Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Breakfast in Bed

I had a cocktail on the beach last weekend that was so much fun. A Bloody Mary with heaping garnishes: asparagus, bacon, olives and prawns! It was a splurge, for sure, but what a treat!

When I saw the asparagus in our SLO Veg box this week, I immediately thought of this cocktail. So thinking ahead, I saved out a couple sticks of bacon from Lee's breakfast on Saturday, and made a quick batch of brine for a bundle of asparagus spears. I put the spears into the tall canning jar and poured the hot brine into it. I added a clove of garlic, a red chili pepper, and a half teaspoon of pickling spices. The jar had more room, so I peeled and quartered some carrot sticks, too, keeping them rather long to stick out of the cocktail glass. Sadly, I did only pickle one jar. More in the future! I also had on hand pimento-stuffed green olives and some large cooked shrimp, so all the essentials were in place.

"Don't get up yet", I told my husband. "I am making you breakfast in bed."

Then I brought in this meal.The cocktail for two was 1/2 cup vodka, 1-1/2 cups V-8 juice, a dash each of lime, lemon, Worchestershire sauce and hot sauce, stirred together. Then I moistened the rims of the tumblers with olive brine and dipped them in seasoned salt. I put in three ice cubes and poured in the cocktail. Garnishings were one stick each of bacon, asparagus and carrot, three prawns, then I laid a skewer of three olives on top of the ice cubes.

Here is the brine recipe found on that I used:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bobby Flay's cauliflower and mushroom mac and cheese

Big beautiful cauliflower. Nice and white, really fresh and straight from the farmers via SLO Veg. I wanted to cook it six ways, but then I sat down to watch "Beat Bobby Flay" and knew I had to make a cauliflower mac and cheese. I didn't have the exact same ingredients as Bobby used, but I had cheeses, mushrooms and milk. Sounds like a perfect storm, eh?

One ingredient he got dinged on was the White Truffle Oil. One judge thought using mushrooms and truffle oil was redundant. Well no worries here...I don't have any truffle oil. I think I will use some of my expensive (for me) basil-infused olive oil that I picked up in Monterey. That will give it an earthy finish, for sure, even if the mushrooms I am using are regular old white mushrooms from the grocery store, not wild mushrooms. I have a blended Mexican cheese mixture and some parmesan cheese, so that will have to suffice for the more worldly asiago and fontina cheeses Bobby used. I think the boys will still eat it. They are not cheese snobs, they are more like cheese hoes. Cheap ones.

I cooked the cauliflower in my big everyday pan and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes to soften. But I don't have any pasta, so my next step is to run down to the market to pick up some supplies. I also need cream cheese for the frosting on the strawberry cake I am making that I saw on "Pioneer Woman" this morning. Funny how it all influences my cooking decisions.  When Lee left for work I was thinking pork chop suey, but now its gonna be fish tacos (using our fresh rockfish from, mac and cheese and strawberry cake. Pretty sure there won't be any complaints, as long as I make enough.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Mac and Cheese
Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay


3 tablespoons canola oil
2 small shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped to a paste
1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mac and Cheese:
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cavatappi pasta (or other curly pasta)
5 to 6 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering dish
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces fontina cheese, grated
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/4 cup grated asiago cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pinch of grated nutmeg

Breadcrumb Topping:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1/4 cup Calabrian chiles in oil, patted dry and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
White truffle oil, for drizzling
Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish


For the mushrooms: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Increase the heat to high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown and soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the mac and cheese: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Transfer to a large bowl.

Put the milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof saute pan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, cover loosely with foil and cook in the oven until soft.

To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 4 cups of the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and the flour taste has been cooked out, about 7 minutes, adding more milk if the sauce is too thick.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a blender with 1 cup of the milk and blend until smooth. Add the cauliflower puree to the bechamel and stir until combined. Slowly whisk in the fontina, Monterey Jack, asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano until smooth, adding more hot milk if too thick. Mix in the nutmeg. Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the mushrooms and stir well to combine.

Butter a 10-inch baking dish, transfer the pasta mixture to it and bake until bubbly and the top is lightly golden brown, about 30 minutes.

For the breadcrumb topping: While the mac and cheese is baking, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the anchovy paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the chiles and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the mac and cheese topped with some of the breadcrumbs and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Garnish with parsley leaves.

© 2014 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Strawberry Go-Go Cake like Pioneer Woman makes

Luscious strawberries? Inspiration from Pioneer Woman's show? That's a go-go!

I love strawberries. When I was in high school, I planted 90 strawberry plants for my Future Farmer's of America project. I kept a record book on them. Mom and I made a lot of strawberry jam and strawberry shortcake. I should have tried to sell them at the Farmer's Market, but I guess I was way to busy with my social life. Oh well...anyway, I love strawberries!

You see those strawberries we got this week? Humongous! They are really sweet, too. I don't know if they are from Bautista Farms or which local grower, I will have to ask Rachael from SLO Veg about that, but they sure are lovely. They usually end up in a smoothy because I don't have time in the middle of the week to make something, but really strawberries are nice eaten right out of the basket, or sliced with a splash of balsamic vinegar, or dipped in sour cream and rolled in brown sugar...all good!

But my Mom used to make strawberry shortcake in a 9x13 sheet pan using her sweet biscuit dough recipe, and that's what I like. Ree's recipe this morning reminded me of my Mom's cake, so I had to try it out. I deviated slightly by substituting 1/2 cup of coconut flour to give the cake a more dense texture and see how that turns out. Mom used Bisquick, but I don't keep that around...I prefer to mix my own. Also, I had the foresight to use a springform cake pan. My cake came out at little crispy on the edges, and I don't think it would have come out of a regular cake pan in one piece. I was a little nervous about slicing it in half, so I waited until it really cooled down.

Ree's frosting looked really, really good with butter and cream cheese as the base. I decided I must try it out, and then I can make it for my daughter's birthday in June if it turns out okay. She loves strawberries and angel food cake, but this may be a nice twist.

So my cake fell a little in the middle, probably due to the heaviness of the coconut flour. It just made my layers not exactly level, but after I cover it with sweet, mashed strawberries and luscious cream cheese frosting, I don't think anyone will notice.

This is Ree's recipe which I followed, except for the flour. I put the changes in parenthesis. I probably didn't use 1-1/2 pounds of powdered sugar, either. Maybe like a pound. Not sure because I didn't weigh it. But I guess I should have, because I didn't have enough to frost the cake all the way down. Sigh. Oh well, I am sure it will taste good anyway, despite its flaws. The guys know better than to complain, too.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond


Strawberry Shortcake:
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, 
plus more for greasing
1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
(1 C flour + 1 C cocnut flour)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons sugar
3 whole large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, plus more to garnish
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Special equipment: 8-inch cake pan that's at least 2-inches deep! Before baking, the batter should not fill the pan more than halfway.

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan.

Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with 1 1/2 cups of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until no longer jiggly like my bottom, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven. Place the cake on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

Stem the strawberries and mash them. Sprinkle the strawberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

For the icing: Combine the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

Slice the cake in half to make two smaller cakes. Spread the strawberries evenly over each cut side of cake, pouring on all the juices as well. Place the cake halves into the freezer for 5 minutes, just to make icing the cake easier.

Remove the cake halves from the freezer. Use a little less than one-third of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer of cake on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining icing around the sides.

Leave plain or garnish with strawberry halves, serve slightly cool.

Read more at:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Tonight I was going to bake some pork chops. I had three big, thick ones that I seasoned with my special sweet and spicy pork rub. I wanted to roast some sweet potatoes to go with the pork chops and had something in mind like this recipe I found on Audrey's Apron:

I had similar ingredients on hand, like three sweet potatoes that needed to be cooked before they went bad. They had started to grow a few sprouts, so I cut those off and peeled them and diced them into nice bite-sized cubes. Then I drizzled on a little bit of olive oil, about 2 tablespoons worth. Instead of searching for all the spices in my cabinet, I just grabbed the Sweet and Spicy Pork Rub that I had just used on my pork chops and sprinkled that onto the sweet potatoes. Then I added a dash of cinnamon and a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar. That should do it. Into the oven they go for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Turn at least twice.

Since I also had a nice bunch of asparagus from our SLO Veg tote , I laid it alongside of the sweet potatoes and drizzled on a little olive oil, then seasoned it with coarse salt and some panko bread crumbs. I put the entire pan shared by both vegetables into the oven and let it go for 30 minutes, turning the vegetables twice. A little bit of parmesan cheese sprinkled onto the asparagus completed the seasonings. 

Here is my pork rub recipe:

Sweet and Spicy Pork Rub

2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs coarse sea salt
1 tsp each: cumin, paprika, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and chili powder
1/2 tsp each: black pepper, white pepper
*this makes enough seasoning to fill a little spice jar

Mix ingredients and sprinkle on pork roast or chops. Sear the outside on a grill, then place in a baking dish. Bake in a 375 degree oven. Pork roasts take about 20 minutes per pound. Pork chops will usually cook in 30-45 minutes, depending on their thickness. 

A bit of carmelized onions and apples complete this dinner plate of pork chops,   sweet potatoes, and asparagus.


Sharing a recipe for roasted asparagus from SLO Veg.

Fruit, Vegetable, Herb, and Juice List for 04/07/2014 - 04/11/2014 THIS WEEK'S TOTE INCLUDES:
Vine Ripened Strawberries, "Tango" Clementine's , Navel Oranges, Artichokes, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Red Leaf Lettuce, Green Onions, English Peas, Dino Kale, "Organic" Carrots, and first harvested Bautista Farms "Celebrity" Tomatoes

Oh my gosh! Where to start? Just look at all this good stuff we got in our tote box from SLO Veg this week! I have some pork chops defrosted and ready to roast, so I guess I will go with some roasted vegies, too. Starting at the beginning of the alphabet, too, with Asparagus. The recipe looks simple enough.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette 

Servings: 4  Level:  Easy  Cook Time: 20 Minutes


3/4 pound fresh asparagus, woody stems removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Vinaigrette:
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl toss the asparagus in the olive oil, and liberally season with salt and pepper. Spread the stalks out on a baking sheet, in a single layer, and roast until tender but still firm and moist, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together the mustard and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking quickly to emulsify the olive oil into the juice mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter, toss with the vinaigrette and serve. The dish may be eaten warm or cold.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Easy Cheesy Lasagna Rollups

I kept seeing Lasagna rollups and have been wanting to try them, but then I end up making lasagna the traditional way. I think I did try it once and the noodles kept slipping around and I gave up. Then I read this blog and realized where I had gone wrong: you have to pat the noodles dry! Duh!
My recipe loosely followed her's but I utilized what I already had in my frig. When I looked at my finished product, my thought was how great it will be to serve up each portion without having all the filling ooze out. This way I will have 12 even servings that can be dished out, then the leftovers saved in perfect serving-sized portions. Hmmmm.

So we had a nice bag of spinach from SLO Veg, big curly leaves that needed a good chop. I added about a cup of chopped spinach leaves to a concontion of Ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, and Parmesan cheese. A little garlic salt and an egg later, and I had a decent cheese filling for my lasagna rolls. I thought about slicing a tomato to put into the rolls, but then I forgot again. Old age strikes again. I did put a couple of nice basil leaves into each roll, freshly picked from my living basil plant that I picked up at, from all places, Smart and Final, last week during our big grocery run. It had a small base with the roots attached, so I put it into a larger plastic tub and surround the planter cup with stones and added an inch of water. Its been there all week, looking fresh and green. Guess I had better put it to use. Might make some pesto real soon, too! We got some parsley in the veg tote this week so that would be good to mix into the pesto blend.

I made a quick sauce with some leftover marinara, a can of tomato sauce and some Italian seasoning. I spooned about a quarter cup into the bottom of the rectangular glass dish (9x13), and proceeded to make the rolls. They fit three across, four rows down for an even dozen. That's all the noodles I had, so it worked. I covered the rolls with marina and topped it with grated mozarella cheese. That makes four cheeses...pretty cheesy, I'd say!

Anyway, dinner is ready to bake and it's only 2 p.m., so I am going to go outside and get some sunshine while I do some yard clean up. Then when I am all tired later, I have a premade dinner just waiting to be heated up. My food tasters will have to weigh in afterwards and let you know if it was any good. Once they awaken from their cheese coma, that is!

My recipe is listed on Just A Pinch website:

Easy Cheesy Lasagna Rollups
added by Kathleen Curtis-Ames
These rollups make perfect portions that don't ooze out all over the place after you've cut the lasagna. I used three kinds of cheese inside and topped it with a fourth cheese for gooey deliciousness. Hope you like it!
Cook time: 40 Min  Prep time: 30 Min  Serves: 12 portions
12 lasagna noodles, cooked
1 tsp salt
1 c ricotta cheese, part-skim
1 c cottage cheese, small curd
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp garlic salt
1 c spinach, fresh, chopped
1 can(s) tomato sauce, 15 oz
1 can(s) marina sauce, 15 oz
1 Tbsp italian seasoning
1 c mozarella cheese, shredded
4 basil leaves, fresh
1 Tbsp olive oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and lasagna noodles. Cook until al dente, then drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
2. While lasagna noodles are cooking, mix together filling ingredients: ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and parmesan cheese with the egg and garlic salt. Stir in the chopped spinach.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the sauce ingredients: tomato sauce, marinara sauce, and Italian seasoning.
4. Lay one noodle out on a flat mat or cutting board. Spoon cheese-spinach filling onto noodle and spread to about 1/8" thickness, covering entire noodle. Place 2 large, fresh basil leaves on top and roll up noodle lengthwise. Place seam-side down in a 9x13 glass baking dish that has been coated with a drizzle of olive oil and a 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce. I fit 3 rows across and four down for a total of 12 rolls.
5. Top rolls with the rest of the marinara sauce and sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese all over the top.
6. Bake at 350 degrees in the oven for 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve one roll per portion. Actually, they might want two rolls!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Angry Shrimp from Self mag

I didn't know if I could make this recipe tonight using the ingredients I had on hand, mainly because I didn't have any Grand Marnier. Then I googled "what is Grand Marnier?" and found out it is Triple Sec, which I did have. Problem solved! We are having Angry Shrimp tonight on rice noodles. Sounds healthy, huh? 

I saw the recipe, along with several other delicious looking entrees, in my Self magazine. I looked at the exercises in this issue and passed, but the recipes looked totally doable. No hand stands or back bends required here! Maybe some yoga meditation moves, but that will be the extent of it. I had a bag of kale, already chopped, some frozen shrimp, raisins, dried cranberries (oh well, not cherries!), chipotle and cumin spices, fresh garlic, homemade chicken broth, and even some toasted pumpkins seeds (pepitas). It was destined to be!

Since this dinner cooks quickly, I prepped everything ahead of time and had it ready to cook when my hub gets home and takes a shower. I will cook it then and serve it piping hot as we sit down to discuss the day and watch the news. 

I did put the rice noodles in a pot of warm water an hour ago, per the package instructions, to hydrate them. Just before serving, I drained the noodles, then tossed them with a teaspoonful of sesame oil. I portioned the noodles into pasta bowls and ladled the kale-shrimp mixure on top. Orange slices and pepitas garnished the creation.

The dish garnered remarks like, "interesting" and "spicy". The guys thought the fusion of citrus and musky chili was different. The consensus it was pretty good. I will probably make it again. 

I followed this recipe from the Self magazine, with a few substitutions (noted):

Angry Shrimp

Fiery chipotle gives a kick, and the iron in shrimp keeps you high-energy.

Serves 6


  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (I used black raisins)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped (I used dried cranberries)
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 4 teaspoons chopped garlic, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
  • 20 oz low-sodium vegetable broth (I used homemade chicken broth)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 lbs medium-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 6 cups kale, stems removed, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (I used rice noodles)


  1. In a small pan over high heat, toast pumpkin seeds, stirring constantly, until lightly brown, 1 to 2 minutes. In a food processor, puree raisins and 1/4 cup water 1 minute. In a large pan over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add onion; cook until translucent, 5 minutes. Stir in raisin puree, cranberries, chipotle, 1 tsp garlic and cumin; cook 1 minute. Add Triple Sec and cook, stirring, until alcohol is cooked out, 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. In a bowl, dissolve cornstarch in 1 tbsp cold water. Gradually add cornstarch mixture to broth mixture to thicken; reduce heat and simmer 7 to 10 minutes. Add shrimp; cook until pale white, 5 minutes. Stir in zest; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In pan, heat remaining 1 tbsp oil. Cook kale and 3 tsp garlic, stirring, until kale starts to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain juices and combine with rice noodles. Divide noodle mixture, shrimp and seeds among 6 plates. I added slices of the orange on top just  for fun!