Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week 1 of food coma.....

So, Christmas version 3 on the Central Coast was again "the best ever". This time it was just 5 of us in the house, which was definitely less hectic. There were no scheduled activities, it was nice to laze around, take walks, go to the beach, and just enjoy the peace. Speaking of the beach, this one turned out pretty good:
For Christmas Eve, I made cioppino, with fresh fish from the fish market in Morro Bay (supplemented by some crab legs from the grocery, they were on sale...). Local California halibut, the sweetest bay scallops, the shelled crab, and some fresh clams went into a thicker version of my family marinara recipe, just simmered long enough for the clams to open and the fish to cook.
This turned out great! I took my dad's advice and made sure the marinara was nice and thick so that the stew wouldn't thin out like bouillabaisse (like theirs did in Colorado this year.... sorry Dad!)

Some dead soldiers:
Oooh, learning how to use depth of field on my DSLR camera, hehe:

Cannolis to round out a semi-traditional Italian American Christmas Eve, then off to wait for Santa:

Andrew cooked up some quail to go with a spectacular mini-vertical of Loring Cargasacchi Pinot on Saturday:
All in all a great weekend for food, I feel like I had my fill of cream cheese based items though. Grand plans for New Years as usual, with photos to follow....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Way overdue

I got this cookbook for Christmas last year (or maybe the year before), it was one of those "I should probably have this". I borrowed my mother in law's copy just previously to make something, I can't remember what now..

Anyhow, it really screams 80s to me, but I've been meaning to try making the famous Chicken Marbella. So I did, but I cut the recipe way down (the recipe in the book serves about eleventy billion people I think, sheesh). You know what? It was really good!! The balance between the marinade, the dried plums (er.. prunes), the olives & capers. I would absolutely make this again! Maybe even for company.

Speaking of company, the holidays are well underway and aside from our annual barbeque the day after Thanksgiving, we have yet to have company over. I'll be making cioppino and probably canolli (if I can remember to buy shells before Monday) in the Los Osos house for Christmas Eve, so I'll be sure to take some good photos and post on it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rest and recovery

After too many weeks of this, we had a brief respite at the coast. That and the big guy was a statistic of the H1N1 flu... he was out for a whole week with a terrible fever and aches. But, he felt good enough for a 5 hour drive.. well worth it to get to this:

After a day spent at Pismo Beach, and an afternoon of just lolling about the house, we headed down to the fish market in Morro Bay and picked up these beauties, live spot prawns. Andrew was brave and did the skewering.. yes they were still alive here.

Not so live anymore, made for great surf and turf.

I really have been cooking at home for a change, but just comfort food this week now that we are over flu and colds.. soup, pot roast, chicken divan, sausage and cabbages... things I have posted about before, and fall back on when I am busy.

Oh, and this cheap thing -- eggs in purgatory. Poached eggs in tomato sauce over toasted tuscan bread. Yum!

Its almost recipe testing time for the New Years extravaganza though, yay!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I love this man

3 meals from these books this week. Not sure why I haven't managed to take photos, but it has been a crazy one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009



It's been youth baseball tournament time... Henderson & Paso Robles.

Not much cooking, but this:

and this: http://www.southpointcasino.com/dining/big-sur-oyster-bar.php... 3 words, lobster grilled cheese

Soup night was back today with the triumphant return of pasta e ceci. Yum!

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's my birthday.... almost

So, rather than an expensive night out, look what we bought:
Yes, they cost $26/lb, but for 3 people to have a steakhouse meal, with wine for 2, for less than $100, a steal.

Plus I loooovvveee these carrots, pan roasted with thyme:
The steaks were expertly cooked to the rare side of medium rare, and were absolutely sinful.

Tensley syrah from the central coast to balance out the meal, capped off by a visit to the neighbor's hot tub.
A perfect pre-birthday celebration (since my birthday will be spent watching my 6th grader play in his first flag football game before trucking of to a baseball tournament in Nevada).

Tomorrow... Dodger dogs @ Chavez Ravine!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Problem Solver

So... here we were several beverages into the evening, after a beautiful sunset at Montana de Oro state beach, and I was told, "Here's some halibut, can you do something with it?". Well, here is what I did.... sorry for the lack of photographic evidence, too much wine and beer was consumed...
I buttered a pyrex dish, placed the thick halibut steaks in the dish, salt & pepper, and into a 350 oven for about 15 minutes. Then Andrew finished on the grill. That's it, there was no magic formula, no secret recipe. Just simple, fresh, honest. Some perfectly grilled yellow squash, a steamed local artichoke (with lots of butter & mayo of course), some green salad, and the forementioned wine - Claiborne & Churchill Riesling and Gewurtztraminer to be exact.
What a great weekend!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Japanese home cooking.

I saw this post on Serious Eats (after it came across on my email) and decided to give it a try. I love kara-age at the Japanese market, I figured it wasn't that hard...
I'm not much for frying usually, too messy or I don't do it right, but figured this was something I could do in my Le Creuset with not too much effort or mess. Plus the 2 nice side dishes were a bonus. I had to resort to basmati rice instead of short grain, I had pantry bugs from somewhere... I hate tossing half used bags of pasta but that's where it always starts isn't it?
The cucumber salad & green bean salad came together very quickly while I marinated the chicken, got some rice started (and cleaned out the pantry) and got some peanut oil to temperature in my pan.

The frying actually worked out well for me! I think that as long as I don't attempt my grandma's crisco fried drumsticks, I'll do fine. I can do hot wings & now these, oh and onion rings. It's just the bigger pieces of chicken that I never get right.
Paired with some American lager (couldn't justify spending the high price on Kirin at the regular grocery!), the sides & rice, it was a perfect meal for a weeknight!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dog days of summer...

Thankfully though, the summer has been fairly mild here this year (so much for global warming...). We did have a hot spell a while back, but it has been delightful, nice enough to finally get outside to enjoy it. Now that our (just turned) 11 year old is back from hanging out with his grandparents and cousins, we can get down to enjoying the last few weeks before school starts. Of course there are baseball practices & tournaments thrown in for good measure, but that has become part of the daily life around here over the last year.
I dusted off the pots and pans for this simple summery pasta that I found on Serious Eats - Sea Shells and Creamy Basil-Tarragon Pistou with Crab and Sweet Peas. Of course, shopping for the ingredients at Trader Joes limited me to fusilli instead of shells, and no tarragon (my garden did not happen for me this year, too busy...), but they have such a good price on the canned jumbo lump crab I didn't want to make more than 1 trip.

It was so easy to put together, the pistou (or pesto if you like) was easy to whip up while the pasta cooked. The guys both said this was "a keeper" and I agree, the lemon zest gave it a nice freshness and the bit of cream stirred in made it less like standard pesto. It went perfectly with our patio, some music, and our "house white", Harmony Winery Riesling.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

on the road....

We took a bit of a road trip, from Orange County, through the California Desert, all of Arizona, and to Albuquerque NM. Some gems along the way: The Red Raven in Williams AZ - excellently cooked steaks, nice wine list, great service... in a rather brutal dining scene... - Blake's Lotaburger... green chile cheeseburger, be sure to ask for the chiles to be grilled - Bob's Burgers ... ranchero burger (green chile sauce) and the spiciest frito pie ever --- Little Anita's for brunch, chile rellenos with green, everything else Christmas... we missed out on the Owl, not enough time. Go Isotopes!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So.. about that brisket

Thanks to our friend who is a Stater Bros meat cutter (only lightly trimmed, whole, delivered to our house), we put this brisket in at about 1am on Wednesday, took it out at 3pm on Thursday. No rub, no seasoning, nothing.
Isn't it pretty? It was so popular, the Grillmaster/Smokemaster has been commissioned to do it again for the 4th - which happens to be his grandmother's 85th birthday and first as a US citizen.
There was coleslaw, but something about white cabbage in a white bowl in a photo? Not so much. So here's some more brisket:
.. yes, that little thing in the background is the smoker, cool huh?

Soon to be improved photography as well thanks to a new camera... once I figure out how it works :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

3 great finds in and around SLO...

A kidless weekend found us at the beach house in Los Osos. Arriving late Friday night, we were up Saturday morning wandering SLO. Stopped in at an honest to goodness coffee house, Linnea's, where we had a latte and an au lait, along with a really yummy scone. This place has a laid back vibe that reminded me of my old haunts in Denver - Cafe 13, Paris on the Platte & Muddy's.
A bit more wandering down the block and we noticed this place, Bel Frites. It wasn't open yet, but they had 2 things on the menu - frites and Belgian beer. Ok, we'd have to come back. So we walked around the block, looked at fancy British motorcars, and arrived back. There are traditional sauces and different spice sprinklings that come with the traditionally prepared (blanched then fried) frites. We spoke with the owner while waiting for our order, he was a college professor and this is his retirement. We decided he was definitely the most educated fry cook you will meet!
What a treat! I had traditional (sea salt) with a roasted red pepper aioli, and he had spicy cajun with chipotle mayo. And Wittekirke Belgian white beer to wash it down. What a great stop!!
Walked around a bit more, had some salty asian fusion rice bowl things before deciding on a movie time, and then hit the remodeled (yay! clean bathrooms) Frog and Peach for a few beers. Movie was The Hangover, which we heartily recommend. I haven't laughed that hard since Something About Mary.
Then for dinner, TripAdvisor pointed us to Sylvester's right around the corner in Los Osos for burgers & onion rings, which we took back to the house and enjoyed with some Loring pinot while watching the Dodgers win. What a fun weekend!! Next weekend, Hanford.. to pick up the Rabbit.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Keeping it short (like me)

Everything is better with a poached egg on top.. oh, and bacon.. and croutons:

And from the new Jacques Pepin, a yummy popover with jam:

Better yet, there is a brisket in the Cookshack as I type!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Extra mega cheap Hobo Monday

Ok, I feel shame for not participating in TNS's monthly throwdown of cheap eats, and this month was extra challenging. I was going to make this, but stupid Boursin cheese costs $2.99 which is half of my budget of $6.00 for 4 servings (yes, I know our family is 3 people which should limit me to $4.50, but some people that are not me love leftovers for breakfast or a snack after school or work, so I always plan on 4 servings - does that make me a cheater?).

So I decided on this cheese and onion tart, which I made a while back in a convection toaster oven when my range died. This time I made the crust myself (saving the $1.99 on Pilsbury). Every ingredient was a pantry ingredient so I spent no money.
What? It doesn't work that way? Ok.....Onions, I always have - but for arguments sake they were about $1.50 (I think $3/lb last time I bought the big ones), maybe less. A block of sharp cheddar which was $3.72, I used half of it, shredded ($1.86). Flour, butter, salt, pepper, dry mustard, thyme, milk - all pantry staples. One egg, $.08 (.99/dozen). That's $3.44 for the tart. And, I think it looks better this time than with the prefab crusts.

I used a 1/3 bag of "Italian" salad mix ($1.99/bag, so $0.67), 1 roma tomato ($.50) and pantry oil, vinegar, salt & pepper for a salad.

So, even for 4 servings (which 3 people ate with leftovers), I'm at $4.61. You can only buy 3 soft tacos and a Coke at Del Taco for that.

Wishing for some sunshine!

In a continuation of playing with the new toy, we (well, actually he) smoked some chickens Friday night in the previously mentioned Cookshack Smokette -

don't they look great??

Now, I'm generally not a fan of BBQ, grilled or smoked chicken, but this was phenomenal. It was cooked all the way through, but still moist and juicy. They didn't need any sauce whatsoever. Just great. Perfect with some greens & bacon. Excellent for leftovers as well.

Would have been even better if it was warmer than 60 degrees outside. Some of you are familiar with what we here in Southern California call "June Gloom/May Gray" - basically maybe the sun peeps out of the low clouds and mist for a few minutes in the afternoon, or maybe not. Much of this weekend was the "maybe not" part of that equation. I know, it's a rough life when we get 72 degrees in January, but when it seems like grilling & BBQ weather but you have to put on a sweatshirt? I know, remind me of this rant when it is 90 in 3 weeks....

Sunday, the sun did peep out, and I felt like with the new range and the new smoker, we had been neglecting our old friend the Char-griller. So I pulled out Mario Batali's Italian Grill for some inspiration, and went with the grilled lamb chops "scottadita" (meaning burnt fingers because you will want to pick them up and eat them) and some grilled artichokes. I really really liked the rub for the lamb - mint, lemon zest, sugar, s&p whirled in the food processor until like coarse sand. It went great with the yogurt & cumin (despite the fact that I didn't buy goat yogurt and didn't toast my own cumin..), which added a "honey" component to the flavors. The artichokes were pretty good, but I didn't really simmer long enough, and they needed more oomph or seasoning (or just plain old butter & mayo, hehe).
The Hitching Post in Buellton & Casmalia in the Central Coast of CA has the BEST grilled artichokes, I need to figure out what it is that is sooooo good (aside from buying their "secret seasoning" of course).

Anyhow, looking forward to another week of the fog - we actually had a bit of drizzle this morning - and the weekend in Los Osos!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A new toy for the Grillmaster

Last week, we took delivery of a Cookshack Smokette Elite
After a dry burn in, and a practice run with 1 small pork butt, we did 4 for the long weekend. We put them in on Friday night at 9 after rubbing with a basic rib/pork rub (that came with the smoker). Took them out at 8am, wrapped in foil and newspaper & popped into a cooler to hold for a while (while we went to Huntington Beach for a quick travel ball game). We came back at lunchtime to this:

It pulled beautifully.

We had 4 full tupperwares, so we "dressed" each version differently - one with rub & cider vinegar, one with spicy bbq sauce & rub, and one with spicy sauce & vinegar, and one with Mo's BBQ Philty Phil's sauce (mmm... next weekend in Los Osos - Mo's in SLO!!). Perfect on hamburger buns between the remaining double headers of our tournament filled weekend.

Trying out some smoked chickens tonight, and in 2 weeks - brisket!

The Cookshack is the Juan Pierre to the new convection oven's Manny Ramirez in this house right now --- batting .400 while the convection oven waits out the hot weather. GO BLUE.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


So, the new range is awesome. I made this paella one night for some friends, which is an adaptation of the Cook's Illustrated version. The high heat browned the chicken & sausage nicely, and the regular bake function did a good job of cooking the rice. I used regular calrose rice instead of arborio, I think I like the texture but wish I would have had more of that crispiness on the bottom. Maybe longer browning on the stovetop next time.

And....ta-da! The convection function is totally awesome, I almost forgot to snap a photo of this beautiful chicken that I roasted in only 45 minutes!!

Now, if spring baseball season would go away I could cook even more. But, it's a start! And, bread bakes beautifully.. I haven't tried convection on that.... will have to experiment.

Monday, May 4, 2009


What better way to christen the new Fridgidaire PLGS389EC than to go back to an old favorite, chicken divan. No pics, it always pretty much looks the same.
Worked like a dream.... I'm back!!!
Ooh, and this one has convection!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Making the best of what we have

Even without an oven (using a borrowed convection/toaster oven) I was able to put together this awesome onion and cheese pie from The Yummy Mummy. With Trader Joe's pie crust... even though I have made mildly successful crust, I'm still scared to death of it. Next time I'll try the crust, once I have the new range.

And thank goodness for the grill, so we can make this into this: chicken tikka from some magazine that I don't remember clipping it from. The cilantro yogurt sauce was really good.

There's been an awful lot of this the past 6 weeks.....
But WEDNESDAY is the day that Pacific Sales delivers my new Fridgidaire Pro Series range with CONVECTION --- scary! Now, to find an installer.......

Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's dead....

Yes, the POS Amana range has finally kicked the bucket. The oven control panel has been detached for a while, now the "off" button is no longer functioning (I've been using the buttons with wooden spoons... long story, the heat generated has melted the glue on the control panel connections.....

So, I'm ovenless for a bit, and shopping for a new slide-in range. I have the integrated microwave/vent, am not interested in springing for a new vent, so am looking at mid-line ranges, gas, about 2500 max. Reviews seem to be few far between.... if you read this, any advice?? Looking at KitchenAid, Frigidaire, Kenmore? I wish I could afford one of the euro models without any electronic controls so I wouldn't have that problem!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hobo Cheapo Wednesday (2 days late)

I'm 2 days late for the official Cheap Ass Monday. So sue me, I was too busy enjoying quiz night at the pub with some friends on Monday. We didn't have baseball practice for a change this week, so we took full advantage.

I never understand people that say they don't have time to cook, can't cook, blah blah blah. There is really nothing simpler, or cheaper, than this meal.

I took a 1/2 bag of Trader Joe's white creamer potatoes, cut them in half & boiled for a few minutes. Then drained, tossed with olive oil, and popped in a 450 oven along with a chicken that I picked up at Fresh&Easy on my way home. The chicken already comes neatly trussed with a nifty elastic string, so I just dried it and salt & peppered it. That's it, nothing fancy. That all cooked for more or less an hour until the chicken was done. I put the chicken on a cutting board, and then wilted some garlic and mixed up greens in the same skillet I roasted the chicken in until tender, about 10 mins or so, yes in the chicken fat and juices.
Carved up the chicken and put it all on the platter together. Tres gourmet, yes? And it took a bit over an hour. Cost: $1.15 for the potatoes ($2.29 for a bag, I used half the bag), chicken $4.85 ($1.19 a lb), greens about $2.29 or so a bag (I forget). At any rate, this cost less than $8, and fed 3 with leftovers so would have fed 4. You would spend more if you went to In-n-Out Burger.... mmmm... grilled onions.... but I digress. Cook this at home, it is delicious and easy, and light on the wallet.

Spring in a bowl....

A quick & easy soup night hit -- cream of asparagus soup. Which goes to show how much I loooooovvvvveeeee my immersion blender. Simply some home made chicken stock, leftover asparagus chopped up, blended with a touch of cream, and the tips added to heat through. Yum! Although, next time I will strain......

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thank heavens for rainouts...

...otherwise I would barely get any cooking done! Sunday we had a rainout, and once the weather cleared I had my heart set on leg of lamb. Unfortunately, the usual suspects did not have any, so I bought some beef and made a carbonnade with Chimay Belgian beer. I used Saveur's version, clipped from a magazine ages ago. It was very very good. It went well with the beer as well! Unfortunately my picture came out very blurry....
This week was a bit hectic, I realized I missed calling my nephew on his 16th birthday. I did manage to get 2 meals on the table -- Monday soup night was the Jamie Oliver pasta e ceci that I made before, and Tuesday I finally got around to trying these balsamic glazed pork chops, from any number of food mags I have gotten, so who knows where it came from. You brown the chops and shallots in the pan, then add balsamic & brown sugar, reduce to a glaze, and return the chops to the pan. Perfect with some asparagus and roasted potatoes.
Thanks to Costco, I get my lamb fix today. I cut a huge 5 pounder into 4 pieces so I can pop one out of the freezer whenever the mood strikes. Of course just as we were getting ready to start the charcoal for the grill, it started to sprinkle... so oven roasted lamb & asparagus, with aioli and home made bread tonight. Then, back to the craziness tomorrow! Ooh, and I get to work in the snack bar on Tuesday night (ugh).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Crazy times....

It's baseball season here again.
Well, it's always baseball season but in the spring not only is there club baseball, there is also Little League. So, we find ourselves sitting down to one or two meals a week max that aren't Subway, sloppy joes, grilled cheese, etc... There is a lot of this, which is the Nigella Lawson chicken and sausage bake without the sausage.
I found this in my camera too, I made a curry-garam masala paste and roasted whole chicken legs, served with basmati rice, baba ganoush and tzaziki. Oh, yeah, and 5 minute bread makes a fun pizza. This one with pesto, fresh mozzarella and sundried tomatoes, a bit of procuitto on top too. Yum! We had a rainout today, and I tried to buy leg of lamb but no one seemed to have any, so I will make carbonnade (beef stew with beer) and post on that later this week.

I did, however, finally get around to making this mushroom bourguignon a few weeks ago, it's from Smitten Kitchen. I didn't have any beef or veg stock, so I used veal stock. That made it good :). This was pretty easy to put together and tasted really really good. The smell while cooking the mushrooms and then the mirepoix was pretty dang amazing.
And tasty too, with some cold leftover lamb on the side.

Sigh.... is it August yet?