Monday, August 6, 2007

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

But, I'll be coming back in 11 days.

I'll post pictures of sunny Yucca Valley when I return.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Spicy and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

I love my boyfriend for two reasons.

Reason #1 – He makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world and he makes me laugh hard enough to choke on my diet coke (I know, that’s two, get over it).

Reason #2 (or 3) – His stepfather, Mike, makes damn good barbeque.

What, that doesn’t sound very romantic? It is when I’m eating perfectly smoky, melt in your mouth brisket. It is when I’m gorging on fall of the bone baby backed pork ribs. It is when I’m indulging in blackened chicken with meat so juicy you would think it was basted with butter. Guess what his secret is for great smoked chicken? Baste them with butter for hours on end.

So you get my drift, how could I not love my boyfriend?

While I would never begin to compare my brisket or ribs with Mike’s, I think this barbeque sauce is pretty close to perfection. One spoonful yields a myriad of flavors. It starts tangy with an edge of sweetness that melts into a burning heat from the red pepper flakes. I’ve never tasted better.

Spicy and Tangy Barbecue Sauce ~ Foster's Market Cookbook

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 cup canned tomatoes with green chilies
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup coffee
1 teaspoon orange peel (original recipe: 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 tablespoons candied ginger root (original recipe: 2 tbs. fresh sliced ginger)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a deep saucepan. Slowly bring up to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vegan Chocolate Cake

I love looking out the picture windows that line one side of my living room. Scenes of darting hummingbirds, mischievous squirrels, and flitting wrens fill my days with little gems that not many people are able to experience. My only wish is that I could enjoy these gems while being outside, mere inches from the action, but it is far too humid.

Humidity, something the devil must have dreamt up to punish those living in Texas has been hanging around for the past few weeks. This morning I woke up at 6:30 to take the dogs outside and as I opened the door I was slammed by a wall of moist, hot air. I could hardly breath and I immediately shut the door to escape back into air conditioning.

In a few short days I will be escaping to Yucca Valley, nestled in California’s mountains, free of humidity though still quite hot. I love Yucca Valley, I feel it feels like home when I’m in those sandy, craggy mountains.

But, I’m not there yet, sigh…

I might as well make a chocolate cake and BBQ, two things on my long list of favorite foods that will surely cheer me up. I made the cake a few days ago and the BBQ will be made tomorrow, so I will blog about that later. Though Lyle and I didn’t eat them for the same meal they would have been perfect compliments.

This cake has simple flavors and a light texture, and if you’re a vegan it is perfect. No eggs or butter come into play with this cake, though my icing did have egg whites, but that can easily be modified. Cut into squares, this is a great snacking cake, the flavor of the cocoa powder is deep and the airy yet moist texture doesn’t make you feel weighted down by richness.

If you are a vegan just leave off the icing and dust with powdered sugar.

I just had a great idea! Make a sauce out of frozen berries.

Tart Berry Sauce
3 cups mixed frozen berries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with a splash of water
Juice from one lemon
Grated nutmeg
Combine berries, sugar, water, and cornstarch slurry in a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high until berries are defrosted and sauce is boiling and thickened. Stir in juice and grated nutmeg. Serve with cake slices.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Orzo Salad with Balsamic Dressing

I love the quiet stillness of the early morning, when birds and insects are still waking from their slumber. Before the oppressive humidity sets in that can be felt like a heavy shroud over the face and even before the monstrous gas rigs start their daily extraction.

I love this time in the morning, when I walk barefoot through the dew filled grass with a steaming mug of coffee and a sodoku and crossword puzzle tucked under my arm. I sit under a shady tree for the next hour or two and watch the birds eat their breakfast and the thieving squirrels that are too lazy to find their own.

Then the air becomes heavy and the bugs find my bare legs, inside I must go to escape.

I’ve been reading Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sara Foster. It’s such a beautiful book with so many recipes and photos that demand I make them. If only I weren’t trying to lose weight, those pecan sticky buns would be on my counter as I type this, just ready for me to dig in and lick my fingers of gooey frosting.

I did find inspiration from her pages for an orzo salad. This dish screams summer to me, loads of fresh herbs, crisp vegetables and a tangy, slightly sweet dressing.

This salad will only get better with age, so making this in advance will improve the flavors.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fruit with Lime and Pomegranate

The sweet flesh of a plum is the perfect foil for its tart, smooth black skin. Two flavors on opposite ends of the taste spectrum are thrust together into one perfect bite after another.

When perfectly ripe the flesh of a peach should be sweet with a smooth texture. Each slice will melt in your mouth and finish with a flavor reminiscent of honey’s floral tones.

Mango is an elusive fruit, always tip-toeing on the edge of under and over ripeness. I had two chances to get this right. The first cut told me I should have waited one more day. The slight chalky flavor confirmed my fear. I decided to tempt fate and try cutting the other which felt slightly softer under my fingertips.

Perfection followed.

This mango cut more easily, but gave me pains as I neared the pit. Pains that I gladly welcomed. A mango should only give you the slightest grief. If you find yourself cursing the heavens with mush in your palms, your mango was neglected for far too long.

Putting these three brilliant fruits together with the zest and juice of one large lime is sublime. Textures and flavors filled my mouth and provided a new delight with every spoonful.
The addition of pomegranate juice is not needed, but it was welcomed. The muted sweetness of the juice does not change the brightness of the lime juice, it only adds to the depth of flavors that mingle, and coexist together.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Enchiladas ~ Bayless Style

El Merendero's Kitchen

As I dipped my wooden spoon back into a bubbling, and spitting Dutch oven filled with creamy enchilada sauce I whispered a quiet thank you to Rick Bayless. Chef Bayless, with one simple recipe, had transported me back to my childhood summers in Pasadena, CA where my mother and I would eat cheese enchiladas, barbacoa, and carnitas tacos at El Merendero. We would be tucked into sticky booths and begin our feast by devouring a basket of fresh made chips along with mouth burning (but in a good way) salsa.

Some of the best Mexican food I have eaten came from that noisy, steaming kitchen next to the Pasadena Race Track. While my kitchen was not nearly as busy or as steamy, the enchiladas that came to rest on my dinner plate in a mere hour were not much different.

The sauce started creamy and ended as a tickling burn in the back of my throat. While the Serrano peppers were hot they didn’t overpower the sauce and drown out the Mexican crema that is stirred in right before assembly.

Asadero cheese is sprinkled on top of the enchiladas before baking and while most Tex-Mex kitchens liken this step to smothering, Chef Bayless only accents his dish with this wonderful tangy cheese.

Thank you Rick Bayless. I can only make it out to California about once a year and even less to El Merendero, but now I can visit anytime I want. So where is my recipe for carnitas?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nuts n Berries Crunchy Granola

Now that the airlines have taken away our peanuts and pretzels, relegating food choices to $5 ham sandwiches and $3 bags of crackers, I’ve decided to take a stand.

A granola stand

Actually, a lot of granola, three buckets sized containers of it…I’m in for two days of flying, so why shouldn’t I make copious amounts of granola that the whole plane could eat off of if we crash land in the Andes Mountains? Though, if we do crash it will probably be into the ocean and then granola wouldn’t be of much help.

Sadly, there won’t be any toying in the kitchen for over a week. I’ll be on an airplane Friday afternoon with my boyfriend (Lyle) and his stepmother (Lisa) and his father (Tommy), flying to Atlanta before eventually flying to the Grenadines on Saturday for a weeklong sailing trip.

We are going to set sail on a 63-foot vessel with one other unknown couple, a possible oil tycoon and trophy wife maybe, which would really be hilarious. From what I’ve been reading in the brochure, this is going to be fancy, with our own air conditioned cabins…that aren’t common on sail boats. This is the kicker; we have our own chef, I feel so posh. Now I’m wishing I had been more descriptive on what foods I liked, I just glossed over that section because I thought we were going to be eating mostly in restaurants. I’m so excited; I can’t wait, only one more day!

When I get excited I have to make something, anything. I had to release some of my anxiety today, being in the kitchen is one of the only ways I can center my mind. I haven’t been able to sleep since Sunday.

What could be better than granola for traveling? It’s portable, sweet and salty, mercilessly crunchy, and so addictive. You can do anything you want to it, adding or subtracting on whim.

Here is my first combo, and trust me, there will be many more to come.
Crunch Granola with Walnuts, Almonds, with Dried Pineapple and Cranberries

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