Finally Another Fabulous Friday!

Life can be crazy.  Let me rephrase.  Life is crazy.  How do we get through it?  I like to focus on the things that make me smile.  So here are some things that really made me happy recently . . .

January Lemons

Finally our Meyer lemon and Mandarin trees in our front yard is producing fruit!  Unfortunately, people seem to be picking them.  I wouldn’t care, but we aren’t getting a ton of fruit yet, and it took about 2 years to get to this point.  However, when I picked these lemons the smell was overwhelming.  I don’t even want to eat them yet!  They are way too pretty!

The other thing that made me smile was celebrating my little Sweet Pea’s birthday.  Monsieur turned 4 this month.  If you love dogs, you get this.  If you don’t, too bad.

Sir Bday Cake YR 4Sir Bday Cake YR 4 -2

Every year we get cupcakes from Sprinkles in La Jolla.  Sir has food allergies, but he never has a problem with their Dog Cupcake.  Of course, we pick up a couple of Human Cupcakes, too!  This year we opted for a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake and a Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcake.  They were not our favorites.  I find that Sprinkles can be hit or miss.  I love the Red Velvet Cupcake.  Maybe I should stick with that one?

Sir Bday Cake YR 4- 4

Sir Bday Cake YR 4- 5Sir Bday Cake YR 4 -3Sprinkles Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

The last thing that made me happy was a simple recipe I found in Family Circle of all places!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers 1

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers (Family Circle, January 2013)

7 sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow) (**I went with the Costco bag of red peppers, and I only used 6)

1 cup quinoa (**Recipe recommends Bob’s Red Mill whole grain quinoa.  Also, I used 1 1/2 cups. I like having leftovers if possible.)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced sweet onion

1 tsp ground cumin (**I put more in.  I like cumin.)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup dried figs, roughly chopped (**I used prunes.  If you are not a fan of either (which is crazy!), opt for dried cherries.)

1/2 cup unsalted cashews, roughly chopped (**I used walnuts just because I had them on hand.)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Seed and dice one of the peppers (**The recipe notes to seed and dice one of the cooked peppers.  I do not like cooking peppers ahead of time for any stuffed pepper recipe.  I like the peppers to have a little bit of crunch and life to them.). Slice remaining peppers from stem to bottom; seed.
  2. In a medium lidded pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil (adjust amount if you are using more quinoa).  Stir in quinoa; return to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a medium-low and cook 10 minutes.  Drain; set aside.  (**Sometimes when I cook quinoa, I replace some of the water with chicken stock or orange juice.)
  3. Return pot to stove; place over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Stir in one diced pepper and onion.  Cook 5 minutes (**or until they are caramelized and soft).  Mix in cumin and cinnamon; cook 1 more minute.  Stir in figs, cashews, quinoa, salt and pepper.  Fill pepper halves with quinoa mixture and place cut-side up in a 9×13-inch baking dish (**I layered the bottom with parchment so they wouldn’t stick.).  Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until peppers are as tender as you like.

I hope you have a good weekend and survive the rain or snow (depending on which coast you are on!)!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Advertisements

Best Thing About Cold Weather??

You know the answer!  Food!

I hope everyone is doing well.  Word on the street is that at least one suburb of Cleveland, Ohio saw some snow the other day!  Yikes!  I guess it makes sense.  Stores are already playing Holiday music, as of today I’ve heard the term “Black Friday” about 500 times, and this is the second day in a row of turning on the heat in our house for a few hours in the early morning.  It gets cold in San Diego!

Let’s not think of the down side of Winter – at least not yet.  Let’s think about the food!  I love all of the squashes available, and I love making soup for dinner and serving it with delicious bread.  The other night, I combined my two loves (other than my husband and Monsieur) of dark greens and squash for a delicious side dish to accompany our halibut.

I found this recipe on Tasting Table, one of my favorite online sites.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe by Chef Nathan Foot while he was working at Northern Spy Co. (He’s now the chef at Calyer in Brooklyn – in case you enjoy stalking chefs.)

I made a couple minor changes which are noted throughout the recipe with “**” indicating that change.  Basically, you can do anything with this recipe.  If you are vegan, on a diet, or prefer meat in every dish you eat, you can adjust this recipe accordingly.  If you do, let me know how you make it your own!

Northern Spy Food Co. Kale Salad

2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded kale (preferably Tuscan or black kale) (**I used 1 bunch of Tuscan kale, finely chopped.)

1/4 cup toasted almonds (**I toasted a good handful of slivered almonds I had on hand.)

1/4 crumbled Cabot clothbound cheddar (**I had a coupon for Cracker Barrel Cheddar. I read that the company had won a cheese competition for its Aged Reserve cheddar.  I wanted to give it a try.  My local grocery store didn’t carry the exact winner, so I tried the sharp cheddar.  Not bad!  It had a nice creamy texture, and had a decent sharp cheddar taste.  I bought a “log” and cut a small chunk.  I crumbled the cheese by hand.  I didn’t use too much just so it would remain a healthy side dish.  However, the cheese does add a nice touch.)

1/2 cup cubed roasted kabocha or butternut squash (**Since I love squash, I used an entire butternut for this recipe. I think it was about 2 pounds or so.  I simply tossed the cubes in olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, and roasted it in the oven for about 45 minutes.  The time was solely due to the time I was on a treadmill.  I like my squash slightly caramelized, but you may not.  Keep an eye on it and pull it out when it’s to your liking.)

Fresh lemon juice (**I didn’t like the idea of lemon juice in this dish.  I wanted something more savory and “Fall-like”.  I opted for a really great balsamic vinegar.  The recipe notes approximately 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice. Whichever you choose, carefully add either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to taste.  You can always add more, so be careful!

Extra-virgin olive oil (**Since I roasted my squash in olive oil, I didn’t feel the need to add any extra.  But give the salad a taste.  Maybe you prefer a little more?)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pecornio or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional) (**Again, I was trying to keep this on the healthier side, so I opted not to add another cheese.  However, I bet it would be awesome!  Maybe I’ll keep it in mind for a dinner party.)

1) In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with almonds, cheddar and squash.  Season to taste with lemon juice (**or balsamic vinegar) and olive oil (**if necessary).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2) Divide salad between two plates.  Garnish shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.

What’s’ your favorite Fall or Winter food?  I’d love to hear some thoughts!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Tomato, Tomaato? Go to Suzie’s Farm and Find Out!

I hope everyone’s week is going well so far!  I have to share the details about my trip out to Suzie’s Farm (http://www.suziesfarm.com/).  If you can’t go, at least check out the website.  There are some great recipes there.  Also, check out the special events planned.  I wish I could attend the Autumnal Equinox Dinner 2012 when chefs from The Linkery and El Take It Easy, Cucina Urbana, and Mision 19 will be part of an amazing event that includes secret gardens, mazes and music at the farm!  Maybe next year?!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jackie, a.k.a The Seaside Baker, arranged for a private group tour (Harvesting Tour) of Suzie’s.  Check out her blog: http://theseasidebaker.com/  I love her tagline: Musings of a Mompreneur!  Very cute!  We were greeted by our docents, Jenna and Karissa, by the farm stand.  If you want to buy some produce without taking a tour, you can visit any Saturday between 10am and 2pm. If you just like to have food prepared for you, check out all of the restaurants that buy from this farm.  You might have had Suzie’s tomatoes without even realizing it!  Blind Lady Ale House, Farm House Cafe, Miho Gastrotruck, and Marriott Del Mar are just a few spots where you can get some of this organic and tasty stuff! Another interesting tidbit, our docent, Jenna, has a food blog: http://foodislifeblog.com/  It’ll be interesting to see what recipes and food facts she posts!  I’m looking forward to reading this blog!

The farm is 13 miles south of Downtown San Diego, but you really feel like you are in another world – or at least in another country.  In some ways you are!  You can see the rolling hills of Mexico just beyond the gardens.  The farm is named after a stray dog who wandered onto the land and into the hearts of the owners, Robin Taylor and Lucila De Alejandro.  Future plots were named after dogs as well: Bear and Kiki.  Kiki followed us throughout the tour.  I guess she’s a docent as well!  There is a fourth plot that has just been acquired, but the name is unknown at this time.  I’m hoping for Sweet Pea or Monsieur.  Just throwing that out there.  All four areas will be a total of 100 acres.  I must admit, knowing the owners are such dog lovers makes me love this place even more!

The reason I loved the private tour is that it’s really a peaceful spot to hang out for an hour and a half.  I was told the public tours on the second Saturday of the month are great, but can be crowded.  The Harvesting Tour can be arranged for groups of 10 or more, costs $10 per person, and you get to pick produce right off the vine to put into your grocery bag.  What could be a better way to spend the day? Make sure to bring a bag!  We walked past rows of pumpkins (12 different varieties), tomatoes, Swiss Chard, tomatillo, okra, and Lamb’s Quarters to name a few.  Everything is planted by hand and a butter knife!  You could take a tour during different times of the year and see and taste so many different things.  I’m thinking this will have to be a quarterly trip at least!!  My favorite part was the chicken coop.  Our guides told us to grab an ear of corn to offer the chickens.  They ran to us like Monsieur when I tell him his food is ready!  Check out the website to see all of the details on the various tours offered.

When I got home, I unpacked my loot and tried to figure out what to make.  I decided to keep it simple.  I sautéed the red onions in some olive oil until they had a nice caramelization, then I turned the heat down until they softened and became super sweet.  I threw in a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper, too.  It was Sunday, so we threw some hotdogs on the grill, bought some La Brea bread, and slathered the bread with horseradish.  We topped the hotdogs with the grilled onions (Franz said he could have just had a bowl of the onions alone.), some Stadium Mustard (a nod to Cleveland), and a little ketchup.  Perfect!  As a side, I had Franz grill the mini eggplants from Suzie’s.  I prepared the eggplants by slicing them in half lengthwise, placing them in a bowl with olive oil, honey, and 1 hot pepper from Suzie’s that I sliced lengthwise into 3 slices.  Seriously, you have to do this!  It doesn’t get easier than that??  The pepper packed a punch, but it was a nice balance to the sweetness of the honey and the earthiness of the Eggplant.  The next day, I had some left over grilled eggplants and sautéed red onions, so I improvised.  I cooked some thin spaghetti, and then I added the eggplants (chopped) and onions.  In addition, I took some tomatoes (some from our yard, too) and tore them with my hands and added that to the pasta.  I added some oregano, salt, ground black pepper, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and some garlic.  Once in our bowls, I topped it with a little bit of Parmesan.  Add a glass of red wine and call it a night!  Actually, we ended the night with chocolate chip cookies I made the day before.  I still have some veggies to eat from my trip!  I will let you know what else I come up with during the week!  Also, let me know about a farm near you!

Take Care and Happy Eatings!

Baba at Home and Luna’s in Hillcrest

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been hearing some positive things about Luna Grill lately, so I finally checked it out over the weekend (http://www.lunagrill.com/).  It’s a Southern California chain with 6 locations in San Diego County and 2 locations in Orange County.  Its cuisine is Mediterranean and everything is made to order.  There’s an emphasis on hormone-free and anti-biotic foods.  You place your order at the counter, you are given a number, and the food is brought to your table.  First thing that arrived at our table was the Eggplant Dip.  I make a Baba Ghanouj with roasted eggplants and tahini, so I was thinking it would be similar.  It was very different from mine, but I really enjoyed it.  Mine is more creamy, and Luna’s is more like a Caponata.  There was a nice sweetness from the caramalized onions, and it was topped with yogurt and sautéed mint.  If you don’t like onions, don’t worry, you’ll probably never know you had any.  They just melt into the dip.  The dip was a great start, and the pita was so soft and warm!  Yum!!   It was delicious with my San Pellegrino Limonata – I love that stuff!  The husband opted for an Avery White Rascal: a perfect summertime Belgian Wheat.

Franz ordered the Gyros Plate Entrée with a Side of Falafel.  I had to order the Lamb Kabob Wrap.  First of all, this place calls itself  “The Ultimate Kabobery”, and, secondly, I can’t turn down lamb.   Franz thought his plate was standard, and we both thought the falafel was a little crumbly.   The garnish of either carrots or grilled tomatoes never made their appearance on Franz’s dish.  We didn’t feel like asking for them.  However, I liked when I placed my order, the cashier asked how I wanted my lamb cooked.  I didn’t expect that from a “fast food” style place.  I ordered it medium rare, and it was served as such.  The meat was flavorful, lean and a decent amount of meat for $12.  It came with either a side of Basmati rice or french fries.  I opted for the fries which did a great job at attacking my french fry craving!   We were stuffed, but we had a gift card so we needed to spend a few more bucks.  Franz couldn’t even finish his meal!  Shocking!  We ordered a Red Velvet Cupcake to go, and we had it later as an after dinner snack.  I’m picky when it comes to cupcakes, and I thought this one was a standard Red Velvet.  As my husband said “I wouldn’t kick it out of bed.”  As a side note, if you stop by the Hillcrest location, check out the bathroom hallway.  Very cool!

Below is my go to recipe for Baba Ghanouj.  Everything is really to taste, so if you want more garlic (I always do), throw it in!  Also, roasting the garlic first would be tasty!  Just make sure to taste after you’ve made it – you can always add more of something to it!  I usually add some Sriracha!  I can’t help myself.  If you want a greater roasted flavor from the eggplant, you could throw them on the grill or broil them in the oven.  Play around with this recipe and let me know what you do!

Baba Ghanouj (Or Baba Ganoush)

2 1-pound eggplants, halved lengthwise

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, chopped

Pita bread wedges

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously oil rimmed baking sheet. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, on sheet. Roast until eggplant is very soft, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Using spoon, scoop out pulp from eggplant into strainer set over bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, allowing excess liquid to drain from eggplant.

Transfer eggplant pulp to processor. Add 1/4 cup oil, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic; process until almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to small bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Serve with pita wedges.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Baba-Ghanouj-107051

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Luna Grill on Urbanspoon