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

October 25, 2010

Ignoring instructions

As I might have mentioned before, my Dad is the best dad ever. For multiple reasons, but specifically this week for growing a pumpkin patch solely so he could have a pumpkin carving party.

Bear in mind, I have no kids and am an only child so all the kids must come from other areas of our lives....my friends kids, grand kids of friends and friends of the grand kids. We managed to round up a very respectable crowd of families to go hunt in the pumpkin patch for their preferred pumpkin.

Including the "oldest" 5 year old in the group, Pam, who had to have her wine while picking out her pumpkin.

The kids drew, cut and scooped out their pumpkins and made a very wide variety of scary, cute and gross pumpkins to display for us. The adults, of course, supervised as we do so well.

Some favorites are:

Vomiting pumpkin by Trevor

Carnivorous pumpkin by yours truly....The kids liked it so much that not only did I make two of them I also sent them home with the kiddos.

And then of course we had to have dinner, right? So mom vacillated between things like BBQ chicken and a few other easy and crowd friendly menus and finally settled on pulled pork sandwiches and Cole slaw with sloppy Joe's for the kids. Perfect dinner...easy to make ahead and keep in a crock pot!

When I left work on Sunday and was getting ready to head up to the house I called as I almost always do to make sure she doesn't need anything last minute. On a random impulse I asked if she had arranged for dessert.

As mentioned a week or so ago, my mom does not bake. Nor does she crave dessert like so many people do. So when I asked her if she had anything planned, she said no, she had bought some Halloween candy and put it in a bucket. "It should be enough for the kids and the big kids" she stated. Yeah right.

I ignored her. As did two of our other friends who not only have sweet tooth's, but are also great cooks. Terry made graveyard cupcakes with gummy worms coming out of them and Telva did up her chocolate chip cookies. Me? I got home and in 20 minutes I whipped up a batch of Raspberry Blondie's. And at the end of the night there was barely a crumb of all three desserts left.
Picture brown sugar and butter with a little flour wrapped around fresh raspberries and you might come close. But not quite until you get the crunchy crust and the gooey inside will you get the full scope of this dessert.

So damn simple, but at the end of the night when all that was left was one sorry little corner piece I was feeling pretty darn good about my dessert and about the fact that I had ignored my mom's instructions! Especially when people started asking for the recipe....

Raspberry Blondies

2/3 Cup Butter, softened
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup White Sugar
2 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 Pint Fresh Raspberries

Cream the butter & sugar together until well blended. Add eggs & vanilla and beat well. Add all dry ingredients in and mix thoroughly. Grease a 9x13 pan and spread the batter in the pan, it will be a bit thick. Dot the top with the raspberries, no need to push them in, the batter will "swallow" them during cooking.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Cool before cutting & serving.

October 23, 2010

Are you ready for random?

Some things mom and I have learned in the last few days.....

Duck fat makes a very good toe moisturizer.

Frying clams inside makes for a very slippery kitchen floor. (flip flop removal recommended)

A bushel of cherry tomatoes can be converted in to only a couple pint jars with time, heat  and patience.

Peeling apples goes much faster with two people.

My Grandma Kenton has peeled well over 24,000 apples in her lifetime for apple pie.

An extra glass of wine helps dull the pain of having to clean up after a cooking extravaganza.

After two days of chopping dicing, peeling, slicing, browning, frying, mixing, blending, seasoning, baking, rendering and packaging we have made multiple meals for ourselves and others. And damn it we had fun doing it. :)

Between the two (three when Grandma helped me peel the apples) of us we made Duck Confit (to share for the future), Chicken & Dumpling Soup (for my Bapa), Fried Razor Clams from Washington (for dinner), Oven Dried Tomatoes (to can, for the future), Mustard Braised Rabbit (for dinner-don't judge, it is freaking fantastic) and two Apple Cranberry Crisps (one for us, one for our friends).

Last week my Dad was up in the Lockwood Valley area quail hunting with a buddy and came across an apple tree with the apples falling off, littering the ground. Not being one to ever waste anything he promptly asked the owner of the property if he could liberate them. He then instructed me that I was to make something tasty with them. Once again, Dad brought me home something tasty....I do love that man!

As I am not much of a pie crust girl (more of a tart...hee hee), I went back to one of my favorite standbys for almost any fruit. The very American Crisp. Super easy to make and so perfect with less than 10 ingredients. You can tweak it any which way to suit your tastes with different spices or flavorings, different fruit, cornmeal or oatmeal instead of flour. To be really honest, they are kind of hard to mess up as long as you have the general proportions correct. The following recipe has a great autumn feel to it, the appples are still a little crisp and the cranberries add just the right amount of tart.

Apple & Dried Cranberry Crisp
From Gourmet Magazine, 1993

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits
9 McIntosh apples (about 3 pounds)

In a small saucepan simmer the cranberries, the cinnamon stick, and the water for 10 minutes. Drain the cranberries and remove the cinnamon stick. In a small bowl blend the flour, the brown sugar, the salt, and the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal and toss the mixture well. Peel, core, and slice the apples thin and in a buttered 9- by 13-inch glass dish toss them with the cranberries. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the fruit and bake the crisp in a preheated 400°F. oven for 25 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the topping is golden.

October 14, 2010

She don't do dough

 My mom is a lot of things and talented in the kitchen is really close to the top of the list. She routinely makes awesome meals for my Dad, for me, for friends and for family. She tackles every ethnic background from Mexican to Italian, Thai, Moroccan and Americana and manages not to just make it edible, but most often incredible.

But everyone has an Achilles heel and my moms self admitted weakness is baking.

She has at least 3 recipes for "no fail pie dough", recipes for cookies, cakes and brownies and probably hasn't made any of them for 20+ years.  She has a kind of fear of baking mainly because of the exact-ness of the process. If she can't adjust as she goes, tweak seasonings or salt, substitute accordingly based upon what she has on hand she is equivalent to a frustrated artist. In her very own words "She don't do dough".

After a trip to Santa Fe with girlfriends wrapped around cooking and killer restaurants my Mom came home with new cookbooks and recipes and enthusiasm for southwestern cooking.

I came over tonight to find her with beautiful stuffed chiles, guajillo chile & pumpkin seed sauce, a beautiful salad and enough blue corn gnocchi to feed a family of 20.

With flour smeared on her cheek and a touch of self righteousness to her tone, she told me the tale of making blue corn gnocchi that started a few hours prior to my arrival. She read the recipe a few times to make sure she had all the ingredients and understood the steps. Followed the instructions to a tee.....And still wound up with dough too wet to make gnocchi. She then consulted other cookbooks for advice and adjusted as needed until the dough "felt" right and finally found she had the right consistency. When she found the right consistency, she also found she had enough gnocchi dough for about 20 people instead of for just the three of us.

So while getting recipes from well known restaurant chef's is a fun thing, be forewarned, the recipes may not always turn out as well as what you get in the restaurant. Perhaps the potatoes weren't dry enough. The eggs a smidge to large. The fog in Ventura made the dough too wet....it could have been any number of things that made the dough not quite right the first go-round.

In the end we enjoyed the stuffed chiles, gnocchi and sauce immensely.Tomorrow, she will freeze the 4 pounds of leftover gnocchi for future use.

And I have a beautiful picture in my head of Mom with flour on her face and defiance in her eyes because, damn it, she conquered the dough.

October 3, 2010

Love my presents!

You remember when your parents would go on vacation as a kid and the best part about them coming home was when they unpacked their suitcases and gave you your presents from wherever they had been?

My parents have always been great traveling gift givers, I have cool stuff from all over the world....and totally not your run of the mill key chains, snow globes or I *heart* "whatever" tee shirts. I get stuff like Murano glass bottle openers and cheese knives from Italy, possum fur & merino wool and peacock feather scarves from New Zealand, earrings in the shape of halibut from Alaska (lucky fishing earrings!) and so many other cool and unusual gifts I can't even begin to list. But when it comes to goodies from vacation and my Dad....I always love the edibles he brings home because he is the ultimate hunter gatherer.

We get caribou, halibut & salmon from Alaska, venison, duck & rabbit from California, elk from Colorado, crawfish from June Lake and all manner of fish from Mexico. God love the man, he knows how to hunt and fish and brings home the proverbial bacon on a regular basis. If I had the ability to take time off during hunting season, I'd be with him in a shot, but I generally have to work and therefore only get to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

So at the beginning of September when hunting/fishing/vacation season opened for my Pop's, Mom and I just asked that he bring home goodies for us.

And because my Dad kicks ass, he did.

He went to Washington and brought home salmon and rock fish, turned around and went to Colorado and brought home elk, stayed for all of 4 days and drove to Baja and brought home tuna, dorado & triggerfish and is leaving in four days to go deer hunting in the sierras. He also promised to get crawdads in June Lake if he had a chance to dive.....

Have I mentioned that I love the man?????

Tonight I joined him for fish tacos where it was the battle of Washington versus Baja....or rockfish versus dorado.

Really a simple dinner, but Dad wanted to taste the fish side by side to see which he preferred fried. Me? I just wanted it wrapped up in a tortilla with cabbage, salsa, guacamole, cotija cheese & white sauce. Perfection.

Of the two fish, we both agreed the rockfish won hands down. The dorado, while perfectly tasty and wonderful, was drier-similar to halibut when fried. The rockfish stayed juicy and flaky but still held it's shape beautifully.

Cheers, here's to gifts from the sea, thanks Dad!