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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Soba Salad

A while back, my friend Larry, gave me a wonderful, two hour, astrological chart and reading. I've always wondered about some of the background influences in my life, because Cancer is so up front. Dwayne and I are both Cancers and we are both a foodie, homey, nurture-fest. I learned a lot about myself that day and became more patient with some of my less favorite impulses. Larry is very knowledgeable and compassionate - A good friend to have on the A-Team.

Because we both have many talents, we made it a trade and he didn't want to cash in his trade right away. He said he'd think of something, and he did. He celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday and will have a big party today. He called in my trade chip for party foods and I'm delighted! There will be a barbecue and lots of good fun. We are expected to have a high temp of 101 today, so some cold foods are in order!

Last night I made four salads - macaroni, potato, three bean and this soba salad. This morning, I have braved the oven and have a sour-cream raisin pie and fresh peach pie in the oven. Larry grew up in Pennsylvania and requested an old fashioned raisin pie, which is sometimes known as Funeral Pie in Mennonite or Amish communities. Here is the recipe I used. I haven't tried it yet, but all the reviews are happy ones.

Larry, his wife Soleil and I all belong to a drum circle that meets twice a month. It is a lovely meeting of the minds and we always start with a pot luck. The first time I made this salad, it was, as usual, the result of my poking around the house to see what I could put together for one of our pot lucks. As luck would have it, it came out splendidly swell and Larry and Soleil added it to their list of requests for his birthday party. Their request offered me the opportunity to pay attention to what I was doing and write it down for sharing.

Soba Salad
2 bundles of soba noodles
1 cup celery, sliced thin on a diagonal
1 cup carrot, shredded long on a mandoline or spiralized
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, sliced thin
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup cucumber, sliced thin on a diagonal then cut into strips
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 cups toasted cashews
cilantro to garnish
1/2 to 3/4 cup Sesame Dressing (recipe below)

Place a large pot of water on the stove to heat. Meanwhile, slice all the veggies and make the dressing. When the water boils, add the soba, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Do not over cook. Drain and rinse the soba and add to the veggies. Add the dressing and sesame seeds and toss. Just before serving, toss in the cashews and cilantro to taste.

p.s. I forgot to add the sesame seeds before I took the pictures. They were all added before the party!

Sesame Dressing
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a tight-sealing jar and shake. This makes enough for this salad, plus leftovers for another use.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Fettuccine with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

This is one of those dishes that came together quickly on a weeknight, with handy ingredients, and turned out delicious. You can see that there is more to it than just fettuccine, chicken and sun dried tomatoes, but I didn't want one of those paragraph-long titles like one sees on restaurant menus. Most of these ingredients are pantry staples for me. If you don't keep a jar of sun dried tomatoes around - Do so immediately.

I have to share the story of how I cam by that giant jar of sun dried tomatoes. I've always bought them in the little octagonal jars, julienned and packed in olive oil. They can add a rich and tangy interest to many dishes. One day, my BFF, Miss Paula (sometimes called Powla, by me and no one else) was helping me take care of some chores around the house. One of the chores was cleaning the fridge. Sometimes we all need fresh eyes to help us reevaluate our malingering things. She saw my little jar of sun dried tomatoes and saw the solidified olive oil and thought they had gone bad. (I found out later that she also just doesn't like them in general.) She said things like, "You won't use those!" "How long have you had them?" "What are you going to use them in by the expiration date?" In a moment of weakness, I let her throw them out. Later we talked about it and I explained how much I liked them and that I would, in fact, use them. (Not to serve to her, of course!) She ended up feeling badly and ordering me another jar online. Imagine my surprise when this box was delivered to my doorstep...

with a 35 oz. jar of sun dried tomatoes! 

The good news is, that when you have a 35 oz. jar of sun dried tomatoes, your rationing days are over! Use them hard, use them long and don't hold back! It will be many months before I do not have a substantial amount of sun dried tomatoes available in my pantry!

Please consider that this entire dish was based on what I could forage around my house. You may have different, but just as tasty, findings in your home. Don't be afraid to make it your own!

Fettuccine with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
1 cup of your favorite vinaigrette*
8 oz. sliced mushrooms - I used crimini
1/2 cup julienne sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup sliced green onions
3 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 white wine
1 lb. fettucine
Parmesan cheese to serve

Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl along with the vinaigrette. Set aside.

Set a large pot of water with a good pinch of salt on the stove to bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and allow to cook while you prepare everything else. Cook according the package instructions and drain.

Prepare all the vegetables as described above and set aside.

Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the mushrooms to the dry pan. Allow them to brown and release their moisture. Once they look a bit dry and leathery add the sun dried tomatoes. Their flavorful oil will help you to pick up any of the good mushroom flavor that has stuck to the pan. Add the garlic, chicken (with vinaigrette) and green onions. Cook until the chicken shows no pink. Add the zucchini and wine and allow to simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the zucchini tender. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir the cooked and drained pasta into the pan and toss. Heat together for a few minutes to allow the pasta to absorb some of the liquid.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4, or us twice.

* My Favorite Vinaigrette 
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. course Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake like crazy.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Pina Colada "Gello"

I love this "gello" snack! This new-style "gello" has ingredients that are more readily available than my last "gello" post and it tastes great. I hope you will try it!

Pina Colada "Gello"
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 15 oz. can of crushed pineapple, packed in juice
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 tbsp. gelatin
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I use sweetened, as for baking. No additional sweetener is needed, unless you want it.)

Drain the pineapple well, reserving the juice. Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water until softened. Combine the softened gelatin, orange juice, lemon juice and reserved pineapple juice in a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Stir and heat just until all the gelatin is dissolved and no lumps remain. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl that holds 6 to 8 cups. Stir in the coconut milk and place in the refrigerator to cool. Allow to cool until it is at the blob stage. Gently fold in the crushed pineapple and coconut. Pour into serving dish(es) and chill until firm. This make about 6 cups.