Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mushroom Ice Cream at Cowlick's



If you've been following my blog for awhile, you'll know that we plan stops during our road trips to check out new-to-us ice cream shoppes. During this year's 10-day summer camping trip, we hit a handful of spots. At one of the stops, Jake asked me, "How do you find these places?" Mad skillz, Babe.


This one we've driven by for years as we venture south along the coast; but, we've never stopped. It just never worked out, schedule-wise, but when I noticed that they had mushroom ice cream, I was sold and planned to swing in there this time around.

Besides, last year, they were heralded as one of the Top 10 Ice Cream Shops in America. “Located along the Pacific Coast, this family owned shop serves up 'absurdly good' ice cream and sources its dairy from local Petaluma cows...and those daring enough can devour the local favorite: 'Candy Cap Mushroom.'" Yes, I'm daring enough.


I've always wanted to try candy cap mushroom ice cream. Penny Ice Creamery has a version, but I always seem to miss that season. I'm pretty sure I squealed aloud when I saw that Cowlick's had it. The mom in line behind us, with her two kids, was reading off the flavors and said, "Mushroom?!? Yuck." Whereas I purposefully drove there because I saw mushroom on the menu. Different strokes, I suppose.


I didn't even look at the other flavors! The flavor wasn't overtly mushroom or even very savory. It reminded me of a strong, woodsy honey. Now, if I could get my hands on some candy caps, I'd try to make my own.

Fair Fare: Lobster Corn Dogs & Fried Gator




I avoid the fair like the plague. I can't remember the last time that I've been to a county or state fair; I definitely haven't been in at least a decade.

I don't care for rides. Or crowds. Or what they consider food. Funnel cake? Corn dogs?! Blech. I know, I'm awfully curmudgeon-y, aren't I?

But when Jake's cousin suggested a trip to the fair while we were passing through his town, he added, "they have really good - and interesting food."

He knows how to push my buttons. My curiosity was piqued. Even Jake, who probably despises fairs more than I, agreed. We slathered on the sunblock and off we went to the Sonoma County Fair.

And I will admit: I ate a corn dog...and I liked it. It was a lobster corn dog. I also ate fried gator, crawfish étouffée (in honor of our failed crawdad hunt the week before), and some truly succulent ceviche.

I am still not a fair-person per se, but Obe was right: the food was really good - and interesting. It was an adventure.





Do you go to your county or state fair? What do you like to eat there?

Blackberry S'mores for Breakfast




"S'mores for breakfast, boysies!" I hollered from the picnic table about our last campsite of the trek. Silence descended and sticks stopped flying across the site. What did you say, Mommy?!? both boys gaped. Actually, I think all three of my boys just stared at me.

But after 10 days of cooking in the wild, and on the verge of heading home, I was done. Done, done, done, done, done. Done cooking on one burner. Done smelling like a campfire. Just plain done. And since we had skipped s'mores the night before, everything was ready to go.

Jake did suggest that we hike up to pick fresh blackberries and stick them in there. That was slightly redeeming, nutritionally speaking. So, I strapped on running shoes and off we went.


He whispered as we went, maybe even more excited than the boys about our breakfast prospect. "You got marshmallows, right?"
Yes.
"You have chocolate?"
Yes. 
"Dark?"
Of course.
"Annnnd you didn't get those whole wheat graham crackers again, did you?"
No. 
"You're really going to let them eat s'mores for breakfast?!"
Yes.
"Awesome."


As they munched away, happily, on their breakfast s'mores, they toyed with the name for this creation.


I think I heard something about Berry Black S'mores and something about Darth Vader S'mores. But I don't believe it was every truly christened. What do you think it should be called?


graham crackers + 78% dark chocolate with sea salt + roasted marshmallows + fresh blackberries

Proof!  

My mom-points were soaring that day. But, savory gal that I am, I just couldn't eat it myself. I tried a bite and let the sugar pigs duke it out for my share. I ate the blackberries by themselves...with a handful of baked chips and washed it all down with an espresso.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pass the Cookbook: Shwarma! Assemble!




This month the Pass the Cookbook crew - under the leadership of Kita, the culinary force behind Pass the Sushi - is cooking from Julie of White Lights on Wednesday's pick: Emeril Lagasse's Kicked Up Sandwiches. 

This post contains an amazon affiliate link at the bottom - for the book.

Our three choices this month were for Almond-Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Lemon Neufchâtel, Turkey Waldorf Sandwich, or Beef Shwarma with Tzatziki Sauce. And, yes, I did pick the latter because of Julie's note: "Who doesn’t want to know what Shwarma is after seeing The Avengers?

I actually didn't remember the Shwarma reference...from the one time I saw the movie. But my boys - all three of them - were happy to oblige and watch it with me; it was the first time our little one has been allowed to see a PG-13 movie. Gasp! He was so excited...he's ten-and-a-half.

I found this still of the Avengers eating shwarma...from the extras of the DVD; we had watched it on netflix, so I didn't get to see the extras. It's too good not to share, right?

from reelz.com

The scene, in case you missed the shwarma reference, too: Iron Man has just saved the world from alien attack.

Tony Stark: [regaining consciousness] What just happened? Please tell me nobody kissed me.
Steve Rogers: We won.
Tony Stark: Alright. Hey. Alright. Good job, guys. Let's just not come in tomorrow. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shwarma? There's a shwarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it.

And we all wanted to try it, too. Perfect...I did skip the tzatziki sauce, subbing in homemade Tarator Sauce and using my Homemade Rose Harissa. 



Ingredients makes 4 to 6 sandwiches
Shwarma
  • ½ C plain Greek-style yogurt
  • ¼ C vinegar (I had a thyme-infused Pinot Grigio vinegar)
  • ¼ C plus 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground allspice
  • ½ t ground cloves
  • ½ t ground cardamom 
  • ½ t ground ginger
  • 2 lbs beef (I marinated and grilled mine whole - a NY strip - not sliced)

To Serve
  • 4 to 6 lavash breads
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • grilled green onions
  • 8 to 12 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 T fresh parsley. chopped
  • Homemade Rose Harissa (or use whatever harissa you have or can find at the store. Our local Whole Foods has at least three versions)
  • Tarator Sauce

  

Procedure
In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the shwarma ingredients - except the meat -  and mix well. Add the beef and rub so that it's completely covered with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Grill till desired doneness. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Carve slices of the meat while you warm the lavash bread in the oven.


To serve, arrange the warmed lavash on a cutting board. Smear the bread with harissa, if using. Lay the grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, and beef on the bread. Drizzle with the Tarator Sauce. Roll up the lavash to form a wrap. Serve with extra sauces, if desired.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Clara, Spanish Lemon Beer




When the Nonni took the boys to a play last night, Jake and I headed out for a quick dinner date and opted for Mundaka, a local Spanish tapas joint. Unlike my usual  choice of sangria, I opted for a clara - beer + sparkling lemonade. It sounded refreshing...and it was!

I looked up a recipe when I got home. Easy! Equal parts beer and equal parts sparkling lemonade. I'll definitely be making this for the rest of the summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Whole Foods Journey {#FRD2014}



One of the month's challenges for the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassadors (I'm the Monterey #FRD2014 rep!) is to answer the following:


Why do you eat real food? 
We want to know what inspires you to eat real!

First, I want to say that I see eating whole foods as a journey; you'll encounter road-blocks and take detours. Just keep your eye on the destination. This journey is a conscious decision to eat fewer things from a package and more things from the ground. You don't have to throw out all of your packaged foods, though you can if you like, but I see that as a waste of money that you have already spent. Just make your way through it without replenishing the supply.

Second, learn to forgive yourself. We don't always have time to do everything from scratch. Don't beat yourself up. Just make small changes.

Okay, on to the question asked...and my answer.

I eat real food because, well, it's real. Why would I want to put something in my body that was created in a laboratory, or something that I can't even pronounce? I don't. And I see real connections between food and how my body reacts.

Funny story - and perhaps TMI - but my son had gotten a gift certificate to a chain restaurant that shall remain nameless. He did something good at school, but I put off taking him there. Finally, a friend of mine insisted that I let D use the certificate...and said he'd be a good sport and bring his two boys, too. So, off we went. We ate some awful food and washed it down with awful drinks. And on our way to the bowling alley (the boys' chosen activity post-dinner), both D's and my systems revolted. We dropped R and Jake off at the bowling alley with our friends and ran home to get sick. Yuck. Our digestive tracts were unhappy. Jake joked that his system "remembers eating crappy food, so [he was] fine." I can't explain R's imperviousness.

That's the answer to the question asked. Now, I want to delve into a few challenges and what I do to combat those.

(1) Not planning ahead and then grabbing whatever is available;
(2) Finding the time and energy to cook from scratch; and 
(3) Wanting quick and easy options.

Can you tell that most of the pressure, for me, is time? I know everyone has varying commitments, work schedules, numbers-ages of kids, access to farmers' markets, and more. I also know that what works for me and my family may not necessarily work for everyone else. And I am cognizant of the fact that not everyone will agree with my suggestions. However, this is how we eat real at home a majority of the time - how I stay on this side of sanity! If you read this in its entirety and glean even just one suggestion that might help you eat a little more ‘real’ on a regular basis, I’ll be a happy girl!

Not planning ahead and then grabbing whatever is available
I am not as disciplined as some who create a weekly meal plan. But I do plan ahead. For breakfast, if I have oatmeal, homemade granola (here's a Cacao Nib-Coconut Granola), eggs, chia seeds (for chia seed pudding - here's my 50-50 Chia Pudding), we're set for the week. Lunches are usually leftovers or have bread and tortillas for quick veggie wraps. And talking about dinner, I keep my staples - grains (rice, couscous, and quinoa) stocked; I make sure that I have three or four proteins (fresh seafood, pok tenderloin, ground beef, and chicken) in the fridge for the week; and I pick up our weekly CSA box so that we have plenty of vegetables. If I have all of those - grain + protein + veggie - I can pull together a fresh, home-cooked dinner easily. If any of those elements are missing, it's tempting to just grab something to go; those are usually unhealthy and expensive.

Finding the time and energy to cook from scratch
Cooking foods from scratch has simply become routine for me. But, breakfast consists of grabbing one of the  items I listed above; it's nothing fancy. Lunch, as I mentioned, is whatever is leftover from dinner. So dinner is really only the labor-intensive meal to cook from scratch. As long as I have food in the fridge, I can manage. I banish the kids to do their homework, I crank up some tunes, and get cooking. A good playlist definitely helps!

Wanting quick and easy options
My weekday dinners tend to be simple. No need to resort to packaged stuff just because you squeezed in a run between piano lesson and mandolin lesson and bedtime is in less than two hours! Breakfast for dinner is always a quick solution for us: omeletes, scrambled eggs and toast, or even waffles! If you have bread and cheese: grilled cheese. And my boys will never turn down a BLT. I know these might not be super-thrilling, but because dinners like these are more of a special occasion, I don’t feel badly serving them for dinner every once in a while. It keeps us from picking up take-out or ordering pizza for delivery!

So, I'll readily admit that eating real food does take some extra time and forethought. But remember this: if you don’t buy processed foods, you can’t eat processed foods at home! I truly believe that anyone can eat real if they really want to. You just have to figure out how to make it work for your family.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

La Fée Verte Olive Oil Shortbread




I wanted a little something sweet tonight, but I didn't want it badly enough to get dressed and go to the grocery store. My problem: I had no butter. Sugar, yes. Flour, yes. Butter, no. Argh!

 

So, I decided to experiment with an olive oil shortbread. I called it "La Fée Verte" because it has a splash of absinthe and a sprinkling of fennel pollen. This was easy to make - 7 ingredients in all, about 2 minutes active time, 50 minutes of baking, and 20 minutes of cooling. So, in your hand in less than 75 minutes. Awesome!


Ingredients

  • 3 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1 C organic powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T absinthe
  • 1/4 t fennel pollen
  • 1/2 t fleur de sel
  • 1 C olive oil


Procedure
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, absinthe, fennel pollen, and fleur de sel. Pour in the olive oil and stir until the dry mixture is completely incorporated into a cohesive ball.

Transfer the dough to a 10" round baking dish. My stoneware didn't require greasing, but you might want to grease your dish first. Use your fingers to press the dough into an even layer. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork; I also cut score marks for the wedges. 

Bake until the surface feels firm to the touch and is slightly golden around the edges, approximately 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven, re-score the shortbread, and let cool for 20 minutes. 

Using a very sharp knife, slice the shortbread into the wedges. Let cool completely before removing from the pan.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Croques Monsieur et Madame for La Fête Nationale



Quatorze Juillet! July 14th is often thought of as France's Independence Day. More accurately, though, it's French National Day — called La Fête Nationale in French — and commemorates the day, in 1789, when crowds stormed the Bastille, a fortress used as a prison in Paris. The event marks the beginning of the French Revolution.

I wanted to make something French for dinner - and fast. I still had to meet a deadline after all. I finally decided on croque madame. The croque monsieur, is a ham and Gruyère sandwich slathered in cheesy béchamel; a croque monsieur becomes a croque madame when a fried egg is placed on top of it.


"What does that mean, Mommy?" asked the Lil' Wom.

Croque Monsieur is something like 'crunchy mister.' And Croque Madame is 'crunchy missus.'

"I get it! I get it!" he erupted.

Get what?

"I get why it becomes a girl when you put an egg on top."

[Deep breaths.] Okay. Why does it become a girl when you put an egg on top? [Am I going to regret asking this?]

"Girls have eggs...you know...in their ovaries. Eggs mean girls. Boys have sperm. Mommy, c'mon...."

Oh, right.

The boys wanted monsieur  - not sure if the ovary comment was deterring them or not - and Jake and I had madame. That was easy. Half and half.

Ingredients serves 4 - 2 monsieur, 2 madame

  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1-1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C milk
  • cave-aged Gruyère, thinly sliced and enough to cover the tops of the rolls and the insides as well
  • ½ C finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ C grated cave-aged Gruyère
  • salt and pepper, to taste 
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 4 Francese rolls
  • 4 T mustard
  • 8 thin slices baked ham
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 duck eggs (you can use chicken eggs, I just had duck)

Procedure
Make a béchamel sauce by melting butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, until smooth, approximately one minute. Whisk in cream and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, approximately six or seven minutes. Add ½ cup grated Gruyère and the parmesan, and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Apologies for the blurry photo. I only took the one. Whoops.

Heat broiler to high. Place bread - sliced in half - on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Spread 1 T mustard on one half. Top each half with Gruyère and a slice of ham. Broil until cheese begins to melt, approximately one to two minutes. Smear some béchamel on one side of the sandwich.


Close the sandwich. Top of each sandwich with another smear of béchamel and slices of Gruyère.


Return to the oven and broil until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned, approximately two to three more minutes. That's it for the Croques Monsieur...


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, approximately four to five minutes for the larger duck eggs. Place an egg on top of each madame, and serve hot.