I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

August 25, 2009

The little things that make your day.

The text said..."B and I made pupcakes for you & Brock"....."They are Lelem"

This comes from my friend Tiff and her 3 year old son yesterday afternoon. The text alone was enough to make me giggle and want to hug this kid (and his mom), but even better than that is the homemade wrapping job, inventive decor and sheer pleasure of stuffing a Lemon Cupcake smeared with Lemon Buttercream, sprinkled with Lemonheads in to my mouth at the end of a meal.

When asked how B helped make the cupcakes, he will tell you he poured the mix, added water and helped decorate with the Lemonheads (in so many words). B also decorated the "to go" containers that brought our treats home. Brock was a little bummed that he got a lower case "b" and I got an upper case "J", but I gave him the bigger cupcake to make up for it, so I think we are even.

Tiff & B make terrific cupcakes and awesome buttercream frosting of all flavors and I am fortunate enough that they share with me every once and a when when she brings them to the office or I drop by the house...this is just one that I had to share because it made my day! Hope the pics make you smile as much as they made Brock & I smile!

August 20, 2009

Sometimes things just come together!

On Sunday night Brock came home from a boys day out with some pork products that were processed from a 2008 Ventura County Fair Pig. About a pound of thick cut bacon & 2 pork chops in a poorly sealed vacuum bag awaited us for dinner this week. He cooked the bacon a few nights ago and unfortunately it was so over brined/salted & processed that it was almost impossible to cook. The pork chops were a different story though....

The same day I went to work for a few hours after a long crazy weekend and decided to hit the Ojai Farmers market on my way home. After stopping at Roland & Sandy Messori's booth for new lavender plants (http://www.rivendellaromatics.com/) and to catch up with two of the saner people at this market, I wandered in to the market that reeks of patchouli & BO. Truly I do love Ojai, but if you want to get a GOOD sense of the town, hit the Farmers Market on Sunday. The Ojai Boys play blue grass and barefoot hippies dance in the aisle. Organic is the only way to go up there in regard to vegetables and the fish and seafood are all local and priced appropriately. I love a good local product as much as anyone, but one duck for $36??? Seriously? I'll go to my Uncle Johns farm and kill it myself for 1/3 the price. Some of us are on a budget and those of you who know me know this is no BS. :) There is some really cool stuff there though; including local bakeries, local farmers, apothecaries, basket makers & more....I love going there to people watch almost as much as I love going to buy my goodies. I left the market with 6 lavender plants from Rivendell, 3 gorgeous leeks, an artichoke and cheese curds and spent about $20.

Leeks are one of those items you hardly ever purchase until you need them and only when you need them and you are forced to go to Von's do you realize how expensive they are. They sell for about $3 a pound and the crummy thing is you only use half of the darn things so really you are paying $6 a pound! Ugh...I hate wasting $$$ on anything. So when I found them at the market at $2 for 3 beautiful leeks (about 2# of veg), I jumped at it and thought that I would figure out what to make later. :)

If you haven't visited http://www.epicurious.com/, I recommend you do so immediately. Not only can you find specific recipes on there (i.e. chicken cordon bleu), but you can also type in the search option.... "Pork Leeks Apples" and see what comes up based upon what you have in your kitchen. Internet gods and cooking goddesses willing, you will come up with several recipe options that also come with commentary from other subscribers telling you if the recipe was awesome or if it sucked, as well as tips and tricks they found to make the recipe better than when it started. So not light or even on my diet, but delicious so I don't care!

Tonight my food love is as follows.....

Cider Brined Pork Chops with Sauteed Leeks & Caramelized Apples
Bleu Cheese Dressing Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans

Makes 4 servings
4 cups apple cider
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 10-ounce bone-in center-cut pork rib chops

4 oz butter
5 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced

4 oz Butter
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, halved, each half cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup Brandy

Bring cider, salt & sugar to a boil in large saucepan, stirring to dissolve. Cool completely. Place pork in ziplock bag & pour brine over. Seal & refrigerate overnight.

Melt 4oz butter in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks; sauté until tender.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt another (OMG) 4 oz Butter large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add apples and sauté 10 minutes. Add sugar and sauté until apples are golden, about 6 minutes longer. Add stock, then brandy and remaining 1/4 cup cider. Simmer until liquid thickens slightly and apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Prepare barbecue (medium heat) or preheat broiler. Drain pork. Rinse under cold water; pat dry. Brush pork with oil. Grill or broil to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium.

Meanwhile, rewarm leeks. Bring apples to simmer. Spoon leeks onto plates. Top with pork, then apples.

Mashed Potatoes....Boil Potatoes, season with Litehouse LITE Bleu Cheese dressing, S&P

Green beans, keep it simple...steam, salt & a little butter if your arteries can handle it!

Take a bite of the pork with the leeks & apples....mmmmm....next bite, drop a chunk of the bleu cheese mashed potatoes on to and see what it does in your mouth. Brock even suggested bleu cheese crumbles on top of the pork chops & apples next time and for once I agree with him!!!

Sometimes things were meant to be and tonight's dinner was obviously one of them!

August 12, 2009

Dinner with the P's

It's been too long since my last post...between overeating and drinking in Charlotte, NC and playing catch up at work I have been unable to focus on food aside from my one stint of gross overindulgence at the Ventura County Fair (tater dog story to follow sooner or later).
Tonight however I am in one of my favorite place, the kitchen at mom & dad's house. This for me is a weekly if not twice weekly occurrence...lucky for me, my Mom & Pops live a scant 8 minutes away and are always up for Brock and I coming over to grace them with our presence. Depending on the time of the year, the night of the week wraps around things like Monday night football or American Idol (yes, we are huge dorks). More often it is a night like tonight where we just felt like cooking together or in my case right now, mom cooks while I type this out (sprained ankle chains me to the counter with a glass of wine and a laptop-oh poor me!).

So the hors d' oeuvres are on the counter waiting to be eaten....simple cheeses and our favorite rye crackers from Trader Joe's with some sliced up elk summer sausage from dad's Colorado elk. Martini for mama at 5:00 sharp with a chilled glass of white wine for me...this is how we roll! Typical of a casual night up at the ranch, but in no way ordinary or unsatisfying. We get to look out the kitchen window over Ventura, sometimes seeing the Channel Islands and beyond, sometimes just barely getting to see the end of the yard as everything else is enrobed in our May/June/July fog that Ventura is blessed with.

My life totally does not suck....

Tonight is a follow up to moms super short post on the Asian Spiced Sea Salt. She tried it the one time and it was uber salty and not altogether pleasant. I tried it as well and found the flavors to be very separate from each other...the salt hit, then the spice, then the savory and sweet. Totally all over the board, I couldn't fathom what I would use it for and figured it would end up with the black Hawaiian sea salt in the corner of my lazy Susan.

She has a great recipe for Asian Marinated Cornish Game Hens (papas request on the game hens), but after tasting the marinade and scrutinizing the recipe found that it was lacking salt(OMG-not in my kitchen!)....in walks our little tin of McCormicks Asian Spiced Sea Salt. Both of us a bit scared of killing the hens with a bout of over salting, yours truly comes up with the brilliant idea of grinding it up a bit to meld the flavors and mellow it out a bit. Out comes the mortar and pestle...woman's friend since the stone age and changed very little (ours are a little prettier, being made from green marble as opposed to river rock). A few minutes of grinding made all the difference in flavor, intensity and balance of the ingredients.

Game Hens with East West Marinade

4 Rock Cornish Game Hens, split in half
Oil to brush on grill

6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 T ginger, finely minced
Zest from 2 limes, minced
1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C olive oil
1/3 hoisin sauce
1/3 C rice wine
1/3 C soy sauce
2 T honey
1 T Asian chile sauce
1 C mixed basil, cilantro & mint-chopped
1/4 C parsley, chopped
2 green onions, minced
2-3 T McCormicks Asian spiced sea salt

Marinate hens for at least a half hour or up to 8 hours in the marinade. Drain and bring to room temperature. Sprinkle with the Asian Sea Salt. Grill at about 350 for 12 minutes to a side or until they hit 160 on the meat thermometer.

Alternate options are smoke in a dry smoker for 1 hour at about 210 degrees or roast in a 425 oven for 30 minutes.

Tonight we are serving with a super tasty green been & almond salad and Rice a Roni Fried Rice.

Don't ask about the rice...there are some things we do for our men because we love them.