Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Beefy Golden Beet Borscht

Golden beets were a wonderful addition to our vegetable box last week. I loves me some golden beets!

A quick survey of the refrigerator contents revealed all the makings for a hearty beefy vegetable borscht, which was one of the favorite ethnic dishes my mom use to make for my dad. Borscht contains a lot of root vegetables, including beets, carrots, potatoes, and onions, plus celery and cabbage. The main seasoning is dill. My sister likes to make a vegetarian version using the traditional red beets, but I like a hearty beef stock for the base and I have become partial to the golden beet variety that we often get in our SLO Veg deliveries. The only thing I needed from the store today was a cheap cut of beef with some good bones! I found a small rack of beef back ribs--four good bones and enough meat for pot of soup.

Preparation super easy, but the thing that really complimented this borscht was the dill rye bread I located on the grocery shelf. My mom really appreciated a good rye bread. I guess her mother use to make bread every Saturday for their entire week. Dark rye was her real favorite. The rye bread it is tonight!

I first sliced an onion and put it on the bottom of the crock pot. Then I seasoned the rack of ribs with a salt-pepper-garlic blend and laid it on top of the onion rings, fat side down. I set the crockpot on high and let that all cook for a bit. That method browned the onions a bit, and got the meat browned as well. After about an hour, I added six cups of water, four diced potatoes, three sliced carrot, and two diced ribs of celery, along with some dill weed seasoning, and let the crockpot do its magic. Meanwhile, three beets were in the oven wrapped in foil to roast for an hour at 400 degrees. I find roasting the beets really brings out a nice flavor. I would add the beets to the crock pot during the last hour of cooking, along with the shredded cabbage. Just prior to adding the beets, I pulled out the rack of ribs and removed all the meat, which at this point literally fell of the bone. The meat all went back into the crock, along with the beets and cabbage. A little more salt and pepper, plus a dash of red wine vinegar, completed this soup.

I use some large-sized pasta bowls for serving and put out some sour cream on the side. I will try to upload a picture on Facebook, because this blog will only allow one photo these days.

Beefy Golden Beet Borscht

Small rack beef ribs

One onion, sliced into rings

6 cups water

1 tsp ea salt, pepper and granulated garlic seasoning

3 golden beets, roasted, diced

3 carrots, sliced

2 celery ribs, sliced

4 russet potatoes, diced

1/2 head green cabbage, chopped

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

Wrap beets in foil after drizzling with oil and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Bake for one hour at 400 degrees. Cool, peel and dice into bite-sized pieces. 

Put sliced onions in crock pot. Place seasoned rack of ribs on top, fat side down. Set on high and cook for one hour. Add 6 cups water, potatoes, carrots and celery, plus 1 Tbs dill weed. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 7-8 hours.  

Remove beef ribs and pull meat off bones. Disgard bones. Put meat back into crock. Add beets and cabbage and red wine vinegar. Cook on high for 30 minutes until cabbage is wilted. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and some buttered rye bread.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's in Season? It's What's for Dinner!

Since I have been blogging here for almost two years about our SLO Veg produce, I am starting to notice I am repeating some recipes. Often there is a new twist or two, but its, you know, the same kind of vegetables or fruits, more or less. Its season-driven, and I am beginning to learn what to look forward to getting in the box.

One of the best ways to plan a menu is knowing what is in season. Usually its whatever is featured on sale in the grocery store ads. For us these days, its whatever comes in our box, since the produce is all locally grown. That's fun! Its why we have watermelon and berries in the summer and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, with a mainstay supply of kale, strawberries and broccoli and bok choy, because they seem to have an almost year-round growing season here. We also get lots of apples, oranges or other citrus on a regular basis. Since we also signed up for the fresh fish from the partnering SLO Fresh Catch, we are able to sample a nice variety of ocean fish caught right out of Morro Bay. Yes, we are spoiled!

I do have to supplement from local markets, because every week I need a variety of onions, potatoes, carrots, and salad ingredients. I also need things like eggs, yogurt, canned tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, chicken, cheese, tortillas, butter and bread. Some shrimp, pork and beef are nice to have, as well. Pantry essentials include rice, quinoa, pasta, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, broth, diced tomatoes, beans, vinegar, oil, and bread crumbs. I try to keep my pantry and freezer stocked with these staples.

But when we get our delivery of seasonal produce, it all comes to life! We can have fish tacos with fresh cilantro and red peppers, zucchini and tomatoes with basil, lettuce wraps with Asian turkey meat filling, green peppers stuffed with rice, apples and onions with brats and so on.

Getting this produce delivered has certainly expanded my cooking repertoire and sent me in search of recipes, spices and cooking vessels to create dishes with just the right flair. It brought me out of a deep cooking rut where I made the same 10 meals right out of my battered Betty Crocker cookbook. I have learned a lot about flavor profiles, so I know better what to combine or substitute in my recipes and I can whip up a meal almost effortlessly.

Last night we had pulled pork with roasted brussel sprouts and spaghetti squash on the side. Tonight we are having an Italian beefy vegetable minestrone soup so I can use up the last of my zucchini and spinach (also because the foccachia bread I had got hard and is more of a crouton-perfect for soup!). Wednesday it will be pork carnitas tacos with sauteed peppers and onions, and Thursday will be some kind of pasta with lots of veggies in there. I want to roast the cauliflower, but that might have to wait. I saw Rachel's post for a Buffalo cauliflower. How great is that? Need to try it, for sure, with bleu cheese dressing for dipping. Maybe I will share that one with my girlfriends when we get together.

The recipes ideas are endless, always with a twist. Here is to happy eating!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thai Fish Tacos with Peanut Sauce and Carrot Slaw

Last Saturday night, I somehow found myself home alone, with no men-folk to feed or fuss over, no daughters to hang out with, and no girlfriends to rehash our lives with over coffee, so....I decided to take myself out for dinner and a movie. 

I checked out the movie listings and spied the new Robert Downey Jr. movie, The Judge, was playing at a downtown theater. Perfect! Robert Duvall was also on the ticket, along with Billy Bob Thornton, so it had to be good. Of course, I could just judge that for myself, now, couldn't I? (he he).

Dinner first. What was nearby? Oh, just my personal favorite, Splash Cafe. Its a local eatery that specializes in clam chowder, fish n chips, and burgers, but they also bake breads and pastries, and their lunchtime combo of a half sandwich and cup of chowder is hard to beat for under $10 (or over $10, for that matter). But fish tacos were on special this night for $2 apiece, with a small bread bowl of chowder for another $5. Perfect for my solo date night with myself. They offered the tacos in their original, Baja or Thai styles...Thai??? Sounds great!

What I got was tender, grilled chunks of cod served on two corn tortillas with cabbage, shredded carrots, diced green onions, strips of red bell pepper, and leaves of basil and cilantro, all drizzled with a spicy Thai peanut sauce that made me lick my lips, my fingers, and my paper basket liner. I would definately be ordering these tacos again, but better yet, I could try to recreate it at home! 

Then I went to the theater and cried through most of the movie, with some intermittent laughter at the surprises woven into the lovely human interactions. Romance, struggle, laughter, redemption...everything I look for in a movie. I thought it was a well done movie and enjoyed it all the way through the last of the credits. In all, a great date night.

So on Monday night, when my hub had returned from the car races and our roommate and our son would be home for the evening as well, I made this:

I had some Sand Sole from our SLO Veg delivery that had been put in the freezer for just this occasion. Thin, white fish filets that I coated in seasoned flour and pan fried in butter until the coating was crisp and the fish was flakey. I was out of cabbage, so I lined the heated tortllas with butter lettuce and layered on a carrot slaw that I had mixed with a couple of tablespoons of sesame-ginger dressing right out of the bottle. I searched the refrigerator's vegetable bins for slaw additions: I chopped up some green onions, red bell peppers, basil and cilantro leaves and added a dash of celery seed, which was the roommate's idea. He has some pretty good food instincts, for a guy. I made my own peanut sauce, however, using a cup of peanut butter, some soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, Siracha sauce, garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. I could have made my own slaw dressing with sesame oil, ginger and rice vinegar, but I think I mentioned that I was out of rice vinegar. Could've used white vinegar, I guess, but I had the bottled stuff. I think you can follow heating the tortillas, mixing up a carrot slaw with anything else you have in the frig and pan-frying some fish filets, but here is the recipe for a wonderful, finger-licking and versatile, no-cook Thai peanut sauce. 

Thai Peanut Sauce


1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon Siracha sauce

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. In a blender, mix the peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, ginger, and garlic. Mix in the cilantro just before serving

(I am using the leftover peanut sauce on some Thai chicken and noodles tonight. Just cooking some pasta, browning chunks of chicken breast, and mixing it all together with the peanut sauce. Might add some leftover green beans, too.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kale soup

I found a hearty kale soup recipe the other day that fit my needs perfectly, because its fast to make on a week night after work. I had the curly-leaf kale, some carrots, potatoes, onions and beans on hand, plus a nice fresh loaf of French bread. Soup makings if I ever saw it!

I pretty much followed this recipe, except I only used the one kind of bean (red kidney beans) and added some cooked, diced brat sausage chunks. I also did not bother to blenderize the beans that were leftover from another meal. I flavored the broth with fresh rosemary and mint, and some red wine vinegar, and it had a nice degree of complexity for all of its simplicity.

An added bonus was having enough soup to take to work the next day!

 Two-Bean Soup with Kale | -

Kale Soup

2 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Tbs butter

1/2 onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, smashed

4 Cups water

2 tsp vegetable or chicken boullion

5 small red potatoes, diced into bite-sized chunks

1 15oz. can red kidney beans, undrained

1 large bunch kale, chopped

2 links cooked chorizo or other sausage, diced

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh rosemary and mint leaves, minced

Cooking directions:

Boil potatoes in water with boullion added for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, saute onions, celery and carrots (mirepoix) in olive oil and butter until onions are translucent. Add salt, garlic and rosemary and cook for one more minute until fragrant. 

Add mirepoix to potato pot; then using the same saute pan, saute the chopped kale for 2-3 minutes until it just begins to wilt.  Add the kale to the soup pot, along with kidney beans, red wine vinegar, mint, and sausage. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste.

Serve with hot, buttered French bread slices and a glass of your favorite wine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lemony Mediterranean-style baked fish with vegetables

Since the husband and I are on a continual journey to optimize our health, we try to eat fish for dinner at least once a week. That is a big improvement from our old habit of maybe going out to have fried fish and chips every other month or so. I mean, that is good too, especially since we live near the Pacific coast, and there is a plethora of fine fish restaurants, but its more of a treat, something to have on our "free" day one day a week where we can eat whatever our heart desires. The rest of the week, the plan is simple, heart-healthy variations, like chicken and fish prepared in a Mediterranean style. We had fish, lemons, basil, green beans, cherry tomatoes from our weekly box of goodness from the local farmers, so dinner practically made itself.

So last night it was a lemony baked fish, lemon-zested green beans, tomato-artichoke-cucumber salad. We did have one indulgence: cheesy olive-topped french bread. That was mostly to fill up the other two eaters at our table who don't need to watch their calories like we do. Lee and I had one slice, they had, like, six each. I didn't show you the bread here, because it was already gone. 

I got an idea to line the baking dish with basil leaves from another recipe site, and I had a bunch of large leaves that came in our tote box from SLO Veg, so it was perfect! I drizzled a bit of olive oil into a rectangular glass baking dish, then Lee lined the dish with basil leaves under my instructions. I was busy making the cucumber salad. He laid the fish on top of the basil, seasoning it with coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and then grated on some lemon zest. The juice of the lemon was squeezed on top, followed by some sauteed onion rings and halved cherry tomatoes and slices of lemon. Then the fish went into the oven to bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or so. We had about one and a half pound of fish filets, which also came in our weekly tote in co-op with the Central Coast Fisheries, and that was plenty for four people. I checked it after 20 minutes and decided to let it go another five minutes. Then it was perfect and flakey and wonderfully infused with basil.  

The tri-colored green beans, also provided by our local farmers, were boiled for 15 minutes in a pot of salted water until tender; then drained and drizzled with olive oil and topped with salt, pepper, and lemon zest, same as the fish preparation. The salad consisted of sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, marinated artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives and dressed with olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. So simple a Cave woman could do it...if a Cave woman had a nice sharp knife and some good vinegar. 

The bread that I keep talking about but did not photograph was a loaf of French bread, sliced lengthwise, and spread with a mixture of mayonnaise, butter, parmesan cheese, garlic, green olives and green onions. It gets toasted under the broiler for about 5 minutes until slightly browned and bubbly. Then you slice it into 2-inch pieces and devour it. 

Anyway, everybody ate and was happy. That's always the goal. Goodnight. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Portugese Pizza

Linguica sausage, kale, onions...sounds like the makings for a Portuguese dish. At least it was a couple of days ago when I made some Portuguese soup (Caldo Verde) with those ingredients, plus some potatoes.
The thing is, I still have a stick of linguica sausage left, and a bunch of kale. Its Friday night, and I wanted pizza. Looking through my pantry, I find two pita breads...just two. Well, I think its just the hubby and me tonight, so maybe the pitas will work fine for the pizza base. (If anyone else shows up, they can make a pizza on an English muffin.) I could use some tomato sauce, linguica, onions, mushrooms, and kale for the topping. I have a small amount of mozzarella cheese on hand, enough for a topper, but I need more cheese. Hmmmm...there is that small amount of mayo-yogurt-Parmesan spread that I made a few days ago for some grilled turkey and tomato sandwiches. Maybe if I stir in some Ricotta cheese, that would make a good white sauce cheese base for the pizzas.
I chopped up half an onion and three ribs of kale with the center stem removed. Then I pulled the skin off of the linguica and sliced in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half again, then sliced it into little pieces. I sauteed the linguica and onions with a dab of olive oil in a saucepan, then added some diced mushrooms and minced garlic and the chopped kale. I put the pitas on a baking sheet, smeared on the white cheese spread, and topped it with Parmesan cheese. The sauteed sausage blend went on top, followed by the mozzarella cheese and a small handful of Colby-jack cheese, just to make it cheesier. I put the pita pizzas into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, just to heat the bread through and melt all the cheeses. I cut the pizzas into quarters and plated them to be served on the coffee table with a beer and TV. All the food groups were represented on one place. Plus, I have enough of the linguica mixture to toss into some scrambled eggs for breakfast in the morning!

So that is how recipes are born: you start with what you have on hand, and improvise. That's the Portuguese way : ) My children's father was half-Portuguese, and his relatives were all hard-working, thrifty folk who really knew how to cook. Lately I have been reviewing recipes from an old family cookbook collection, you know the kind where someone collects a bunch of home-cooks' recipes and publishes it in a nice booklet. I will make something, then tell my daughters, "You should make this for your Dad." There is a simple tomato sauce for fish that is to die for, contributed by the ex's Aunt Marcel. Simple and perfect. I fell in love with it.

Anyway, this is the pizza I came up with tonight, and it was good! Better than my husband expected, because he thought it all sounded kind of weird. I went with the white cheese base as a nod to Mediterranean because of the pita, but on second thought, a perfect dough for this pizza with be potato bread dough with a chunky tomato sauce, then the linguica, kale, and onions. But that's a pizza for another day.


2 pita breads
1 stick linguica sausage
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ribs of kale, center stem removed, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
5-6 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 C mozarella cheese, shredded
Olive oil

White sauce:
2 Tbs mayo
2 Tbs ricotta cheese
2 Tbs Greek yogurt
2 Tbs Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs fresh basil leaves, sliced
Pinch of salt and pepper
Saute linguica sausage in olive oil with onions until onions are translucent. Add in mushrooms, garlic and kale and cook for 5 minutes on low heat.
Mix together white sauce ingredients and spread onto pitas. Top with linguica mixture. Cover with mozarella cheese. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes until bread is heated through and cheese is melted. Slice into quarters and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Mac N Cheese

One ramekin finished and ready to bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
I needed to use up my cauliflower last week before we went out of town for a few days. I figured the eggplant would keep in the frig, but cauliflower always gets black mildewy spots on it when left too long. We had just received a new shipment of veggies from SLO Veg on Monday, and I was trying to use or preserve everything I could in 3 days time. Not wanting the beautiful, white cauliflower to go to waste, I boiled it and pureed it into a creamy sauce for macaroni. The guys had it for dinner on Wednesday after I went to work. I froze a couple of ramekins in case they need a meal next week and I fall down and am unable to make something fresh and scrumptious for them at that time.Or I might just sleep through dinner, like I did last night after we got home from our weekend at Laguna Seca race track, where we went to see the Historic Races. The men were okay...they had the leftover pizza from lunch. The pizza is also tomorrow's lunch plan. I love pizza.

Anyway, back to the cauliflower, I borrowed a recipe from "A Pinch of Yum" and made an Alfredo-like sauce with it. It was simply cauliflower, broth, garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Since I was making cauliflower mac and cheese, I had to add some Parmesan cheese to it, too, and a splash of heavy cream. You can thin it out with water from the macaroni pot. I pureed it in batches in the blender, poured it over cooked macaroni, mixed in some leftover chunks of chicken breast, and sprinkled some toasted bread crumbs over the top. I took some to work with me that night, and yum! It was such a nice departure from my usual box lunches.

The next day I left town for four days without guilt!

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Mac N Cheese
Makes 8-10 servings
  • 1 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 2 large heads cauliflower
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup starchy boiling water from pasta pot
  1. Chop the cauliflower. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil over medium high heat and add cauliflower. Cook until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes or until soft and fragrant.
  2. As the garlic and cauliflower are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the fettuccine according to directions on package, reserving some of the starchy water to add to the sauce later.
  3. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 2 cups of the broth. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender. Add the sauteed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper and puree until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture is moving, stream the olive oil into the blender. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick to move through the blender. You want it to turn through the blender easily. When puree is very smooth, transfer back to the butter/garlic skillet.
  4. Add the cream and Parmesan cheese and cook over low heat. Add the starchy pasta water. Combine noodles and sauce in a large pot or skillet and pour into individual ramekins or a casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven to make it nice and toasty.
Variation: Add leftover cubed chicken, bacon or even lobster (who has leftover lobster?) for a meatier twist on this recipe.

Monday, August 11, 2014

SLO Veg Bounty
Just look at all this beautiful, bountiful produce we received today in our tote from SLO Veg: Asian pears, strawberries, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, Romaine lettuce, red cabbage, artichokes, Roma tomatoes, white nectarines, green grapes, purple eggplant...long, skinny eggplant. As expected, we got some of the unexpected. I would probably not have ever selected these eggplants from a market. My past attempts at Eggplant Parmesan were less than satisfactory, and the only thing I know that I can successfully make is Baba Ganash. But these are little, baby eggplants. I'll bet they will be good sliced and fried some way. Rachael from SLO Veg promised a good recipe, so I will check it out. And that, my friends, is the adventure with SLO Veg deliveries: you get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, with a surprise or two that makes you cook out of the box...literally!

First thing I did was start a pot of water going for the artichokes. They would boil for a good 45 minutes or so until the leaves began to pull off easily. I would served them with a dish of clarified butter and lemon juice. Then I built some nice bowls of salad with Romaine, sliced nectarines and strawberries, sunflower seeds and Pomegranate vinaigrette.

Then I took on the fish: it was a white fish, Rockfish, I believe, and one pound wasn't going to be enough for the four of us, so I also defrosted a package that I had put into the freezer a few weeks ago. It would all be locally caught fish from Morro Bay, so I didn't anticipate any complaints. I dipped the filets into a milk and egg mixture, then dredged it in flour, dipped it again and rolled it in some Panko bread crumbs. The fish was then pan fried in an iron skillet in coconut oil...Man, that smelled great! The troops were circling and I had to ask Lee to assist in getting it all on the table. He halved the artichokes, poured the butter into ramekins, set the table and put the food out while I finished frying the last piece of fish. We were all out of mayo, so no tartar sauce and the artichokes would have to be dipped in lemon butter...oh darn! No worries. Those guys were practically licking their plates by the end of the meal.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Crack Kale Salad

Monday is delivery day for us from SLO Veg. That means a whole box of fresh fruits and veggies to fit into the refrigerator day-after-tomorrow. So today I decided to use up most of whatever veggies had not yet disappeared from last week's box. There were some red potatoes...and that kale was still hanging around in the frig from last week's box. Actually, there were two kinds of kale, and one was two weeks old (from the previous box). Dang that stuff has a long refrigerated shelf life. MAYbe I should use it up?

I quickly made a dinner plan: kale salad, roasted potatoes, bacon-wrapped chicken marinated in beer, and garlic bread. The only things I needed from the store were chicken thighs and bread. 

Okay, so I pulled out the kale and inspected it. The curly kale that had been in the frig for two weeks was mostly good, with just a few leaves that needed to be cut out. The Lacinto kale that we just got this week was really dark green and crispy. I trimmed off all the stems and center ribs and gave it all a good washing in my salad spinner. Then I sliced it into 1/4" ribbons for the salad. I found a recipe I liked with a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing. I jazzed it up a little after I tasted it, because it REALLY made me pucker! So I added a teaspoon of sugar, a splash of apple juice and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I poured the dressing over the kale and let it all meld together in a glass mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, I sliced up a nice, crispy apple into long strips and added it to the salad bowl. I wanted the lemon juice to coat the apple pieces so they would stay fresh looking. Then I mixed in some toasted almonds, raisins and some shaved Parmesan cheese.

The salad was a side dish for tonight's dinner which consisted of bacon-wrapped chicken breasts, roasted red potatoes and sourdough garlic bread. As you can see from the bottom photo, none went to waste.

Crack Kale Salad
 (very addicting!)

3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple juice
pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar

1 bunch of kale, any variety, stems and center ribs removed
1/4 cup honey roasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup raisins
3 green onions, diced
1 large, crisp apple
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Mix together the dressing ingredients. Slice kale into ribbons. In a mixing bowl, pour dressing over kale and mixed together.Cut apple, peel and all, into julienne slices and mix with kale. Add almonds, raisins, and parmesan cheese and its ready to go!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mako shark tacos with Asian snow pea salad

MMMMMmmmmmmm....I made some really delicious fish tacos last night using Mako Shark that we got in our last delivery from SLO Veg. They partner with SLO Fresh Catch to bring fresh, locally caught fish right to our doorstep. 

This type of fish is my favorite, because it comes fileted into nice steak-like slabs that eats like meat. I don't have to worry about any pesky little pin bones like you find in snapper or grenadier, either. I basically followed this recipe from Cooking Light, except that I used shark and also some shredded lettuce since I was all out of cabbage. The crema was really delicious and put a nice finish on the tacos. Dinner was accompanied by an Asian snow pea salad and a Pacifico beer. Just right!

Oh, and I didn't bake the fish. I fried it in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and butter. Just too hot to be turning on the oven this time of summer. But you know, basically followed this recipe. For the salad, I did actully follow the recipe, except for the mustard. I did not have any Chinese hot mustard on hand, not even any little packets from Chinese take out. So I substituted Irish Hot Mustard. I don't know what the difference is, so I didn't think it could possibly matter. Hope you get a chance to try it.


Fish Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Crema

Cumin, coriander, and paprika lend these fish tacos a delightfully warm, smoky flavor. They're the perfect foundation for the zippy sour cream sauce. For an appealing variation, substitute peeled medium shrimp for the snapper or romaine in place of cabbage.



1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise

3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1 teaspoon grated lime rind

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, minced


1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 pounds red snapper fillets

Cooking spray

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

2 cups shredded cabbage


Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare crema, combine the first 8 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

To prepare tacos, combine cumin and next 5 ingredients (through garlic powder) in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over both sides of fish. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Place fish in a bowl; break into pieces with a fork. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; top each with 1/4 cup cabbage and 1 tablespoon crema.


Asian snow pea salad


1 pound snow peas, trimmed and blanched

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon hot Chinese mustard

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

1 teaspoon sesame seeds


1. Stack several snow peas and slice on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Repeat to slice remaining peas.

2. In a large bowl, whisk vegetable oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, sugar, and mustard until well combined. Add sliced snow peas and 1 tablespoon green onions; mix to coat. Cover and chill until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

3. Just before serving, mound salad on a platter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon green onions and the sesame seeds.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lemony Chicken infused with Herbs

I recently upgraded my phone and Verizon was running a special where you could get an Elipsis tablet for free with the phone purchase. Of course, the tablet is connected to a phone number, and they charge you $10 a month for access, but hey! I can take it anywhere, access my "What's in the Box?" blog, and keep on writing about good food. That's a win-win, huh? I hope : )   So anyway, I got two of them, one for me and one for the hub, who would have been monopolizing my tablet had I not gotten one for him.

The coolest thing about my tablet is the keyboard, which works on Bluetooth. Its the case and keyboard all in one. I can sit here on my bed and blog...heavenly! When I am done typing, I can pop the tablet out of the case and lie back and surf the internet. I would say this is going to be worth $10 a month.

Back to the point, today I am baking some chicken for our dinner tonight. I am doing it early, before the house gets too hot. I will be working nightshift tonight, so mine is going to be portable, while leaving some good stuff for the hub. We are trying to eat clean and exercise according to Bill Phillips Health for Life plan. Sensible eating: healthy carbs high in fiber, low fat, lean protein, no sugar. Eating carbs and protein in combination, like eggs and a cup of oatmeal. Twelve week program: Exercise six days a week with three strength training days and three cardio days. Today is the leg workout. I figured I would cook first, take a nap, and exercise this afternoon. Then I can come home, shower, and get ready for work. But for now, while the chicken bakes, I blog...

I first coated the four chicken breasts in olive oil, then squeezed in about 4 small lemons that our friend got from his tree. I added a Rancher's seasoning blend of salt, pepper, and garlic. I let it all marinate for about 20 minutes, then put the chicken into a glass baking dish. I left the lemon halves in the dish, added some sliced white onions, and layered the top with sliced garden tomatoes, springs of rosemary and basil. The tomatoes, rosemary, and corn all came in our box from SLO Veg. I know it sure smells good when baking!

I let it bake for 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. I will take one of the small breasts in my tupperware container to work, along with some boiled corn-on-the-cob that I plan to cut off the cob, and some rice. I should have made brown rice, but I already had some left over white rice. Not quite on the plan, but I hate to throw out food. I think I will make a batch of brown rice and freeze it just to have on hand for lunches in the future.

Well, chicken is out and cooling, as is the corn. I think I will take my nap, then go get some exercise!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cucumber salad

We got a nice veggies box this week from SLO Veg with lots of summertime specialties: Cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, Romaine lettuce, kale, sprouts, peppers and bok choy, plus some luscious peaches, strawberries and oranges, and even a live Rosemary plant.

The thing I really wanted was the cucumbers to make a nice, crisp summer salad for our family barbecue. First I used a peeler and sort of made stripes down the length of the cucumber. That way when you slice them, they have a nice pretty edge. I sliced the cucumbers and sweet white onions thinly using my Cutco santuko knife, but you could also use a mandolin or the slicer on your old grater if you wish. I just wanted to see how thin I could go using the knife, which is really nice and sharp...and dangerous! You don't want to be distracted when using a sharp knife.

I got the cucumbers and onions sliced into a bowl, then I seasoned them with salt, stirred them up, covered them with plastic wrap and let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I prepared other things.
Next step is the vinegar marinade, which needs to be heated and poured over the cucumbers for a pickling effect. I used rice vinegar because I like the mildness of it, and some sugar, water and dried dill weed. So simple, so refreshing, so yummy!

The recipe is just this:
4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon dried dill

1. Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Salt liberally and put aside for a few hours. Rinse and drain before adding the marinade.
2. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan or in a glass bowl in the microwave. Bring to a boil, then pour over the cucumbers and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicken Chile Verde

Mild roasted chilies, chunks of chicken and white rice makes the best Chicken Chile Verde
Okay! Hands down, easiest yummy dinner ever! Chicken chile verde over rice. We got a variety of peppers in our SLO Veg box this week, so I decided to use them up in a fresh verde with tomatillos -- my favorite sauce ever!

You start with chilies: Poblano chilies (3), Anaheim chilies(2), maybe a jalapeno chile (1). Those get roasted until black over a gas flame, then cooled and placed in a plastic baggie until its time to mix up the sauce. (Tonight I wanted it to be on the mild side, so I didn't use any jalapenos).

Then you turn on the oven to 400 degrees and oven-roast the whole tomatillos (1 lb, husks off), onion (peeled and quartered), whole garlic cloves (3), and a couple of chicken breasts on one big baking sheet. Everything gets a splash of olive oil and salt. You can hit the chicken with your favorite seasoning blend, too. Let it bake for 30 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft and the chicken is cooked through.

The next step is to put all the peppers, onion and garlic into a blender, add a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a couple teaspoons of lime juice, and give it a whirl. You can add a little bit of water, if you want. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. 

Then dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix it into the sauce. Spoon a couple of ladles of the chile verde over a bowl of rice and top with a dollop of sour cream. So good and flavorful, so fresh, and so darn easy!

For a quick recipe reference, check out Melissa d'Arabian's site on

Friday, July 18, 2014

Salsa Beans with Bell Peppers and Anaheim Chilies

We're having a big family potluck barbecue this weekend and I volunteered to make a batch of beans for the barbecue. It's pretty common our area to serve Santa Maria-style barbecued beef tri-tip, pinquito chili beans, and garlic french bread at a barbecue. You just can't beat good beef tri-tip cooked slow over an oak barbecue pit. 

One of my brothers-in-law, Don, used to make a good salsa bean recipe using Sun Vista canned pinto beans, Ortega tomato salsa and Italian stewed tomatoes. He was very brand-specific. He would add browned hamburger with onions and green bell peppers. He used a special seasoning salt blend that a friend of his concocted, and we always kept a supply of "Fiscalini's seasoning" on hand and used it for everything. Its kind of like Lawry's, but with more salt, pepper and granulated garlic.

Another brother-in-law, Gary, made the traditional Santa Maria-style pinqinto beans, using the small pintos, but that was a whole other batch of beans. He used dried pinquitos to start with, and it was an all day affair.

I use to make my own version of the first kind of salsa chili beans in large quantities for all our family barbecues when my kids were growing up, but nowadays the dynamics of the family have changed and we don't have big family barbecues every weekend like we use too. The trick is, when making beans for a crowd they can't be too hot, but they need to have flavor. When I make beans these days, I can make smaller batches and experiment a lot.

I prefer making chili with black beans, because they have more fiber and I like the taste better than pinto beans. I will mix some black beans in with the pintos for this batch, mostly for color. Also, I recently acquired another local rancher's seasoning blend (Perozzi family), which is similar to Santa Maria-style seasoning, but a little heavier on the pepper and garlic. So this weekend I am going to make a batch of salsa beans, sans hamburger meat, and heavy on the onions and bell peppers, for our family picnic. I want to keep it vegetarian for the non-meat eaters in our clan. My audacious barbecue-master brother will be barbecuing enough beef and chicken to satisfy the meat lovers. He is barbecuing a whole top block, or "sirloin", for the big day, along with his specialty chicken thighs.

Anyway, I got my basic ingredients: Ranch-style pinto beans, black beans, and salsa. It's not Ortega salsa, but I couldn't find any of that. I don't have any Italian stewed tomatoes, either, so I plan to add a can of diced tomatoes and a big pinch of dried Italian seasoning. I began by dicing an onion and a bell pepper. I first tasted, then chopped up one of the other peppers that came in our SLO Veg box this week. I am not sure what kind of pepper it is, but its not a jalapeno or a serrano or a Fresno chili. I got a few of those, also, but they are not for this batch of beans. I think the ones I used are just called green chili peppers, or Anaheim chilies. Pretty mild, like the diced Ortega chilies in a can, which is what I used when I don't have fresh chilies.

I pre-fried the onions and peppers until they were soft and slightly browned to bring out a lot of flavors. Then I simply open my cans of beans, drained off some of the liquid, and pour them into the crock pot. I will add diced tomatoes, some salsa and a tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it all together and let it cook low and slow until it is time to eat. Everyone always like these beans, and it can't get much easier.

My recipe is:
1 white onion, diced
2 Anaheim green chilies, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 gallon pinto beans, UN-drained
(I used ranch-style today, because I like their sauce)
1 28-can black beans, drained
1 cup salsa
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1-2 teaspoons seasoning blend (I used Perozzi's private blend. You can use Lawry's  or Santa Maria-style seasoning)

Empty crock? Does that mean they liked it???

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Roasted Potato Salad with Lavender

We got some beautiful Red Potatoes in our box from SLO Veg this week. I love red potatoes! I had to make something with them first thing!

I remember my sister making a lavender potato salad for a family potluck, so I decided to use that herb. I had gotten some lavender from SLO Veg several months ago and now is a good time to use it. First off, I wanted to roast the potatoes and infuse them with some Rosemary flavoring. 

I rinsed and quartered my potatoes, then put them on a baking sheet. I drizzled on a few tablespoons of butter olive oil that I had gotten in Monterey at Tasty Olive. That store has about 50 different olive oil flavorings, plus a bunch of vinegars, and my girls and I had a ball there last November. I am sure some of our local growers have similar flavors of oils and vinegars, so I am going on a search for them very soon. 

Meanwhile, I set the oven to 400 degrees and layed a few sprigs of freshly cut rosemary on top. I put the potatoes in the oven and let them roast for a good hour while I was packing my husband a lunch and making our breakfast. (Sprouted oatmeal with fresh strawberries stirred in!)

(to be continued!)

Sea Bass with roasted Zucchini and Carrots

We recently moved into town to be closer to everything, like our work, doctors, shopping, and our favorite gym. We also have access to at least three farmers markets in this community instead of just one. However, we are still taking advantage of the delivery service provided by SLO Veg, partly because it saves me time and partly because it allows us to have a variety of fruits and vegetables we might not normally purchase. This way I have to do a little recipe investigation, which keeps cooking fun and interesting, instead of doing the same old thing week after week. Our delivery day also changed, so now I get whatever the fish catch of the day is for Monday from SLO Fresh Catch, as well. While we are not now right next to the ocean, we are still just a short drive from the fisheries. We have cows across the street. We might even get a few chickens for the backyard. It's the SLO life!

We were excited to get some Sea Bass in our delivery this week. It's a nice firm, meaty fish with fewer bones to pick through than the Grenadier and Cod selections. We had to take tweezers and pull out some bones that looked like long needles, but there were only about four of them in one of the pieces.

This olive oil is from Tasty Olive in Monterey
The fish was simply prepared with just a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning, then pan fried in a mixture of olive oil and butter. It took just 2 or 3 minutes on each side before the fish began to flake apart. Then I removed the fish from the pan and deglazed the pan with some white wine (a lovely, local Dry Gewurtztraminer). I squeezed in the juice from one big Meyer lemon and added a teaspoonful of capers to the sauce, which was then poured over the fish after it was plated.

I made a side dish of orzo pasta that I browned lightly in butter in the pot, then added water (1:2 ratio pasta/water). When it was cooked through, I stirred in some shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese and a small handful of chopped chives and basil.

Our plates were finished with a generous helping of cheesy orzo pasta and some roasted zucchini, red onion and carrots. The special thing about roasting the vegetables was I used a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme, picked right from our front walkway planter, which were simply placed on top of the vegetables that had been drizzled with buttery olive oil on a cookie sheet. I let them go in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes, and the flavors of the herbs infused throughout the vegetables during the cooking time. Finished with a sprinkling of coarse salt: Simple, savory, delicioso!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kitchen Sink Steak Salad and French Onion Soup

My salad is packed to-go with all the goodies, including a Pomegranete vinaigrete, because I have to work tonight. Taking some French onion soup, too, because its a 12-hour shift. Ciao!
I think a good steak salad is like a "kitchen sink" type of dish. I can literally use almost everything we got in our SLO Veg vegetable box this week in this steak salad. I like to start with fresh, crisp lettuce, and we got a beautiful head of red-and-green butter lettuce in the box to make the foundation. I build on that by adding some red onion, carrot curls, sliced celery, and then chop up a few of those crunchy sugar snap peas into bite-size morsels. Maybe some mini-red and yellow sweet peppers. Oh, and tomatoes--I like diced Roma tomatoes! What the heck, some florets of broccoli can go on there, too, or roasted corn-off-the-cob--oh yeah! I would've also used some roasted red beets, too, but we ate them already.

Top round steak is just the icing on the cake, so to speak, but when you add it to the salad just off the grill, thinly sliced and warm, and then drizzle the whole thing with a tangy, scrumptious vinaigrette, that is heaven on a plate! Add a sprinkle of Parmesan or crumbled Feta cheese, and it is a gourmet dish. 

Today I picked out a pomegranete vinaigrette to try. If I like it, I may try to recreate it myself when those pomegranetes on my brother's tree mature into fruit. By reading the ingredients listed on the jar, I suppose I could mash up the pomegranete seeds, using just the juice, add some orange juice and white vinegar and a good-quality olive oil, season it with salt and pepper and have my own sauce, minus the xanthum gum. (Had to look that up. I knew it was some type of thickener. Its made with sugar and wheat). Hmmm, wonder what "spice" they used in this vinaigrete? Only about a million options there...

I prepared the steak by sprinkling it with a seasoned salt blend, then added some fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of basil-infused olive oil, a splash of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. I topped it with sliced red onion, minced garlic, and cilantro leaves. That will marinate in the refrigerator all day until it is time to grill. The steak is thin, about a half-inch thick, so it will cook in just minutes. Then I just let it rest, slice it into thin strips and lay it on top of the salad I built. A generous drizzling of Pomegranete vinaigrete and I am ready to chow down.

Meanwhile, I made some French Onion soup in the crock pot. First I carmelized the onions in butter, then let them cook on high in the crock pot for two hours. I added some red wine (1/2 cup), chicken broth and beef broth (about 2 cups each), salt, pepper, a bay leaf, a teaspoon each of dried thyme and marjoram, and a generous splash of Worchestershire sauce. Top it with toast and a slice of cheese, then popped into the microwave to melt the cheese and there is your gourmet soup!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sauteed Swiss Chard

We got a beautiful bunch of Rainbow Swiss chard in this week's box from SLO Veg, and their website had a couple of recipe ideas for it that sounded delicious. I decided to go simple and use this one that calls for some sauteing and that's about it...just like Mom use to make. My Daddy used to love his Swiss chard! He grew oodles of it each Spring. I didn't fully appreciate it as a kid, but that could be said for a lot of things in my childhood.

Sigh! I get it now. Those really were the good old days!

The stem pieces went into the pan first to saute for a bit before the leafy portions were added.
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions (Swiss Chard) 

Yield: Makes 8 (side dish) servings,
Active time: 30 min
Total time: 50 min

3 pound green Swiss chard (about 2 large bunches) 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
I chopped the chard, then rinsed and spun it dry.
Preparation: Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Stack chard leaves and roll up lengthwise into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips. Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook onions and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add chard stems and ribs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add chard leaves in batches, stirring until wilted before adding next batch, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
Cooks' notes: Chard can be washed, dried, and cut 2 days ahead and chilled in sealed bags lined with dampened paper towels. · Chard can be cooked 4 hours ahead and reheated over low heat on stove or in a microwave oven.


Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

We got two bunches of fresh asparagus in our SLO Veg box this week. Yum and thank you! Just for good measure, I am taking some bacon-wrapped asparagus along to the Memorial Day barbecue, just to make sure we all get enough bacon and vegetables today. Wouldn't want to slack on the vegies, and bacon! 

These just get a drizzle of olive oil and coarse salt, then go onto a flat grill pan with the little holes in it and cook for about 20 minutes on the barbecue. I hope its a hit!

Asian Red Cabbage Coleslaw

Asian Red Cabbage Slaw: The final product ready for transporting to the barbecue.
I am seeing red this morning: red cabbage, red onion, red mixing bowl, red chopping board...all because I am making a cabbage slaw to take to a Memorial weekend barbecue.

Red cabbage came in our weekly delivery from SLO Veg and it was one huge head of cabbage! I opted to use red instead of green because I thought it would look more American. I should note here that the red cabbage and red onion are actually a shade of purple Sigh! I perused the Pinterest and found several variations, but the Asian version sounded just perfect to accompany the barbecue host's pork loin roast. I was actually going to host the barbecue, but then I got a better offer. I am no dummy. I also opted to make a batch of baked beans, al la Pioneer Woman style, but that is for another blog entry.

Anyway, back to the slaw: I had red cabbage, red onion, green onions, shredded carrots and that fennel bulb that I had been carving on for several days. Fennel is a pretty strong flavor, and a little can go a long way. But chopped up in a slaw would give it a nice fresh, interesting punch, I thought.

I began by assembling all the vegetables and the dressing ingredients. I had rice vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, coriander seeds and ground ginger. In a perfect world I would have fresh ginger and cilantro leaves, but this was the best I could do today. Besides, I get to use my mortar and pestle to smash the coriander seeds, so that would be fun. Oh holy senses, Batman, was it ever fragrant, too! 

I peeled off the outermost leaves of the cabbage and then proceeded to halve it with my Cutco santuko knife. Cutco offers two lengths and we got the shorter knife, but now I was wishing for the longer one because this one didn't reach all the way through this huge head of cabbage. (Birthday present hint!) I ended up taking out my old Viking butcher knife and finishing the job. Then I used the santuko to carefully slice a half head of cabbage, split into smaller wedges, into slaw. I got to use my big red Tupperware bowl, the one that comes out on holidays when preparing large batches of salads, whether it be green, red, potato, macaroni or pasta. Back in the day, I would bring my salad in that bowl and serve out of it, because we might have a crowd of 50-60 relatives to feed. But today we were going to a much smaller gathering, and I just needed to mixed my slaw without dumping it all over the countertop and then I put it into a smaller container for transporting. 

Next I mixed up the dressing: 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and lime juice, 2 teaspoons white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, smashed. I mixed this up, then added a bit more soy sauce and sugar, so probably 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 4 teaspoons sugar, total. I stirred it all up and poured it over the cabbage mixture, then sprinkled on some coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper and stirred it all up. The red bowl really was handy!

I think the salad turned out to be light, refreshing and pretty! I can't wait for dinner time!


3 Tbs rice vinegar,
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp lime juice
4 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger (fresh grated ginger would be nicer)
1 tsp coriander seeds, smashed (fresh cilantro would be nice, too)

1/2 large head red cabbage, sliced
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 green onions, diced
1/2 c carrots, shredded
1/4 c fennel, sliced and diced

Prepare vegetables and put into a large mixing bowl. Mix together dressing ingredients and pour over vegetables. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving time. 

Makes about 12-15 servings