Monday, May 31, 2010

California Black Bean Huevos Rancheros with homemade salsa

Saturday was a very special day for me.  My Arabian horse came home, after two years of living on a ranch in Paso Robles.  It was a matter of economics, and an offer I couldn't refuse, to move her 120 miles away.  "Savvy" has been well looked after and she was doing well. The problem was, I wasn't.  I found myself longing to brush her, feed her carrots, nuzzle her mane and to appreciate what only a true horse person can understand-- that "equine smell" of horse sweat, with notes of mustiness and ... well, horse. As luck would have it, someone I have known for decades owns a ranch about 12 miles from my home.  Charlene graciously offered to trailer my mare for the two-hour long haul back to Salinas, California. Excitedly, I called out to my girl, "Savvy!!" and I could hear her whinny as the trailer pulled in to her new home.  She unloaded a bit stiffly, so we took her into the arena.  It took less than a minute for her to sniff, paw and find just the right place to buckle her front knees and plop down for a good roll.

Savannah Sue, has officially checked out her new home and I was grinning from ear to ear. I missed that 27 year old horse more than I imagined!   Her new digs are quite lovely, I must say.  It's also a good 20-30 degrees cooler. I wilt in weather that is higher than my coastal 70-80 degrees. While Savvy got to sniff around, and her new neighbors came to check her out....

...we drove up to the main house. The owners are away at their second home in Hawaii. Nice, huh?

The top right photo is not a small house. It's a "Chicken Condo".  I'd say that there won't be a coyotes, foxes nor or any kind of predator that can get to these chickens!  Next door, is a more typical chicken coop with Mr. Rooster. The caretaker handed me a carton of fresh eggs, freshly laid that day!  Score!!  After brushing my horse, and feeding her carrots, we headed home.  I felt like all is right with my world, just  knowing that my horse was 15 minutes away from home.  
This morning, I pondered how to enjoy these eggs.  If you've never tried farm fresh eggs, I can tell you that the yolks are more yellow. I personally believe that they taste better.  Huevos Rancheros, I decided, would be perfect. I fact, just last week, I had  received a box of California Grown Avocados-- courtesy of the Foodbuzz  Tastemaker Program.  I've been enjoying them a few different ways (which I will blog very soon).  All I needed was salsa, but my homegrown tomatoes aren't ready.  Pioneer Woman to the rescue! Fortunately, I stockpile canned tomatoes in all size, shapes and flavors.  You need a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, a can of Rotel Tomatoes-- which I didn't have. I simply added minced mild green chilis, which are a pantry staple in my home. A food processor makes this a breeze to make:

You also need onion, fresh jalapeno, fresh cilantro and a garlic clove.  If you've never worked with jalapenos, just remember a few things-- the membrane holds all the heat. Remove the seeds, too, and wash your hands! If you accidentally rub your eyes, you will be very sorry! If you hate cilantro (Chinese Parsley), leave it out. Thankfully, we love cilantro and grow it in my own backyard.

Toss all of your ingredients into the food processor. Add 1/4 tsp of cumin (or more, if you wish), a pinch of sugar and salt, and fresh lime juice.  I coarsely cut the canned mild green chilis and then pulsed these ingredients about 3 times-- we don't want puree!

Now add the undrained tomatoes and pulse this a few more times. Taste with a tortilla chip. Mine needed more salt. Yummy!
TASTING NOTES: I see no reason for me to buy salsa in the deli section nor jars at the grocery store.  This is much easier to make, and you can adjust the "heat".  1 whole jalapeno gave this some kick.  1/2 jalapeno would be more my preference, but my boys like it hot. If you want mild,leave out the jalapenos, altogether but don't skip the minced green onion. If you have Rotel tomatoes (which are tomatoes with mild green chili peppers, and some seasonsings) that works, too.  Salsa is ready. Next, you need eggs, a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), corn tortillas and cheese. I used Cotija cheese.

I lightly cooked each tortilla in a little vegetable oil, until soft. Then I drained and patted it with paper towels.
Now for those lovely eggs-- sunny side up.  To the black beans I added a bit of chicken stock to make them a little moist,  and mashed them just a little bit-- or, you could puree them.  Since the salsa has kick to it, I didn't season the beans. Let's build it-- layer 2-3 corn tortillas. Next, some beans and a little bit of Cotija cheese. I decided to broil it for about 30 seconds, to melt the cheese. Next the salsa, then the eggs.  Sprinkle with a little more cheese and slices of avocado.

We were so hungry that I didn't photograph the egg-- which was cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of beautiful yolk.  I've provided printable recipes for the Huevos Rancheros and the Homemade Salsa, at the very bottom of this post. I hope you'll try this. We loved it.

I'm looking forward to spending more time with my horse-- and more fresh farm eggs wouldn't be so bad, either!  UPDATE: My beloved mare went to her pasture in the sky, just a month after I posted this.  I have decided to keepher photos on this post, in memory of the joy she brought into my life.

Happy Summer!

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Grilling Season Family Favorites

Tomorrow is a holiday that has been marked as a time to remember our fallen soldiers-- men and women-- who have given their lives for our country.  Second to that, it's a time for us to officially remove our winter covers from our Weber or gas grills.  I am so enjoying grilled steaks, chicken, salmon and vegetables.  I thought I'd share with you some grilling recipes, side dishes and desserts that I plan to make for my family-- now that the late California rains have stopped and we are enjoying 70 degree weather. Perfect.  The photo you see, above, is Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip-- which is one of my top viewed recipes.  Next to brisket (which I have yet to master grilling), this is my husband's very favorite grilled meal of all time.  Is this a little to rare for you?  Just cook it a bit longer!  I love this best between two slices of grilled bread with a schmear of mayo and Dijon. If you like the flavor of garlic, this recipe is for you! 

Ina Garten's Butterflied Grilled Chicken  (Spatchcock chicken) -- juicy & flavorful. 

It's a little too early for my homegrown tomatoes to be ready, but when they are...

Bruschetta Burgers are just around the corner!

Mmmm, Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Burgers with fresh pineapple rings.  I also show you a pretty cool gadget that makes slicing pineapples really easy.  How about some side dishes?

If you want break away from traditional American potato salad, with mayonnaise, my mother's German Potato Salad will be a hit at your party. 

This Antipasto Salad feeds a crowd, and isn't too complicated to make.  The quick marinated mushrooms are out of this world-- don't bother with buying these in a jar. I could have eaten a huge bowl of these, all by myself!

This classic Broccoli salad is a sure hit!

Strawberry season is in full swing This beautiful salad is a tribute to our locally grown fresh spinach, too.  The poppy seed dressing is out of this world-- one of my very favorite dressings.  I also use it as a slaw dressing. So good!

I'm going to be making the Pioneer Woman's Cheesy Garlic Bread, tomorrow, for two reasons-- #1 this is one of my earliest photos (before I discovered my macro button and natural lighting) and #2 This is the best garlic bread ever-- fattening as all get out, but delicious!  I want to take new photographs that will do this recipe more justice.

Cook's Illustrated Strawberry Cream Cake will be our weekend dessert. So good!

 Just click on each recipe name, and you will find the printable recipes.  Happy Grilling!

I hate to cut this round-up short, but my horse is twenty minutes from arriving at her new ranch.  I haven't seen her for nine months, so I am going to race out the door with a bag of fresh carrots for Savannah Sue.  I'm so excited!  Enjoy your weekend, everyone!  I know that I will!

A very happy,

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Eggs in Baskets with Candied Bacon & Eggland's Best Picked me as a Grand Prize Winner!

Last week, I had a very unexpected surprise sent to me via an Email from Foodbuzz.  Last February, I redeemed a coupon for a dozen eggs from Eggland's Best Eggs, that was sent to me as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program.  I was delighted, because I love their eggs. Truthfully, I do pay a little extra when it comes to buying eggs. I really can taste the difference as compared to commercially inexpensive eggs.   I decided to make Eggs in Purgatory, which turned out to be healthy and delicious.

I  uploaded the photos of my dish onto Eggland's Best's Foodbuzz Web page, and that was that.
Three months later, the email said that  I won the Grand Prize from Eggland's Best!  I've finally been given the green light to announce this, since it's now posted.  What did I win? I'll tell you, after I share with you another egg recipe that I made with-- what else-- Eggland's Eggs.  I was inspired to make this while channel surfing, and I caught a Food Network show that I rarely watch (not enough time in the day). The show is called "Cooking for Real" and I decided to improvise a bit. 'Nuff said, let me just show you:
 Instead of using Prosciutto, I decided to make Candied Bacon.   My family is very happy (and greedy) when I make this. If you've never tried this technique, you will thank me if you do.  The saltiness of the bacon, with a brown sugar glaze coating... even I-- the not-so-wild-about-bacon-person has a hard time resisting these. It takes about 25 minutes to make these, so I started these in the oven, first.  Once they were finished, I let them cool a bit, and chopped them...

Make extra.  Trust me.  I had to fend off hungry hands from snatching these!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Perfectly Seared Scallops & Pasta, adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Today was one of those days-- the kind where I'm driving home, from a hard day at the office, and I dread the thought of coming home to cook.  Then again, I didn't want to go out to eat because we're tightened up our budget a bit-- we recently bought the house we've been living in for a few years. While we don't regret our investment, we're a little cash poor for a while. With that said, I resigned myself to trying to figure out a recipe that would be quick and didn't require a stop at the grocery store.  I did a mental inventory of my freezer...frozen scallops!  I remembered seeing Jaden Hair's recipe for Scallops & Pasta that she posted on Tasty Kitchen (The Pioneer Woman's recipe blog for her fans). Thawing scallops is easy-- I soaked them in a little water for about 20 minutes and patted them very, very dry.  Trust me, this is a very important thing to do:

These are giant scallops that I bought at Costco, several months ago. They're reasonably priced.

Be sure to remove the "foot".  It's easy to spot, because it separates very easily from the scallop.  If you forget to do this (which I have), it's a bit chewy.  Pat the scallops again, because you want them very dry.  Otherwise, you'll end up "steaming" the scallops, and that's not as pretty or tasty as a golden sear.  There's some prep work to do:

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bacon, Potato, Rosemary & Fontina Cheese Pizza, by Tyler Florence (heaven on a plate)

Tyler Florence... yes, he's eye candy on his Food Network show "Tyler's Ultimate".  But, I can personally attest to two things-- he's very down-to-earth, and approachable, because I had the privilege to meet him when he was a guest at our local Harvest Festival, in Carmel Valley.  I can also say, with authority, that he's an awesome chef. I was the lucky recipient of a plate of food he prepared at the Harvest Festival-- it was delicious.  What I like about Tyler Florence is that he creates recipes that are outside-the-box. He's uses flavor combinations that I find myself wanting to try for myself. Such was the case, when I watched Tyler Florence make this recipe on this season's episode on "Tyler's Ultimate".  First, the pizza crust, which took about 15 minutes for me to make, with the assistance of my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and a dough hook:

Let's talk about yeast, shall we?  Do not fear!  I prefer to use SAF instant yeast, because I don't have to do the 5-10 minute wait of mixing rapid rise yeast with sugar (or honey). However, I still had some active dry yeast, so I decided to try Tyler Florence's pizza crust recipe (I'm still in-love with my King Arthur Flour Pizza Crust recipe, with semolina flour). Use very warm water (no more than 110F) mixed with sugar and yeast.  The top left photo shows the bubbling action that started. This is a good sign!  To six cups of unbleached flour (I never used bleached flour... bleach in my food? Yep, that's how the cheap stuff is done). I am a loyal King Arthur Flour customer), add kosher salt, (and I added the KAF pizza dough flavor) and then add the bubbly yeast-water-sugar combo.... (printable recipe is at the bottom of this post). You can do this by hand, and the printable recipe tells you how. Me? I like technology and I let the dough hook do all the mixing and hard work...

Ya gotta add olive oil to pizza dough. It's the right thing to do!  Now mix this dough until it feels right-- too crumbly add a little more water-- which is what I did. I added about 2 Tablespoons more water, until it felt elastic-y (is that a word?)  If it too soft, add a little more flour.  On a lightly floured surface, I kneaded this a few times, folding it over itself until it seemed elastic. See?  Now, into a lightly oiled bowl, when the dough. I don't have a warming drawer, so I turn the oven on to WARM and then turn it off a few minutes later.  The bowl is covered with plastic (I use a dough doubler with a tight lid) and then I left the house for three hours...which is totally unnecessary-- one hour would have done the trick!

Hello?!  That's a lot of pizza dough. I very gently deflated the dough with my fist...  now to prepare the topping:

Bacon... my husband's aphrodisiac.  I keep applewood bacon in my freezer. It's much easier to cut, so I don't both to defrost it.  After reading reviews on this recipe, I decided to pre-cook the bacon...

I love my cast iron skillet, now that I finally learned how to season it and take care of it-- that's another blog post...

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cinnamon Toast the Pioneer Woman Way

***Welcome Pinterest Visitors!  I'm so glad you decided to clink on this recipe, that has suddenly gone viral on Pinterest.  I do hope you like what you see, will take the take to leave a comment, and I hope you'll come back to visit.  This is one of my earliest recipe-- taken with my old point-and-shoot camera (and my photography has much improved over the last few years).  I've got hundreds more since I started this blog in 2008.  Enjoy, and you'll find a printable recipe card at the very end of this post**
I have a confession to make.  I strive to cook "real food". By that, I mean that I like to cook meals for my family, using fresh ingredients-- organic, as much as possible.  You will never find a tub of frozen fake whipped topping or canned cream soups in my pantry. I make all of my cakes and cookies from scratch. Sounds impressive?  So, here's my confession-- I still love "comfort foods"! I also have a sweet tooth (ya think?)  

When I was in high school, I can  remember racing to the cafeteria to buy a slice of  their famous cinnamon toast.  It sold out in minutes, because most of the student body loved it as much as I did.  If I was lucky enough to make it in line, a cafeteria worker would lift a piece of cinnamon toast, off a baking sheet. Score! I can remember savoring that  crunchy piece of bread with a heavenly balance of cinnamon and butter.  It was more than butter toast, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

I can't begin to describe it, but I longed for some of that toast many, MANY years later. I gave up trying to recreate it-- until the Pioneer Woman posted her version of making cinnamon toast on her blog.   Ree Drummond is evil.  She has no shame when it comes to ways of cooking and baking with butter.   I wondered, was this the long-lost recipe?

I mean, how hard is it to make cinnamon toast? You toast bread, slather it with softened butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar. Right? Well... this version has two simple little twists. I mean, eensie weensie changes that are so darn simple, that I wonder why I didn't think of it myself?

On a Saturday morning, this was destined to be made.The night before, I removed a stick of butter so it would be nice and soft... this morning, I preheated the oven to 350F.

Do you really need a recipe for cinnamon toast?  Butter? Check. Cinnamon? Check. Vanilla? What? That's Ree's secret ingredient-- vanilla. That's Twist #1. Brilliant!  Nutmeg, optional? Next time. I'll play it safe. Oh, and that's my DEMY Digital Recipe Reader**. I had already copied and pasted Ree's recipe so I had it handy. I love this new toy of mine. I have all of my recipes at my fingertips-- literally.
** NOTE: Many of my readers have bought the Digital Recipe Reader. Just know, that you will need to start a FREE account with Key Ingredient . You can, easily, create your own recipe card, which will "sync" to your recipe reader.  It takes about one minute, to create a recipe card. Yes, you can cut and paste recipes. I store all of my recipe cards on Key Ingredient, that you see at the bottom of each post.  

Back to the recipe...

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stovetop Cracked Fingerling Potatoes

In our house, we love spuds.  Honestly, I love potatoes, boiled, roasted, mashed, and baked. Mmmm, mmm, mmm.  Whenever I shop at Trader Joe's (weekly) I grab a bag of fingerling potatoes. I just love them!  I've been making this version of "Cracked" potatoes for a few years. I saw it on Food Network-- by the winner of "The Next Food Network Star". Sadly, I've forgotten her name-- her show lasted one season, and she quit to move to France.  Anyway, her original recipe used Yukon Gold Potatoes, and a lot more olive oil than I would normally use.  You can certainly use Yukon, or Red Bliss Potatoes-- just try to buy them "small" and uniform in size. The trick is learning how to "crack" each potato without smashing them. The first few times that I made this recipe, I used too much force and I had potato bits flying across my kitchen counter! You can use a rolling pin-- I have learned to use my meat pounder (the edge). What you want is to see a "fissure". This lets the steam escape.  This is one of the first recipes I ever posted on my blog. It had "zero" comments. I can see why, because the photos were done with flash photography (I don't do that anymore) and they weren't very appealing. I made these, tonight, and took some new shots-- using natural light. I thought I'd re-post the recipe for you. Here we go:

Using either a rubber mallet, rolling pin or a heavy pan, "whack" each potato so that you see a small crack (fissure). (Be careful, or pieces of potato can go flying everywhere!)  Heat oil in skillet to a medium high heat.
Add potatoes and season with kosher salt & pepper.  Add fresh herbs-- I use either fresh rosemary or thyme.  Put the lid onto the skillet. Allow the potatoes to cook at medium high for 2–3 minutes; shake skillet every 2–3 minutes until they start to look browned.  Reduce heat to medium low for approx 20–30 minutes. The larger the potatoes, the longer it will take.

When the potatoes are fork tender, remove lid and add garlic and shake the skillet to distribute evenly.
Allow moisture to evaporate, turn off heat and serve.

You might wonder why I just don't roast the potatoes in the oven... simple! It frees my oven for other things ( don't have a double oven), and I like having the skillet on the stove-- it's easier to keep at eye on it. No matter what, this recipe (actually, I think it's more of a technique) is versatile and is a top favorite with my family.


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Monday, May 10, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (Cook's Illustrated)

Hey! I'm back to blogging in "real time"!  I made these cookie bars a couple of hours ago.  I have two men who are both tall and thin, and they love cookies.  I bookmarked this recipe from Cook's Illustrated a few weeks ago, since the boys love chocolate chip cookies.  I noticed that Donna, from My Tasty Treasures, beat me in posting this very recipe.  What perfect timing!  Bar cookies are my favorite Go To fast dessert. They're perfect for lunch boxes, too.  I'll show you just how fast and easy these are-- and then I'm going to show you my new Mother's Day gift to me! First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.

You need  flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; whisk it andset aside (printable recipe is at the bottom of this post). Whisk 1 1/2 sticks melted butter and sugars in medium large bowl until combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well-- which is why the wet ingredients look an ugly brown...that's from the vanilla!

Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not over mix. Fold in the chips, then... make sure you have a 9x13 baking pan prepared with a foil "sling" and then prepare with non-stick spray. Trust me, a sling makes removing the bar cookies a snap!

Pour the dough into the pan....

Smooth with an off-set spatula (I pressed most of the dough in with my hands, before smoothing it.)

Bake until top is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 27 to 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board.

This version of chocolate chip cookies takes a lot less work to make. With my busy work schedule, these are a blessing!  Now, I want to show you a "toy" that I have wanted to own for a year.  Ready?
This is the newest version of a DEMY Digital Recipe Reader!  The beauty of this technical gadget is that it's a part of Key Ingredient-- which is where Donna and I store all of our recipe cards. If any of you have wondered how I have a printable recipe card at the bottom of each post, well the secret's out now! I have over 400 recipes.  I no longer need to print the recipes. No more bulk binders with protective covers on printed recipes.  I just plugged in my new DEMY and it synced all the recipes-- plus Donna's recipe card-- into my DEMY. I created my own catergories (see above photo).

Look! That's my photo!

Is the print too small? No problem! I hit FONT SIZE...

Much better!

There are built-in substitution lists... very cool!

How about three built-in timers?

There are lots of extra features, too. How much did I pay?  Last year, they were $299.00 and I couldn't justify that cost. Today? I ordered mine at  for $199.00.  Key Ingredient worked out a few bugs from Version #1 (from reviews I read) and the price went down.  Just like iPhones, sometimes it's worth waiting for the next generation, right? Yeah, the price is a bit of an indulgence on my budget-- but I'm worth it!  At least once a year, on Mother's Day, treat myself to something I really, REALLY want-- I'd rather do that than go out to brunch.  I bought this (guilt-free), after a successful side job money making venture of mine that brought in a small windfall. I love this gadget! I can wipe the screen with a damp cloth.  It holds a good battery charge, so I can move it all around my (tiny) kitchen. It's user-friendly.  I position the DEMY to be upright, or at a flatter angle-- the screen automatically turns!  Want one yet?  Oh, how I wish I was a distributor for these!  If I was, I'd sponsor a giveaway so someone can appreciate this ingenious way of storing recipes. Get one, if you can. If you're a techno junkie, like me, this is a foodie's dream toy-- next to a good digital camera. By the way, Jenn at Technical Support for the DEMY was super helpful.  I'm a happy customer.

As always, the printable recipe for these bar cookies are at the bottom of this post. It's from Key Ingredient, and it's also in my DEMY. I'm glad, because at the touch of a button, I can whip another batch up in less than 10 minutes. Thanks, Donna, for inspiring me to make these! By the way it's FREE to join Key Ingredient. I've been a member for well over a year, and love how easy it is to use.

COOKIE VERDICT:  Buttery, chewy, chocolatey-- my boys will eat most of these. I ate one piece, and will stay away from the rest. I'm not as tall and thin as they are!

Your Foodie Techno Junkie,

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