Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does your Garden Grow?

My dad has grown a garden almost all of my life. As a kid, we helped out in the garden (again, free prison labor), but it was nice to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Probably the only reason my older sister and I love vegetables, is because of the garden.  For those of you who don't know a chard from a collard, or maybe are panicking because you thought collard was the thing dogs wear around their necks, here is quick preview of my backyard garden.
And if you are wondering why I am not taking pictures of the garlic, onions, beets, carrots, or turnips (we are growing them too!), umm, that is because they grow, um, below the ground, so um, it's hard to, um, take photos of them.

Spring garden mid season
Collard Greens
Russian Kale

Swiss Chard

Romaine Lettuce

Red Leaf Lettuce

And for a quick example of what one can do with a fresh garden, see below.
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
I used fresh lettuce from the garden, romaine, bib, red leaf, and tender beet green leaves
4 beets, washed, trimmed, cooked and peeled
1 package (2 oz) of goat cheese
candied walnuts (I made my own, but that was too complicated. It's called a grocery store people)
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
I did not raise the goat or make the cheese, although some people do. If you want to know where goat cheese comes from, open your browser on your computer, type in and then in the search box type in GOAT.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I love Thai Food!

My dad and I went to a little Thai restaurant in Escondido the other night.  It's called Padthai Restaurant (original, I know) and is located in Central Escondido.

The place is small, but well decorated and has a great ambiance (big fish tank and all). It received good reviews and is reasonably priced. However, the service is not the greatest.  What I mean is that they take your order, leave you for a long time, bring out your food, leave you for a long time, and then come with a check.  Which is fine for me, especially if I am not in a hurry or if I am talking with someone else.

It is located right next door to an Asian market, which is always fun to go into. Love looking at all the different foods. I also like looking through their spices to see what is customary in other cultures. And the globby, gelatinous fish products are always neat to see.

The food was great!  My dad got Three Kings, which is beef, chicken and pork with vegetables in a spicy soy based sauce.  The rice comes out of molds, so that they are shaped into flowers, hearts, or leaves. My dad got a rice flower.

I got Duck Curry, which is duck, pineapple, and vegetables in a red curry and coconut milk sauce. And a heart shaped rice. It was delicious!!!! I got mine at a 4 and it was exactly the right spiciness.
So if you are looking for good Thai food in my area, this is the place to go. Otherwise, Spices Thai Café in Rancho Bernardo is my favorite Thai restaurant.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chicken Salad

View from Torrey Pines State Park
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”   - J.Steinbeck

Once it starts to warm up around here, my mom has a 'no oven ' rule. She hates to run the oven in the summer, especially since our house never has had air conditioner. This means we have to be creative with recipes that involve no cooking, stove cooking, microwave cooking or grill cooking.

My dad uses a charcoal grill. So when he decides to cook something, that means we need to take advantage of the coals and cook everything. So BBQ chicken night turns into cook more chicken for leftover night, cook hot dogs night, or cook every ounce of some form of steak in our freezer night.  We end up eating leftover grilled chicken for a week after that! It gets to the point where I'll eat any other kind of meat. Any meat! Just no more chicken!  "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." LOL.

In the interest of making the boring, well, less boring, we have experimented with a couple of chicken salad recipes in the last few months. Both were different from the traditional chicken salad (which I love) and kind of fun to try. Sorry no photos.

I found the original recipes on I love that site!  Both my parents and I always 'enhance' recipes we find to put our own personal touch in. So the recipes I post are never the exact same as the original source.  However, I do recommend as a great source for recipes!

8 Cup Chicken Salad (my mom calls it this because it calls for about 8 cups of stuff)
3 cups of chicken, cooked and chopped/cubed
1 c of chopped celery
¼ cup chopped green onions (about two)
1 c of chopped apples
1 c mix of red and green bell peppers chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp paprika
1/3 c mayo (more if desired)
Ground pepper to taste
½ tsp seasoned salt if desired
In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise with paprika and seasoned salt if using. Blend in dried cranberries, celery, bell pepper, onion, and nuts. Add chopped chicken, and mix well. Season with black pepper to taste. Chill 1 hour.
Camp Pendleton, Oceanside

Fruity Curry Chicken Salad

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cooked and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1 Golden Delicious apple -  diced

1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
In a medium bowl, mix together. Chill 1 hour.
If anyone has suggestions for non oven summer foods, please feel free to let me know!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

East Indian Lamb Curry

Soooo... If you are ever in the position where you have leftover lamb that you don't know what to do with, then this recipe is for you. Seriously, this recipe is for you. It is delicious, restaurant quality food. Wait, why do we say restaurant quality, when everyone know that home cooked meals are far superior than restaurants?  Hmm.
Anyway, I am going to try this recipe with chicken next to see if it will do well. Or maybe pork.  It was sort of complicated. My mom's recipes usually are. By the way, I DID NOT cook this. My mom did!  People think that I am always coming out with amazing food. Well... I am. But at least half of what I post is my mom's creations. I always try to give her credit though.

Notice there is no actual curry powder in this recipe. That is because curry is made of all these other spices. My mom ended up creating her own curry. If you love Indian food, you will probably love this. It was so rich in flavor.  And not linear flavor, but there was a depth to the flavorings.

East Indian Lamb Curry
Substituted chili for cayenne, did not chop up pepper. In addition, grated fresh ginger instead of paste, did not add tomato. Simmered meat with first group of seasoning for about 20-30 minutes, then add all other ingredients except yogurt (only had buttermilk) Once onions tender, add buttermilk (yogurt in future) and turned off the heat and stirred it in. Took cardamom seeds out of pod. Scooped out the cloves, seeds and bay leaves before adding onions and spices.
1 1/2 lbs. boneless lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1 black cardamom pod
1 (2 inch) cinnamon sticks
10 peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger paste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 Heat oil in large pan; add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves.
2 When leaves begin to sizzle and fragrance starts to release, add onions and sauté until light golden, about 12-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
3 Stir in the ginger paste, garlic, chili pepper, and lamb.
4 Season the lamb with salt; continue cooking, stirring mix, for about 20 minutes more, adding a little water if necessary to keep food from sticking.
5 Add turmeric, coriander powder, cayenne, and garam masala; stir for 5 minutes, adding 2 tablespoons water.
6 Add diced tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
7 Then add 4 cups of water and simmer for 15 minutes, or until meat is getting tender.
8 Lower the heat
9 Whisk the yogurt with a fork; and add to the pot slowly.
10 Then cook until meat is done to your liking and sauce is thickened.
11 Garnish with cilantro leaves.
12 Serve with steamed basmati rice

 If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. - Tolkien

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't Pass this Over

Passover and Easter are a great time of the year for me, food wise. Well, okay, there is more to those days than just food. LOL. This year, we celebrated both Passover and Easter. We went over to my sister's in-laws for Easter and had a fabulous luncheon! Fabulous!! So much food, I thought we were having Thanksgiving. My dad was out of town for both of those, but we had a quiet Passover celebration with my mom, sister and brother in law. We didn't do the full on ceremony, which could take hours.  Even still, it took us about 1 hour before we ate and then about 15 more minutes for the after eating part of the ceremony. I blasted our Jewish folk music from when I was a child. My sister is not a fan, but I love it.  My mom made lamb stuffed with garlic on the grill. After she bought the lamb, we discovered you  aren't supposed to eat lamb for Passover. There are probably a lot of things you are or are not supposed to do that we did wrong, but we enjoyed it. It was still a special night of remembrance.
The reason the poached egg looks brownish is because my mom grilled it on the grill! Weird. We peeled it a few days later and this is what it looked like. We, of course, did not eat it because it stood out for a while. This is what it looks like after it has been peeled. 
Speaking of eggs, I participated in the Poway Easter Egg Hunt. We blew through about 23,000 eggs this year. Fun event!

Anyway, I made Tabouleh for Passover. Love that stuff.
Here is my recipe.
1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat (or couscous or quinoa)
1 bunch green onions, chopped (or chives or scallions)
1 cucumber, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 bunch of parsley, de-stemmed and chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
juice of 2 lemons or to taste
4 tbsp. olive oil
Or if you are in a hurry, buy the Near East box mix of Tabouleh.  Add in the vegetables, oil and lemon. I personally love the parsley and mint taste, but my sister uses cilantro instead of mint or parsley and that tastes great too!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Classic 50's Chippy's Diner

Mom and I tried out the new diner in Escondido. Chippy's Diner took over the Metaphor Café, which is awesome because it was seedy to begin with. Grosser once it was abandoned. Chippy's is on the corner of E. 2nd Ave and Juniper.  They just opened up this past February. You can check out the article in the Union Tribune.

I liked their look. Full of black and white checks, some vintage décor, old Coke stuff. It was quiet when we went there as it was lunch time. However, they are still brand new and have not even completed renovating. Part of the eating area was curtained off because they haven't completed that part yet. One day they probably will have juke boxes and more wall art, but they aren't quite there yet. I just like to support local establishments, especially one's that are trying to get up and running. I know how that is, after working for 2 locally and independently owned establishments.

Besides all that, the food was pretty good. Mom got a Reuben and I bought a cheeseburger. The cheeseburger was very good. I feel that if the meat is not marinated or flavored in some way, it is BORING!  This was not. The owner was a chef for several restaurants before this, so he knows his stuff. Oh, and besides, they serve Coca Cola, not Pepsi!  So booyah Pepsi lovers.

But the fries were what I loved the most. Their signature fries are served with scatterings of balsamic vinegar and minced garlic and sprinkled with parsley and parmesan cheese. Very delightful.

And don't forget the pickle!

They leave you with little candies with the check too. Saltwater taffy and bubble gum. So cute.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What? Your Chicken is Orange?....Gross

I think I mentioned in a previous blog that I credited my cooking skills to my ex-husband. You think I would remember since there only has been three previous blogs. Anyway, he was the one that taught me actual skills. My parents have always taught us to be adventurous eaters. Now that we are grown and appreciate my mom's cooking more, she gets to be more fun and creative than when we were kids.

And how does she do it, you ask? Well, Seth, I can explain if you just CALM DOWN! For example, she does this thing where she finds random ingredients on the shelf that she wants to use and Googles recipes with those ingredients. Then she combines two or more recipes to make her own. Creates her own awesome stuff.

This is the chicken she made the other day. I was told that it looked like P.F. Chang's, and it does. But it is waaaayyy tastier than P.F.! It had depth to the flavor and the sweet of the pineapple complimented the zesty orange and ginger nicely.

 All the credit goes to my mom for this one. The notes are hers. So I am calling it:

Mom's Better than P.F. Chang's Orange Chicken

4 boneless skinless white breast meats OR
(I cooked a bag of frozen popcorn chicken in a little oil until it was crunchy and heated/cooked through. Took that out of the pan and made the sauce. Just pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve over rice.)

Orange Sauce-
1 ½ cups orange juice (fresh squeezed)
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon orange zest-grated
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
 ½ teaspoon ginger root (I grated it)
1 teaspoon garlic (used garlic press- several cloves- I always put more than it calls for)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (can add more if not hot enough)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
 2 tablespoons green onion-chopped

Combine orange juice and soy sauce and blend well over medium heat for a minute. Stir in pineapple, orange zest, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.
Combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and mix thoroughly. Slowly stir cornstarch mixture into sauce until it thickens. Pour sauce over chicken, and if desired, garnish with green onions.