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

February 17, 2011

Waiting With Bated Breath

Valentine’s Dinner Off the Hook
Okay, I figured I’d better wait a few days so no one feels guilty or under the gun to try and compete with this on short notice… (BTW this is Jen's Mom writing this one) :)

For the last several years our husbands make up for any shenanigans they may have foisted upon us by planning some sort of Valentine surprise for us. We look forward to it with eager anticipation as it’s the one time of the year we’re totally pampered and waited on hand and foot by our men. The content of the event is a total mystery until the last minute.

It started with one of the guys making dinner for his sweetie and expanded to three couples. We’ve been wined and dined in the finest style, whisked away to the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite, spa’ed at Ojai Valley Inn. One year they “stole” our cars while working out and had a limo waiting to drive us back home (a 10 minute limo ride) to a gourmet meal they’d prepared. And let’s not forget the Cajun Extravaganza that had enough delectable’s to feed a small zip code. We actually had to have a “day after” party to eat it all.

I should note that while we do love to travel and do the out of town thing, what really gets us giddy is for them to cook us a nice dinner. Did I mention that they won’t let us in the kitchen, they wait on us AND clean up the kitchen? I know I’m a lucky lady and I’ll re-up his contract based on this one special day a year.

This year we were told the day before to be out of our respective homes by 1:30 PM. Hmmm, 3 houses? Perhaps a progressive dinner? I’m the nosiest of the girls so I drive everyone nuts trying to figure it our each year. One day I’ll grow up. Maybe.

They instructed us to go have a drink someplace. As we didn’t want to be “on our lips” by dinner time we chose to do what any red blooded American woman would do. We shopped. At 4 PM we were summoned while resting our feet in the Macy’s shoe department. We were to proceed to Mary Jane’s home where the guys had been slaving away all day.

Oh yes… A five course feast with matched wines awaited. They made it all themselves (nary a Bristol Farm or TJ product on the table) outsourcing only the Crème Brule from Jen (Yes, the one who usually posts in this blog.) We’re still collectively sighing.

Valentine’s Dinner February 13, 2011
1st Course

Assorted Cheese and Fruit Platter
Kiwis, apples, pears, blackberries, yellow and red raspberries
Brie, smoked gouda, gorgonzola and crackers
Wente Chardonnay

2nd Course

Seared Sea Scallops w/ lemon mustard crust
Beringer Chardonnay

3rd Course
Marinated Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Recipe Can be found at: Marinated Shrimp and Avocado Salad
It’s a keeper!
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

4th Course Grilled Salmon with Lobster Hollandaise, Roasted Baby Potatoes, Asparagus
Paraiso Pinot Noir 2008
Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2008

5th Course
The Best Crème Brule in the World (You’ll have to ask Jen for the recipe)
Tobin James Zinfandel 2008
Wow, huh?!!??! And there’s only 361 days until the next one.

February 9, 2011

Lake Yes

For those of you that are local to the Ventura County are, you should be aware of a large body of water that lies within the Ventura/Ojai area and is famous for a few things.

Lake Casitas was the site for the rowing competitions in the 1984 Olympics, the rings are still visible on the docks.

Johnny Cash used to fish and drink there....and is known for the drinking more than the fishing as he was known to pass out on the boat and get "lost". Law enforcement may have been involved once or twice.

Big mouth bass fishing, some of the largest bass in the state, are recorded at this lake.

By people who know how to fish for the darn things, of course.

For people like me and most of my friends, the lake is better known as Lake "No" or Lake "No Fish" because seriously??? For 30 something years I have fished at that lake and only recently have I been successful at catching anything other than a buzz.

Yay for besties & buzzes!

But in the last couple of years there are fewer and fewer boats on the lake due to the quarantine of boats based upon the possibility of importing the rather destructive Quagga Mussel from another body of water. Quarantining your boat is quite frankly a pain in the butt to say the least but it has one very nice advantage.

Whereas on a beautiful day four years ago there would be dozens of boats on the lake all trying to hook the big one, nowadays you are likely to find 10 or less boats on the lake on any given day. Less boats = less people on them to fish = more fish willing to jump on to the end of my worm laden hook.

So far this year I've been out twice and have cruised around the lake with my bestie and fishing buddy, picnicked in sheltered coves and caught 3 large mouth bass and one bluegill. My friends did pretty darn good too, catching 2 fish each, all of very respectable size.

Large Mouth Bass!

So Proud!

But fishing is very hard work....so you have to come outfitted with provisions with which to keep your energy up and your morale high (in case the fish happen not to be biting). So our standard is to hit the lake with a cooler full of beverages of an alcoholic nature (morale boosters), bottles of water (to keep hydrated) and various forms of what I consider to be picnic food (ballast).

(Because one beverage might not be enought we always bring a variety)

One day it is cheese, crackers, prosciutto and fruit, the next day it might be pita chips with assorted dips, olives and spreads. Whatever the selections it needs to fit a few criteria to be considered for a boat picnic as the space is limited, cooler space is reserved primarily for beverages and damn it, I am not eating crap food just because I am on a boat doing something outdoorsy.

This last trip I went with the pita chips and dip, but also wanted some protein in the mix. A quick inventory of the fridge and a consult online and I had a perfect "entree" for us on the boat. Light and tasty, it was perfect as a munchie on my pita chips, but would also be pretty awesome as a sandwich in between some good chewy bread.

Chicken Salad with Red Grapes and a Bleu Cheese Sherry Vinaigrette

2 Chicken Breasts, skinned & deboned
3 cups chicken broth

1 cup Red Grapes, Quartered
3 Stalks Celery, diced 1/4"
3 Green Onions, chopped

1 Egg Yolk
1 T Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup Crumbled Bleu Cheese
1 T Sherry Vinegar
2 T Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Olive Oil

Poach the chicken breasts gently in the broth (not boiling), remove and cool before chopping in to 1/4-1/2 inch chunks. Mix in with the grapes, celery & onions.

In a food processor, blend the yolks, mustard, bleu cheese & vinegar. Drizzle in the olive oil bit by bit until it is blended completely. Season with Salt & Pepper to taste.

Mix in with chicken and chill. This gets even better as it sits and thinks about itself.
Salt & Pepper to Taste.