Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Give Me Some Sauce Tuesday/Wednesday or Jamaican Jerk

After a whirlwind weekend wedding we attended in the mountains, we awoke in our superb accommodations to help my son pack his last car and SUV load of belongings for the drive to Denver. After a longer drive than usual we quickly unpacked the SUV and ran it to Costco for new tires. In that time I also cooked dinner and started the washing machine while he started going through his mishmash of belongings in order to decide what to bring to Sonoma. I am now left with his odds and ends of mishmash which I am told I can throw away if I don't think he wants them. Finally, I've got the POWER!

After a very long night of sorting and repacking I went to bed to wake up at 4:45AM to run my husband to the airport for a meeting he had to attend out East. Knowing the crazy day that would ensue I decided to go to the grocery at 6:15 AM to stock my son's ice chest. Never having been to the grocery at such an early time I was amazed at how quickly my shopping was completed. Let's just say my son and his friend will not go hungry on the drive to California. Well, I feel better anyway. They are planning on doing some camping and visiting the parks in Utah on the way. There is no plan, just a goal of reaching Sonoma in time for Alex to start work on Monday and Kyle to catch his flight home on Sunday. What a crazy, fun week for them. Possibly their last spring break or should I say summer break?

So now I am home alone picking up the pieces. My daughter's room looks like the dump zone and the garage is dump zone #2. I'm not quite up for tackling it just yet. But I promise, Zoe; it will be done before you arrive home in August! He left me lots of winter clothes and ski stuff in addition to junk. Well, I guess it wasn't junk to him. I will miss him a lot. But then I miss both of them a lot. However I am happy they can make their journeys and are not afraid to explore. They know we are always there for them and that we believe they are great at standing on their own two feet. But oh how I miss them. I'd bribe them to come back but I believe they will come in their own time. They love Colorado to much. And me!

And so that is the explanation for Give Me Some Sauce Tuesday which is now Give Me Some Sauce Wednesday. I am exhausted! But I did find this great jerk marinade and sauce and thought it fitting, since I feel like my emotions have been jerked around so much! Jerk originated in Jamaica (I must tell you that the j's and the a's have a hard time typing out on my old computer which makes it really hard to type the word Jamaica. I have to go back and add them all and it is driving me crazy.) 

So a little history, but no quiz, I promise. Jerk is believed to be derived from the Dutch work gherk which means pickled or preserved. The original purpose of jerk seasoning wasn't to make the meat spicy, but to preserve it. Jerk could also have been derived from  the act of jerking or shredding the meat off the bone. In Jamaica a group of runaway slaves who were known as the Maroons lived in the country where they hid from the British. They hunted wild pigs and cured the meat on wooden frames. Today jerk is the spice mixture and not a preservative and is made all over Jamaica. 

Jerk has many components but the prominent ones are allspice (known as pimento in Jamaica) and thyme and most importantly Scotch Bonnet peppers which have an intense heat and are similar to habaneros. Last but not least, scallions and ginger, black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, round out the list. You can do a dry rub on jerk and one can use whatever meat or fish you want to jerk. I chose chicken but pork is also common. Jerk should be smoked or it isn't really jerk but I have an easy way to do that if you don't have a smoker. In Jamaica they use pimento wood but I used hickory.

I chose to marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts because that is what is in my freezer. Skin on chicken would have been the better choice because it would have helped keep the chicken from getting too dry. I marinated it about 15 hours and then I smoked the chicken for about 45 minutes on a gas grill. To do this, all you have to do is put some hickory chips in a double thickness aluminum pouch and fold it up tightly. Poke some holes in the pouch for the smoke to escape. Heat the entire grill to high and then turn one side off. Now put a pouch of wood chips on the side that is still lit. Shut your grill and when you see smoke escaping, place your chicken on the side that is turned off. Smoke for about 45 minutes for boneless breasts but be sure to not let the chicken dry out. Also make sure the lid is down so the smoke doesn't escape. Keep basting the chicken with leftover marinade. You may have to add more wood foil packages to keep your smoke going.

I loved this chicken. A mellow, smoky undertone with  a finish of spicy, sweetness was the best way to describe it. The flavor of the ginger and garlic comes through, too. Allspice gives it such a perky flavor and the peppers give it heat. You can finish your chicken with a glaze but I used the glaze recipe to make salad dressing. It was to die for. Add a few tablespoons of water or oil to the glaze and you've got dressing! Or brush the glaze on the chicken the last 5 minutes of cooking to give the chicken more flavor. 

Rather than using the chicken straight up I used it on a salad. Onto a bed of greens I added baked sweet potato chunks, drained black beans, chunks of fresh sweet mango,  fresh sliced red and yellow peppers, chopped green onions and banana chips. Last but not least, I added the sliced chicken breast. I then drizzled the dressing on the top. Yes, it was a healthy meal and the good thing is I have leftovers to do it again. Well, on second thought, maybe I better save some and give it to my husband tomorrow night when he gets home. He will love this!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Marinade  (Makes enough marinade for 4-6 breasts.)

2 T Caribbean hot Sauce (I used Bubba
4 T coarsely chopped garlic
2 T freshly grated ginger
3 scallions chopped
2 T rum
1 1/2 T molasses
1 lime's worth of juice
1 T dark brown sugar
1 1/2 t ground allspice
1 t dried thyme leaves
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t smashed cloves
1 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T canola oil

Combine all ingredients together in a big zip lock back. Poke holes in chicken breasts. Place in bag and make sure each breast is well covered with marinade. Refrigerate for up to 48 hours.

Preheat grill as above and cook chicken for about 45 minutes. Slather with glaze about 5 minutes before chicken is finished. Pull out the Red Stripes, put one some Bob Marley, and pretend you are in Jamaica. Ya Mon.

1/4 c molasses
1/4 c water
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T dark brown sugar
Juice of half a lime
1 smashed garlic clove
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t allspice
1 T Caribbean Hot Sauce

Mix all together. Use as glaze or dressing.  If you use this as dressing, add 2 T oil or water and drizzle over salad.

Check out some more good food, mon:
Smoked Fish Pate
Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta
Farro Summer Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Tuscan Beans and Potatoes

Friday, June 21, 2013

Feeling A Bit Blue Today or Blueberry Nut Bread

This Blueberry Nut Bread, made with maple syrup is quick to make and delicious to eat. This makes any meal special! #blueberries #quick bread #maple

 I'm feeling a bit blue today and it isn't because I discovered this blueberry bread in the fridge this morning. I had made several last week and gave one away to neighbors, but somehow this one was hiding in its loaf pan, on top of the eggs. It kept well and is still moist and good. Blueberry bread is perfect with your tea or coffee, as an afternoon snack, breakfast treat or even for dessert. In that case, top it with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream and some blueberry syrup. You will thank me later.

No, I'm feeling a bit blue because this was posted on my son's Facebook page today. "Officially moving to Sonoma on Monday." We knew it was coming and we are happy for him. But life is a series of hellos and good byes and this is just one more, in many that are still yet to come. He would tell me I'm being a bit dramatic, which I probably am, but I liked knowing he was living in the same state as me. I liked the rush of when he would come home and we could sit and talk around the dinner table with music playing in the background, and the sound of the washing machine signalling the presence of his dirty clothes.

 Music seems to follow my son where ever he goes. And isn't it funny that his guitar teacher who he took lessons from -from the age of 7 until 15- immediately messaged him back and said he lives not far from there.  That his guitar teacher still follows him is soothing to me, and I know they will get together. Well, they better.

Alex will be working here. It looks like a pretty awesome place. They aren't paying him enough but I bet all mothers say that. I hope they treat him better than the last place that didn't deserve him. I bet all mothers say that, too. But he learned a lot. Not just about working, but about himself. He learned that he doesn't need to know a soul to explore the world. And his soul isn't afraid to explore. This is just a stop on the road back to China. I can feel it in my soul.

Jeez, I'm even wearing blue!
I've never been to Sonoma. I've been to Napa twice. Yes, he is choosing a spot I can imagine being and I hope I can visit. No, I don't think he intends to be there long, but it is the kind of country that looks like it could inhale you. The scenery is so magnificent and the air must be filled with the scent of food and wine. And I bet everyone has grapes in their backyard and perfect vegetables in their garden and the ocean is just an hour away.Well, a girl can dream, can't she?

When my kids went off to college I wondered if one would be on the East coast, and one on the West. It didn't happen then; but now that will be the case. My husband better make a lot of money fast because I don't intend to stay put in the middle. I'm ready to explore life, just like my son, and I am tired of waiting. (No pressure, dear.) And so it is, that I ask of all of you-do you know anyone in Sonoma? A mother always feels better when someone can check up on their offspring. And after all, he is just living temporarily with a stranger in Santa Rosa in a room in their town home. I hope he is a good stranger.

So, I guess he will soon be on his way. He is getting tires for the car and loading it up. After of course we attend a big wedding in the mountains with lots of friends. Everyone will say hello and how are you doing; it's been too long, look how your son has grown, and then it will be time for goodbyes-again. Life-full of good byes. But better yet-full of hellos and see you soons. I promise.

This Blueberry Nut Bread, made with maple syrup is quick to make and delicious to eat. This makes any meal special! #blueberries #quick bread #maple

Blueberry Nut Bread

Serves 12
Time To Make: About 20 Minutes Active and 80 minutes not
2 c flour
1/4 t salt
3 t baking powder
1/2 c maple syrup or  (use 1 c sugar total since you really can't taste the maple in this and increase the milk to one cup)
1/4 c sugar
1 c fresh blueberries
1/2 c toasted walnuts or pecans
2 eggs beaten
3/4 c milk
3 T oil
1 t vanilla or maple extract

Directions: Stir together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the berries and nuts and toss.

Combine eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and stir into berry mixture. Pour into parchment lined 9 x 5 loaf pan. Let stand 20 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350. Bake loaf one hour or until toothpick comes out with just a few tiny crumbs sticking to it.

This Blueberry Nut Bread, made with maple syrup is quick to make and delicious to eat. This makes any meal special! #blueberries #quick bread #maple

Others you should try:

Belgian Leige Waffles
World Peace Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies

This Blueberry Nut Bread, made with maple syrup is quick to make and delicious to eat. This makes any meal special! #blueberries #quick bread #maple

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thai Peanut Sauce or Give Me Some Sauce Tuesday

Years ago when my kids were wee ones, I discovered peanut sauce. Or maybe it was they discovered peanut butter and then I discovered peanut sauce. I'm not a big fan of peanut butter though I do get cravings now and then, particularly when I'm sick. Go figure. When I'm down and out I like peanut butter spread lightly on toast, (preferably Pepperidge Farm or challah) and then lots of Smucker's strawberry preserves on top. Plus, my sandwich wouldn't be the same without a tall glass of ice cold chocolate Nestle's Quik to drink. Yes, I still keep it on hand for those sick occasions. But generally I'm not a peanut craving kind of person.

So many years ago before satay came and went-well I guess it is still here but it isn't everywhere- I started making peanut sauce to go over grilled chicken. I served it with coconut rice and microwave pappadums and grilled pineapple at numerous summer dinner parties and most likely made key lime pie for dessert. Now I don't have numerous dinner parties, but back then people probably were getting tired of my peanut sauced chicken. I can tell you that they loved it; and they thought it was so gourmet. Whatever that means.

Well, now years later I can't find that recipe and I had to make a new one. It is good. And everyone still loves my peanut sauce, best that I can tell. It is rich and creamy and thick. It doesn't drip, but it does cling. (Boy for a minute I thought we were talking panty hose, but not many wear those anymore.) This sauce has a mellow coconut taste with a follow up of heat. It isn't too sweet but you can adjust that to your liking. Peanut sauce works well with chicken or seafood and is great for dunking veggies like green beans and carrots and cauliflower and peppers and pea pods. Yes, it is a perfect party sauce.

It is easy and quick to prepare, though you do need a few critical ingredients. Once you have those, (they keep awhile in the fridge and pantry), you'll be able to make this at the drop of a hat. I also buy frozen onion parathas from the Asian grocery that are great tossed on the grill with the chicken. It's hard to beat grilled bread and it helps to soak up extra peanut sauce, if you must. Just make sure your grill isn't higher than medium and oil it well enough so the parathas don't stick. Let them puff up on one side and then flip to let the other side puff. They are so good! Today I used my leftovers and spread peanut sauce on a cooked paratha. Then I took leftover grilled chicken and some raw cabbage shreds and made a great quesadilla. Just giving you a few ideas...

I also make coconut rice to serve with the grilled chicken breasts. I try to marinate the breasts if I have time. After they are cooked, I score them and then slather on the peanut sauce. Even if the peanut sauce is at room temperature, the heat from the chicken warms the peanut sauce and makes it nice and creamy. When cooking the rice I first saute 2 T of onion and then add the rice and saute that a few minutes. Then I add water and 1/4 c of coconut milk per 2 cups of liquid and a good pinch of salt to cook the rice. This makes great coconut rice.

A perfectly easy sauce = equals one perfect summer meal!

Peanut Sauce  for chicken, seafood or veggies

Makes: about 2 cups
Time to prepare: About 15 minutes
1 T canola or peanut oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 heaping Tablespoon of Thai Kitchen red chili paste
1 can minus 1/4 c coconut milk (use the 1/4 c in your rice)
1/2 c peanut butter (I used chunky)
1 T hoisin sauce
1 t red chili garlic sauce
1 T soy sauce
1-2 T brown sugar
Heat oil  over medium heat and saute the garlic. Stir in red chili paste and let that cook while stirring every few minutes. Add coconut milk and whisk to remove lumps of chili paste. Stir in peanut butter and whisk that, too. Add hoisin, soy, red chili garlic sauce and brown sugar to taste. Let cook on low a few minutes to blend the flavors. This will keep at room temperature while you re cooking your meal of choice. Slather on immediately when taking your choice of protein off the grill. This will help the sauce melt in.

My marinade for Peanut chicken: (this was enough for 4 boneless, skinless breasts)

1 T soy
1 t red chili
1 garlic clove minced
1 T mirin wine
1 T brown sugar
1 t red chili paste

Mix together and let marinate as long as you can!

Please pin and share!

A Few Others To Try:

Royal Thai Cashew Chicken

Cantonese Steamed Chicken
Pad Thai

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Corn Pasta with Burrata

Summer Corn Pasta with Burrata

 There are many days I find myself getting caught up in being busy. Sometimes, busy for busy's sake, and that's not good for any of us. But last week, I did clean the garage by taking everything out and sweeping and then power washing the floor. Impressed, huh? Well, then you must be easily impressed. I also cleaned the basement which I hate more than cleaning the garage. I just feel so accomplished. Not!

It is on days like that that I find myself at the dinner hour wondering what to make to please the old rabbit catcher. Yeah, he's still at it and his methods are working. But I don't like them and let's just leave it at that. But my flowers are growing and that I am happy about. Last week on a chillier day it was pasta that was calling out to me. When I'm stumped on what to make I can always rely on my friend, pasta. And this is one of my favorite seasons to make a simple pasta dish. With tomatoes and corn and basil added to pasta, I am a very happy camper.

This dish is a great one, standard as it is. One does not need the bacon if one so chooses. But one does need the burrata. I just discovered this glorious gob of goodness about a month ago in the cheese section in Phoenix. The person that alerted me to this was my blogger friend John at from the Bartolini Kitchens. He has several great posts about this cheese on his blog. He even has a video of how it is made. Check it out and check out a burrata which is basically a sheet of mozzarella stuffed with curds and cream and formed into a pouch. Tell me that doesn't sound luscious.  Upon examination  I can tell you that they also aren't overloaded with calories.

It took me a bit of searching to find a burrata in Denver but now that I know where to get them I will happily go back. They make any dish special and  are like little magical blobs that when cut open release their cream and richness. Trust me on this. If you can't find one, fresh mozzarella balls placed on top of the pasta will suffice, it just won't be the same.

Summer Corn Pasta with Burrata (Serves 2-3)
1/2 pound of spaghetti cooked in salted water according to package directions
2 ears of corn
6 thick slices of bacon cooked crisp (optional)
3 chopped garlic cloves sauteed until limp in 1 T butter
1 chopped tomato
1/3 c fresh shredded basil
1 c arugula
1/2 c freshly shredded parmesan
Freshly ground pepper
Olive Oil for drizzling
2 burrata balls

Start your water boiling for your pasta. Cook corn in boiling water until it just turns bright yellow. Cool under running water and slice off of cob. (This would also be great grilled and then sliced.) Now cook your pasta and save a big ladle of water for your sauce.

Cook bacon until crisp and then break into large pieces. (I usually cook my bacon in the microwave so I don't make a mess.)

Cook your garlic in butter. I usually do this in the microwave too, in a glass measuring cup. I cook it in intervals for 2 minutes, power level 6, until it has reached the desired degree of doneness. (I don't like to wash to many dishes...)

Now drain your cooked pasta but save a a good ladle of pasta water if you want a more liquid type sauce. To the drained pasta add most of the parmesan cheese. Now add, tomato, corn, arugula, garlic and basil. If you want to add the pasta water, now is the time.

Stir in or top with crisp bacon. Spoon onto plates. Drizzle olive oil on top and grind some fresh pepper over the pasta. Top each plate with a ball of burrata. Let diner cut into buratta and mix into pasta. The magic will happen as the cream and curds ooze out. It is just sooo cool!

Other great dishes:
Lotsa Garlic Pasta
Spaghetti Bolognese
Ziti Al Fresco
Porcini Mushroom Lasagne

Friday, June 14, 2013

Real Potato Salad for Real Dads

Real Potato Salad

Potatoes love me and the feeling is mutual. I can eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and of course, in between. My favorite junk food is potato chips or fries, but I haven't had many of those lately. I've often felt that if I had to, I could live on potatoes, just potatoes, but I hope it doesn't come to that. 

It is hard to mess up the potato, though I suppose it's been done. Greasy, limp fries aren't too good nor are burnt hash browns. And I don't really like soggy potato pancakes. But I guess the worst mess is store bought potato salad. The sweet kind. The kind filled with more mayo and tiny red pieces (which I think are pimento), than potatoes. Stores try to throw in  mustard but somehow, at least to me, that just makes it seem sweeter. No, I'm not a big fan of store bought potato salad.

As a child I remember my dad running across town to buy fried chicken from a grocery named Lloyd's.  Dad would drive over every Sunday and buy fried chicken, potato salad and DAD's rootbeer with a blue and yellow label. We were only allowed milk on most days so Sundays were a special treat. I think they even sold tapioca pudding which he loved but could never get me to eat. He also brought home fried chicken livers and gizzards.  I remember fighting over the livers but he ate the gizzards all by himself. It was a meal to look forward to. I might have even been allowed to sit in front of the TV and watch The World of Disney on NBC which always had some movie about  animals that inevitably made me cry. 

It is weird what we remember. And food is a good trigger for my memories. Sometimes I think I don't remember much but when it relates to food I think I remember a lot. In this case, I remember the potato salad. It was good. It had crunchy pieces of celery and onion and a hint of mustard, too. Lloyd's disappeared early in my childhood and then I remember Kentucky Fried and Popeye's. They just weren't the same. And they didn't sell Dad's. 

But back to potatoes. I believe my first bite of potato salad came from Lloyd's. Though I honestly can tell you I don't really remember it well but believe it was a traditional potato salad. It didn't have funny herbs or spices. I don't know if it had sugar. But this recipe is what I think it tasted like. And this potato salad is perfect for dads. Real dads. Real dads that drink Dad's root beer and go get fried chicken and stuff because there wife doesn't want to cook. The thing is (now that I'm thinking about it), I think my dad preferred macaroni salad and I don't like macaroni salad. Sorry dad! Love you and Happy Father's Day!

Real Potato Salad for Real Dads  Serves 6-8
(I prefer fresh potato salad. In other words, try not to plan for leftovers. I think it gets mushy if it sits to many days in the fridge.)

2-3 lbs red jacket potatoes boiled in salt water (Don't let them get to soft)
4 hard boiled eggs
3 green onions chopped or 1 cup
3/4 c chopped celery
3 T chopped parsley
2 T dill pickle juice
2 T yellow ball park mustard
1 t salt
1/3 c Hellman's or Blue Ribbon mayo

Boil potatoes in salted water until soft but firm. Do not throw away water. Now throw in eggs and boil until hard. Peel and chop potatoes in medium size pieces suitable for real potato salad. Now chop the eggs somewhat fine.

Mix chopped eggs,onions, celery, parsley, pickle juice, mustard, salt and mayo in bowl. Add warm potatoes and fold gently into mixture. Enjoy with real dads! Or not!

Other Foods For Real Dads:
Breakfast Burritos
Green Chile Poached Eggs with Bacon and Cheddar
Smoked Trout Pate
Mexican Garlic Lime Shrimp
Not My Mama's Cherry Pie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Give Me Some Sauce Tuesday (Turkish Coffee BBQ Sauce)

Turkish Coffee BBQ Sauce
Cardamom is the world's third most expensive spice, right behind saffron and vanilla. To tell the truth I've never really had cardamom, at least that I know of. Like za'atar, cardamom seems to be popping up on everyone's blogs. I've seen it in peaches and cherry ice cream. It is essential to Indian cooking and is found in Scandinavian desserts. Apparently the Vikings discovered it in Constantinople and brought it home where it has been used in Scandinavian desserts for a really long time. Chai wouldn't be chai without cardamom and many Middle Eastern coffees also blend cardamom into the blend.

It is time. I now know there is black cardamom and green cardamom. And cardamom in the pods. I don't know what I have except that it wasn't in the pod. Nor was it identified in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods, except as being cardamom. To me it smells very distinct and pungent and warm. It has citrusy overtones but  it also smelled a lot like white pepper. Being in the ginger family maybe gave it the warm scent. In any case it is very distinct and once you try it you will always recognize it. Well, I think I will!

Being sauce Tuesday I thought I would try this sauce from Jake. No, I don't know Jake either, but he is Steven Raichlen's stepson and his sauce recipe is featured in The Barbeque Bible. If you don't have this book and you grill, it is strongly suggested that you get this book. I'm not trying to be tough, but in this case I just want you to know that you are missing out on some great techniques and recipes if you don't have this book.

Jake's Turkish Coffee BBQ sauce is unique. It is different. If you want to keep everyone guessing about your secret recipe this would really keep them guessing a long time. Some folks are like that, you know. Never want to give anything away. I mean if Grandma is dead in her grave is she really going to care if you share her secret? If you are lucky, you already know. But I digress.

This sauce combines coffee and cardamom just like Middle Eastern coffee. But then it heads to Asia where it meets up with hoisin and ginger and garlic. It then traverses the Pacific Ocean to end up in the Americas where it meets cocoa. Yes, it is a worldly sauce. It is suggested to serve it with pork or lamb or grouper. I had salmon. And so it was that I grilled my salmon with a rub of spices and then topped the salmon with the sauce almost right before the salmon was done. I served the salmon on a bed of couscous with some grilled nectarines on the side. Savory and a touch sweet, the sauce worked well with the salmon.

A few notes on this sauce. When you first make it, it tastes very strong. The rabbit catcher had no clue what was in this. He described it as unique but tasty. After I let it sit a few hours it mellowed and was much better. As a sauce on salmon, it became tamer and gentle and really blended well with the fish. I can't wait to try it tomorrow on chicken. This sauce is a wonderful introduction to cardamom and I can't wait for more unique ways to use it. Head over here to see how it is used in cherry ice cream. This is one versatile spice!

Jake's Turkish Coffee BBQ Sauce (from Steven Raichlen's BBQ Bible)

2 T olive oil
1 finely chopped medium onion
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
3 minced cloves of garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 c espresso (I use the instant Meglio in a jar)
1/4 c hoisin sauce
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 t unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t ground cardamom
2 T honey
1/2 t black pepper
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and ginger and saute until mixture has softened, about 5 minutes. Add coffee, hoisin, vinegar, cocoa and cardamom. Increase heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, until thick and richly flavored, about 10 minutes. If the sauce gets to thick add water. You can now puree the sauce in a blender, but I didn't as I liked the texture in the sauce. Add the honey which gives it a rich sheen. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Makes about 2 cups. Store in the refrigerator.

My Spice Rub
1/2 t cocoa
1 t cardamom
1/4 t ground coffee
1 t brown sugar
1/8 t black pepper
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t honey
1 t vinegar
1 T olive oil

Mix together. I smeared this on 1 1/2 lbs salmon but didn't quite use it all. I let this sit about three hours and then grilled the salmon. Top with the above sauce when salmon is almost cooked.


A Few More to Try:
Red Chile and a Breakfast Sandwich
Roasted Za'atar Chickpeas
Avocado Corn Soup
Patatas Bravas

Monday, June 10, 2013

Texas Sheet Cake

The rabbit catcher is from Texas. Houston to be exact. A long u please.. That's how they all say it when they talk and catch up, y'all. We met in Colorado where we both moved to escape our various climates and to go to school. Yes, I did go to school kids, even if I met your daddy there. And I did graduate and not just with an MRS, as some like to say. And thirty some years later we are both still here. But I think the rabbit catcher's parents have always blamed me for not getting their boy back to Texas. And what can I say? Well, I may not have brought the boy back, but Texas is still in his DNA.

Now the rabbit catcher loves his bbq. He loves his TexMex. And he loves his beer. And now he loves this cake. But I gotta tell ya'. He had never heard of this cake. When I told him it was a Texas sheet cake, "He said-a what? It doesn't taste like sh--." His hearing isn't so good either. Yeah, the rabbit catcher's humor is surely interesting. When I explained  a Texas sheet cake is called a Texas sheet cake by virtue of the fact that it is baked on a sheet or a large pan, he wondered why he'd never heard of it before. I don't know rabbit catcher, but I'm sho glad ya liked it.

So now I see Father's Day is upon us. I don't have to look at a calendar to know this. When you read a lot of blogs you know what holidays are coming up, by the topics people write about. I can now tell you without a doubt that men like meat. They like bbq and nachos. And lasagne. They love steak and hot sauce. The hotter, the better. My man likes his cigars and his special tequilas. And I mustn't leave out hamburgers or hotdogs. Or brownies or cake or watermelon. Yes, it is pretty clear to me what dads like to eat. FOOD. And as long as it is prepared by someone else, things are pretty, pretty good.

So hell. I'm going to give you another chocolate cake recipe. It took me years (about 30) to make this, but the rabbit catcher was pretty happy. My son liked it, too but he likes everything. But me-well, I loved it! This cake was moist and tender, easy to make, no mixer required and the frosting is killer. Plus, it is meant to be made for large crowds, hence the name sheet cake. No cute three layer cake here, folks. This one is the bake in a pan, take to the bake sale cake. Or take to the potluck, cake. You could serve it with ice cream, but I'm a purist kind of girl. Just give me a glass of milk and I'm happy.

So y'all. If you got a big group gathering this weekend, this is most definitely the cake to bake or make. Or take. Wow, Mondays are so eloquent! And I can attest to the fact that it keeps for a good 7 days not refrigerated, and still tastes sweet and moist and plain old delicious. Make the dads happy. Make anyone happy. If chocolate is their thing, this oughta do.

Please Pin and Share:

Other foods Dad may like:

Texas Sheet Cake
(serves 12-16 or 8 hungry Texans)
2 c sugar
2 c flour
2 sticks melted butter
4 T unsweetened cocoa
1 c coffee (room temperature)
2 eggs
1/2 c buttermilk
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9 x 13 pan 

In  large bowl, mix together sugar and flour.

In pot, melt butter. Add cocoa and coffee and heat until boiling. Remove from heat. Pour over sugar/flour mixture. Stir well.

Mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla in large measuring cup. Stir into cocoa mixture.

Scrape into greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the sheet size you used this may take longer. Check. Toothpick should come out with tiny crumbs sticking to it and the sides of the cake should be pulled slightly away from the edge of the pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Now pour and smooth icing over the top. Chips will melt into the frosting and cake. Put back in turned off oven for about 5 minutes. Spread again if needed.Take out and place on rack. Let cool. Frosting will harden as it cools.

1 stick butter
4 T cocoa
6 T milk
1 t vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar

When cake is almost done, melt butter in large bowl in microwave. Whisk in cocoa, milk and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat well. Spread over cake while both are still warm.

The rabbit catcher saved these!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fast Friday and Oatmeal Crunch

Friday is upon us. So let's make this fast. I need to finish cleaning my house and  run to the grocery and buy some ingredients for my Vietnamese chicken salad dinner.  I've been on a Vietnamese kick this week probably because of my visit to the Asian grocery. Visiting there means I get to buy such wonderful produce at such inexpensive prices. OK-cheap. I wish it was closer. All this so I can be ready for the exciting weekend activities. NOT! But maybe I will see my yard get back in shape or is that just wishful thinking?

Last weekend we gave a bridal shower. You already know this if you read my blog and don't just look at the recipes. But, that's OK if you do. I sometimes do the same. In any case for the shower I made some oatmeal scones that I really liked. The topping was this oatmeal crunch. Truthfully, I liked it better than the scones. Just sayin'. 

This is a quick topping that is perfect in these yogurt parfaits that I gave the rabbit catcher for breakfast. (Aren't I nice?) It would also be great sprinkled into pancake batter or as part of a streusel topping on muffins or scones. And last but not least, it is killer on top of ice cream. Don't ask how I know. All right, one more last but not least... Don't stir it to much after you take it out of the oven. Let it dry in one big sheet and then you will be able to break off big, giant pieces of buttery,caramel, oatmeal crunch and eat them whole. So much better than a granola bar. I promise!

Let me know if you have any other ideas for the stuff. I love it!

Oatmeal Crunch (from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham)
8 T butter
1 c dark brown sugar
1 t vanilla 
1/4 t salt
2 c uncooked oatmeal

Preheat oven to 325. Mix butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan over low heat stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. (This doesn't take long.)

Put the oatmeal in a bowl, pour the melted caramel sauce over and toss the mixture until the oatmeal is coated with sauce. On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread the oatmeal in a thin layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and cool. Store in an airtight container.

Have a great weekend!

 Other things to try for the weekend:
Breakfast Burritos
Belgian Liege Waffles
Mexican Quinoa
Magic Cookie Bars

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Vietnamese Meatball Noodle Bowl or I Love Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

The first time I had Vietnamese food was in 1986. OK, give or take a few years on either side. It was in the fall and it was chilly outside. We had to debate whether to wait, (as the line was out the door) or to find somewhere else to spend our dimes. Wait we did and as we edged slowly inside, we found ourselves in the pass where the food comes out. Torture is what it was, as we watched giant platters of fried soft shell crabs passing by right under our noses. Enormous baskets of salad composed of the freshest mint and cilantro and green leaf lettuce surrounded by bean sprouts and slices of seeds in, dark green jalapenos were nestled along side pickled orange carrots and white daikon. Our noses inhaled the garlic, the fish sauce, the caramelized sugar and lime juice, as we tried to not reach our hands out to grab each passing dish.

And if you must know this teeny tiny place was a real dump. You couldn't help but wonder what was lurking behind closed doors, but the food looked impeccable; and it was recommended by the local trendy newspaper. Since we were trendy back then, we had to go. My life has not been the same since. I used to have a love affair with Chinese food, but after my first experience with Vietnamese-well, there's no going back. Truth be told, they aren't too similar. In fact they aren't similar at all, except that they are both made in a wok and both employ chopsticks to eat.

Vietnamese incorporates freshness with salads, grills, limes and fish sauce. No soy here. Lots of seafood. The sour/sweet/salty thing really must have begun with Vietnamese food, but don't quote me on that. And remember the French had a lot to do with Vietnamese food. Think banh mi's made with baguettes. And butter and mayo. Many Vietnamese sauces, especially for seafood dishes, incorporate butter. I could go on but my mouth is watering just thinking about these grilled meatballs, I made to top my noodle bowl  with. And that's the other thing. Vegetables are given center stage to shine in this bowl. The meatball though is the exclamation point!

This meatball which can be made with chicken or beef or turkey is traditionally made with pork. It is flavored with basil and garlic and onion. And a good amount of black pepper. Lots of Vietnamese dishes incorporate black pepper, but if you need it more mild, the other flavors still sing. Grilling these slowly, gives them extra flavor and I prefer them like this, rather than pan fried.   

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit's January 2010 issue. It took me awhile to actually make them. Don't make my mistake. These should be in your repertoire today. I used them to top a noodle bowl. They would also make great appetizers and just like meatballs are inhaled at any party, these will be inhaled faster. Serve them with a little sriracha mayo to dunk in. These are also great for banh mi's, which this recipe was intended for, and they would make an awesome filling for a lettuce wrap. My mind is racing with ideas on how to use these babies. Yes, they are that good!

Noodle bowls are perfect for summer eating. They are light and nutritious. The ingredients can be kept on hand and customized to your heart's content. The chicken I made here can also be used for noodle bowls. That same paste can be used with shrimp and those, too can be used for a topping. A fun dinner idea would be to make a food bar with these ingredients and let everyone design their own bowl.

As a postscript-that awesome Vitenamese restaurant enjoyed lots of success. But since, it has sold several times over, the atmosphere and food has changed. Thank goodness there are even better Vietnamese restaurants out there. New Saigon is my all time favorite. It is consistent with its food and the waiters have been there for years. They are as much a fixture as the restaurant. One can't go wrong here.

And the final postscript: 4 new baby bunnies spotted today. 1 baby bunny relocated yesterday. Bunnies still at 6. Rabbit catcher-1. And June 21st is rapidly approaching!

Vietnamese Meatballs Makes enough for 4 bowls (Bon Appetit January 2010)
1 lb ground meat of choice
1/4 chopped fresh basil
4 minced garlic cloves
3 green onions finely chopped
1 T fish sauce
1 T sriracha
1 T sugar
2 t cornstarch
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t kosher or coarse salt

Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Form each into about 2 inch meatballs. Chill. I then put these on a grill tray and slowly grilled these on the grill at medium high heat while turning them as they browned. Make sure you oil the grill tray. Or you could skewer them like shish kebab and grill them slowly.

Noodle Bowl (for 4)
Carrot Daikon Salad from here
1 c thinly sliced cucumber
6 cups sliced green leaf or romaine lettuce
1/2 c mint sprigs
1/2 c Thai basil sprigs
1/2 c cilantro
1 large jalapeno sliced
1 1/2 c fresh bean sprouts
Nuoc Cham (Dressing for the salad)
Rice Stick Noodles (Maifun) (1 package)
1/2 c chopped peanuts
Meatballs from above

Soak rice noodles in hot or boiling water. Let soften for about 10 minutes. You may have to keep changing your water to get these soft enough. Consistency is important here. Not to soft, not to hard. And it is not an exact science! Drain well when they are ready. 

Slice or chop all ingredients.

To prepare individual salad: Put a handful of noodles in a bowl. Top with lettuce. Top with mint, basil, cilantro, jalapenos and bean sprouts.  Add some carrot daikon salad. Place meatballs on last. Garnish with peanuts. Serve with Nuoc Cham on the side so diners can add as needed.

Nuoc Cham
Note: After reading about fish sauce I realized that the reason it was so hard to get my nuoc cham tasting like the restaurants', was clearly related to the quality of fish sauce used. A preferred brand is Three Crabs fish sauce, also labeled Viet Huong. There are other more expensive brands that I would like to try, but this one worked out well. And this sauce is crucial to the taste of the noodle bowl.

1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
1 finely chopped garlic clove
3 T fish sauce
4 T sugar
4 T water
1/4 t red chili flakes
1 T sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy)

Mix together until the sugar dissolves. After many tries over the years to get this to taste just right, the rabbit catcher declared, "I think you've got it."

Others you may want to try: