like” kind of cooking day.  I love sautéing leeks and garlic, so that’s where I started.  First, I sautéed the leeks in olive oil over medium to medium high heat until the softened and were golden, probably around 6 minutes.  I added a few garlic cloves I had chopped and continued cooking for about a minute.  I added about 2 ounces of white wine (mainly because I felt like a glass of wine while I was cooking), and I raised the heat and cooked for a few minutes.  Right about then, the house smelled amazing.  I had cooked the quinoa in chicken stock earlier, so I added the leek mixture to the quinoa.  Earlier, I had also reconstituted the Chanterelles. I simply boil water, add the mushrooms, turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and let them sit for 30 minutes or until they have softened.  I rinse the mushrooms very well after.  I chopped the Chanterelles and the Fava Beans, and I added them to the quinoa mixture.  I added some ground pepper and salt, to taste.  The amount of quinoa filling was enough for 8-10 chicken breasts.  I didn’t realize just how much it would make, but I love leftovers!

I pounded the chicken and put as much filling as I could in each breast, approximately 1/2 a cup of filling for each.  I folded the chicken breast so that the filling remained inside, and I tied the chicken with kitchen twine.  I put the stuffed chicken into a baking dish coated with olive oil, covered, into the oven (around 375 degrees) for about an hour, or until it reached 165 degrees internally.

While the chicken cooked, I threw together a few items I had on hand for a sauce.  In a bowl, I whisked together orange juice (about 1/2 cup), soy sauce (about 4 tablespoons), agave (4 Tablespoons), white vinegar (2 healthy Tablespoons), and a couple of Tablespoons of chile paste.  If you like it really spicy or not very, this amount can be catered to your taste.  After whisking to combine, I placed the mixture into a pan and brought it to a boil while continuing to whisk.  Once it reached a boil, I reduced the temperature and I let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will reduce slightly and thicken.  I added the chicken breasts to the pan and continued cooking at a medium heat while basting the chicken with the sauce.  At this point, the chicken is cooked, I just wanted to really infuse the chicken with the flavors of the sauce.  I got the idea of doing an orange juice based sauce because of the tangerines in the shipment.  I decided to simply eat the tangerines as a dessert.  It was a perfect meal, if I do say so myself!

I can’t wait to read what other local bloggers created!  What a fun idea!  A huge “Thank You” goes out to Barbara and Melissa’s Produce!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Here is the link to see all of the Bloggers who participated: An InLinkz Link-up

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Mardi Gras Time!!

Where has 2014 gone?  I feel like I just got back from visiting family and friends in Cleveland, Ohio for Christmas. Yikes.  And now it’s March (start the Christmas ads already!), and I’m awaiting my Mom’s arrival later today.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Monsieur says “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

I remember, as a kid, Fat Tuesday meant a lot more.  Being Catholic, it meant Lent was coming, and that was the toughest part of the year for me.  No meat on Fridays?  No fried bologna sandwiches after I got home from school?  I don’t think I was supposed to eat before church on Sunday, too.  I think I’m remembering that correctly, or my parents were just trying to get me to wait to eat again?  And I had to give something up for the entire Lent season which is about 6 weeks??  No wonder Easter was such a big deal to me!  I searched for that hidden basket of candy on Easter like I was Indian Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant!   Hey, I loved to eat back then, too.

So if you are in San Diego, and you want to live large today or tonight, here are my top 5 pics.

5) If you haven’t had breakfast yet (If you are a SDSU student and just rolled out of bed and realized you just missed Psych 101 and Intro to Badminton, this is really for you!), start the day off right with a breakfast burrito with chorizo at Dos Brasas (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dos-Brasas/113327022054498).  They pack it full and it is steaming hot when you get it.  Have some chips, salsa and carrots while you wait.  If you’ve had breakfast already, it is perfectly acceptable to have this for lunch or dinner.

4) Venissimo (http://www.venissimo.com/)  What better way to live large?  Really go big and sample a ton of their cheeses, and then buy a bunch to take home.  Eat, and then eat more.  That’s today’s motto.

3) Cookies!!!  I love making my own cookies, but sometimes I don’t have the time.  The recipe I use requires my dough be refrigerated overnight, so it’s good to know where to go in a pinch.  I love 2 companies: Badunkachunk (http://www.badunkachunk.com/) and The Cravory (http://thecravory.com/).  Both companies sell online, but you can find them in San Diego.  My favorite spot to get Badunkachunk is at Rubicon Deli (http://therubicondeli.com/) .  Hey, that’s a great Mardi Gras stop!  A fatty sandwich on house made bread with an outrageously fat cookie is one sweet meal.  I checked out The Cravory at a bloggers’ event this past Saturday.  The owners, Adam, Nate, and Derek, take cookies seriously.  They spent a crazy amount of time (or as I see it, just the right amount of time) making sure each ingredient is the best. Cookies

This Rosemary cookie was one of my favorites!

This Rosemary cookie was one of my favorites!

The owners of The Cravory

The owners of The Cravory (and me!)

The result is a delicious, thick, flavorful cookie. But you have to hurry in because the cookie menu is always changing, and once a flavor is sold out, it could be gone forever, my friend. Previously you had to drive around to farmers’ markets to find their stuff.  All you have to do now is look for the Souplantation (http://www.souplantation.com/locations/restaurant.aspx?store_id=2&store_name=Point_Loma) in Point Loma and you will find their new storefront.  It’s super tiny, so it’s easy to miss, but it’s really cute inside.  Check it out!

2) Garlic Knots (or as they are listed on the menu, Garlic Nuts, but I refuse to order them that way) at Hillcrest Brewing Company (http://hillcrestbrewingcompany.com/).  I haven’t had great garlic knots since I was in NYC.  Talk about an indulgent thing to eat.  There is not one health benefit to eating one (or 6) of these babies.  I was never a fan of the beers crafted at HBC, so I would always stick with the list of guest beers.  However, the bartender explained to me and my husband that the owner was no longer brewing and there was a new brewer on board.  I was very happy to hear this because the Hillcrest area needs to improve its beer situation, and this is a great step!

I will always order these as "Garlic Knots".

I will always order these as “Garlic Knots”.

1) This is tough.  I kept it to five because that is a reasonable amount to cover in a day, right??  I don’t want to list a great dinner place because I’m trying to suggest places where you can eat something and not be full for the entire day.  Hmmm.  And I would suggest Extraordinary Desserts (http://www.extraordinarydesserts.com/) or Eclipse Chocolate (http://eclipsechocolate.com/), but that is just too obvious.  I wish the hush puppies at American Voodoo (https://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Voodoo/629546020395414) were better because that would work so well for this day.  I hate to do this, but I can’t help myself.  My final suggestion for tonight is another cheese item, an appetizer at Mozza (http://www.pizzeriamozza.com/).  Whether it’s today, tonight, or in a month, you have to go and order Mozza Caprese and Pane Bianco with extra virgin olive oil.  It’s kind of annoying the two items aren’t listed and sold together because you obviously need this divine (yep, I wrote divine) bread to go with this out of this world burrata.

You will NEVER want Caprese anywhere else after this experience. Period. Burrata. Period. Enough said.

You will NEVER want Caprese anywhere else after this experience. Period. Burrata. Period. Enough said.

I hope this gives you a nice road map for the day!  Let me know you favorite indulgent spot!  Please!!  I love hearing what you guys like, too!

Sir is looking forward to his next meal.  Are you?

Sir is looking forward to his next meal. Are you?

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Dos Brasas Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

The Cravory on Urbanspoon

Hillcrest Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon