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Friday, April 29, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Spring Radishes and Good Butter

When I first read about this, I thought, This is just crazy enough to work! Tigress brought this Culinate article to my attention and I just happened to get lovely radishes in my farm box around the same time. Fresh, crunchy radishes, grown by my hero, Thaddeus, at Capay Organic and butter - buttahhh..... the universal donor of deliciousness. What did I have to loose?
The butter enriches and rounds out the gentle spicy flavor of the radishes. The salt brings it all together. The crunch of the radishes plus the mouth feel of the butter gives as much satisfaction as a deep fried goodie. This is a perfect afternoon snack and would be a lovely and elegant cocktail treat. I hope you will try it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Family's Recipes - Pat's Spicy Pineapple Zucchini Bread

I learned a great deal of cooking from my beloved mother-in-law, Pat. When my husband and I started dating about 30 years ago, there was always a home-baked treat on the counter top. This zucchini bread was a favorite. As we've all gotten older, we have kept fewer treats around the house. My husband's Grandma Grace made a special visit over Easter and made zucchini bread for us. She helped me remember just how good it is. She's 92 and still does a lot of baking. Her friends and neighbors love it! Back when Pat was baking for her boys, she made this recipe her own by adding a large can of pineapple chunks instead of a small can of crushed pineapple. I love pineapple and eating this as a young visitor to her home was a revelation. Each chunk is a juicy, golden jewel.

Pat's Spicy Pineapple Zucchini Bread
Beat together:
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Add:
2 cups grated zucchini
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained

Combine in another bowl and then stir into the zucchini mixture:
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

Bake in a well-greased bundt pan in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Brown Sugar and Bacon Lit'l Smokies

These definitely come under the category Guilty Pleasures. I first had these a few years ago when my cousin, Felicia, brought them to the family's Easter pot luck. I've since brought them to work pot lucks and, recently to gaming night. There is nothing quite like pure sugar and bacon fat to make my eyes roll up in my head with pleasure. They are magically delicious. Delicious beyond all reason or expectation. They are more than the sum of their parts.
I highly recommend lining your baking pan with foil. This will capture the sauce that forms when the bacon and sugar melt down. I take the little tidbits out of the sauce for serving because they are quite sweet as they are. When I made them last Saturday, I could not bear to throw away the sauce. In fact, I had to call up my will power to not simply eat it with a spoon. I poured it off into a bowl and saved it knowing I would think of some use for it. It ended up in some very nice scratch made baked beans. Sweet and smoky goodness!
Brown Sugar and Bacon Lit'l Smokies
1 14 oz. package of Lit'l Smokies
1 lb. sliced bacon (not thick sliced)
1 cup packed brown sugar
abut 40 tooth picks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 X 13 inch glass baking dish with foil. Lay the bacon out on a cutting board and slice across the slab so that the bacon slices are in three equal stacks. Take one slice of bacon and roll it around a sausage and secure with a toothpick. Continue until they are all rolled up, secure and placed in the baking dish with the toothpicks facing up. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over all. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Watch carefully towards the end. If your oven temp is off, these can burn easily. Once done, remove to a serving platter and serve. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

This makes about 40 and you will have a few of the bacon pieces left over.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Green Chicken

Green Chicken! A yummy weeknight extravaganza!

OK, so it's chicken and veg. When one is trying to eat in a healthy fashion, chicken and veg can become kind of samey. This is one way we really enjoy chicken and veg, and we ate this even before we started counting calories. Granted, in those days there may have been buttered rice or even fresh biscuits on the side.

The inclusion of zucchini makes this dish not quite seasonal, although the mushrooms that inspired me to make this now came in my farm box. They weren't labeled and it took me some time to figure out that they were King Oyster Mushrooms. (Calls for caps, don't you think?) They are very firm and meaty and kept beautifully for several days in my fridge. You can use any mushroom you like.

Green Chicken
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken meat
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Romano Caesar Dressing
t tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
2 cups frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
A good handful of chopped parsley

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and combine with salad dressing. Allow to marinate at least an hour or overnight.

Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Add the chicken pieces and shallots. After the chicken has browned a bit, add the mushrooms and zucchini and stir. After about 5 minutes, add the frozen peas and cover. The peas should thaw and cook in another 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve with a good sprinkling of parsley.

Serves two plus one lunch for tomorrow!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Farm Fresh to You Citrus and Turnip Salad

I'm so grateful to live in Sacramento. (I say this even though Sacramento seems to be the extreme allergy capitol of the world.) We are plunk in the middle of farmlands on all sides. Flying into Sacramento, one descends over a gold and emerald mosaic. This time of year that mosaic includes the topaz of sky reflected off of wetlands. All this adds up to readily available yummy food.
Last weekend, my friend Paula and I visited Capay Organic, which is a family run farm in the Caypay Valley about 30 miles west of Sacramento. They provide our Farm Fresh to You CSA boxes. It was a beautiful day and our hosts were gracious and informative. We had an opportunity to learn about their cultivator. Maybe farmers already know about all this, but I thought it was ingenious. This same tractor lays down the seeds and can later be used to cut the weeds from between the rows. Instead of using chemical herbicides, they use this physical intervention to keep the weeks down. There were also lovely rows of beneficial flowers between the crops.
Guests were encouraged to harvest bok choy and turnips. The turnips were a revelation. I had never cooked turnips before they appeared in my box last year. I was grateful they sent a recipe for cooking both the root and the greens with apples and onions. It was delicious. It never occurred to me to eat turnips raw. One of the farmers was showing kids how the turnips grow and how to pull them up and she showed them how they can be washed off and munched on raw. They were pure white, sweet and earthy.
My turnip greens are awaiting their turn, washed and dried and in the refrigerator. The roots became this bright and crunchy salad. The oranges and grapefruits came from our friends Brian and Rosie who live in the country and have many fruit trees. The herbs are from my garden. The one ingredient which may not be readily available to the average reader is Meyer lemon and ginger marmalade. A tablespoon of any marmalade or a drizzle of honey will do.

Citrus and Turnip Salad
6 small spring turnips (reserve tops for another use)
1 grapefruit
2 oranges
1 tbsp. marmalade
1 tbsp. mixed chopped herbs (I used parsley, cilantro and mint)

Wash and thinly slice the turnips. Cut away the peel and pith from the citrus and cut out the segments. Squeeze the remaining membranes in your hand to extract any extra juice. Toss with the marmalade and herbs. Allow to chill for 15 minutes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Corn Flake Cookies

Some of you may know that my day job is at the Human Assistance office. Times are hard for government employees. Cut backs have created untenable work loads and the nature of our service is changing. Efficiency is bringing in call centers and on-line applications. Some of this is change is good, but many of my colleagues talk wistfully about helping people. Most of the people I work with went into social services because of a deep calling to be of service. They want to help more than they want to perform tasks. Many of them continue to search for ways to bring meaningful help to those in need in our neighborhoods and around the world.

These cookies were part of one such effort. Several volunteers in my office organized a silent auction and bake sale to benefit the Japanese Red Cross. During one slightly extended lunch hour, they raised over $700! I contributed some marmalades and pickles and made these cookies. These cookies did pretty darn well! By the time I was able to shop they were all gone! Many folks requested the recipe. Mr. Dwayne is patiently waiting for me to make more since he only got one sample on the night I baked them.

This recipe has that interchangeable quality that I love. Feel free to substitute any yummy bits you like as long as the volume does not exceed the capacity of the batter to hold the cookies together.

Corn Flake Cookies

Bowl #1 - Whisk until well blended:
2 cups sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

Bowl #2 - Stir to combine:
4 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder

Bowl#3 - Stir to combine:
4 cups corn flakes
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

Stir the contents of bowl #2 into bowl #1. Stir the contents of bowl #3 into bowl #1. Stir until well combined.

Bake on greased cookie sheets in a preheated 350 degree oven. I used a small ice cream scoop and they took about 18 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen large cookies.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Basic Hummus

Madelyn's college years certainly changed the way we eat. Working in her co-op's kitchen, she learned how to cook things that seemed exotic and beyond my reach - foods I thought best left to professionals - like curry, tagine and yes, hummus. Here is a recipe she taught me that has become a staple. It is yummy, full of protein and fiber, and also contains those nutritional super heroes olive oil and garlic. It can be doctored up any number of ways. It is welcome any time of day. I hope you will try it.

Hummus
1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
2-3 tbsp. tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Sort and wash beans. Soak over night.

Next day, drain soaking water, rinse and refill with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 90 minutes. Beans should be very soft.

When the beans are done, but before draining, you may wish to scoop out some of the empty shells that float to the top. This will help you to have a smoother finished product. Drain beans.

Place beans in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until very smooth. Start with 2 tbsp. tahini and 1 tsp. salt. Taste and add more if you wish.

Serve with crispy dipping veggies, crackers or pita bread.