Life is Peachy!

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Life is Peachy in August – continuing the tradition of our monthly dinner party!

For a while I was stuck on having a BBQ type menu – or at least a take on American BBQ. I even found barbecue napkins that were super cute so I figured it must be a sign.

But after our trip to San Francisco last month, we kept thinking about the peaches we bought and ate from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. They were so sweet, and of course in season too. So we thought we would take a similar approach as our April’s Ode to Lemon and pick one ingredient – peaches – and incorporate it throughout the meal. It ended up working out great!

The menu really complemented the summer month of August:

I also like the fact that we diversified our recipe sources for this month.

We subscribe to Cooking Light magazine and have had really good luck with their recipes. At least one of their recipes is included in our lineup. But every recipe in this month’s theme is from a different source, and it all came together really nicely.

The only things I didn’t care for was the Peach Bellini and the beer. The Bellini wasn’t sweet enough (a little simple syrup would do it some good) and the peach beer tasted more like peach juice.

But the salad, rice, and dessert totally made up for the drinks being so-so! All in all, another successful dinner!

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Hawaiian June

Hawaiian Food

Hawaiian June

This month’s dinner theme was tough to nail down. My husband wanted seafood, I was thinking vegetarian, and neither of us had a solid menu to go from. So… I was researching dinner theme ideas and came across Hawaiian cuisine. We love the Hawaiian islands! And the theme worked perfectly for June, the month that ushers in summer. Plus, BevMo! was having their 5¢ sale, so it was great time to try some new white wine! Here is the menu we created:

Libations

Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, New Zealand

Appetizers

Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Dipping Sauce
Ono Spareribs

Entrée & Sides

Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Salsa
Hawaiian Rice
Roasted Asparagus

Dessert
Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Although the coconut shrimp was fantastic, the dipping sauce (which I pulled from another recipe) was my least favorite item on the menu. It consisted of 1/2 cup orange marmalade, 2 tsp stone ground mustard, and 1 tsp horseradish. I didn’t care for the overall taste, so I added salt and sriracha to cut down the bitter sweetness. It helped, but I recommend going with a sauce that you know you like!

The blackened tuna was so good that we made it again about a week later. We bought the tuna from Marukai Japanese Food Specialty Store, which is where we get a lot of our fresh fish.

Banana Cake

Banana Cake

But the best part of this dinner was the banana cake. WOW! My husband started early in the morning on the recipe so that the cake was cooled and settled in plenty of time for our guests. It was definitely one of my favorite desserts we’ve made. It was fluffier and more moist than banana bread. If you like cake, MAKE THIS RECIPE! You will not be disappointed!

April Ode to Lemon

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

April’s dinner was fantastic! Our theme was all things Meyer lemon. We got the idea from a group of recipes in a spring issue of Cooking Light magazine. We often find and make recipes from this magazine, and they are almost always good!

Here was the lineup:

Libations

Sparkling Lemon Cocktail with Vodka, Sparkling Wine, Rosemary
Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and California

Appetizer

Seared Scallops with Lemon Beurre Blanc, White Wine, Shallots, Thyme

Salad

Fennel Salad with Lemon, Parsley, Shallots, Olive Oil, Goat Cheese

Entrée & Side

Lemon Chicken Piccata Sautéed in Sauvignon Blanc
Roasted Asparagus with Brown Butter and Thyme Lemon Rind

Dessert

Lemon Curd Tart with a Macadamia Nut Vanilla Crust, Topped with Meringues

And here were the results!

April Meyer Lemon

April Ode to Lemon

French February

This year we were excited to cook French food for French February.

Heart Sourdough

Valentine Sourdough

We decided on a dinner menu that we thought would be a lovely. And while it was… it seemed like a few things went right and a few things didn’t. But I think that had to do with our skills (or lack thereof) vs. the actual recipes. What Julia Child had – we do not. But it was fun anyway! Here’s what we made:

Last year I made a special dinner for my Valentine. It was based on a Chicken Vol Au Vent recipe that Champagne Bakery in Del Mar served, before they Americanized their menu. Because I made up my version, I was wise enough to write down what I did, and here it is for you to also try!

Chicken Vol Au Vent
Valentine's Day 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

Ingredients

leeks
garlic
cremini mushrooms
spinach
unsalted butter
white wine
extra virgin olive oil
1% milk
sour cream
kosher salt
pepper
puff pastry
egg white
chicken breast
Method
Sauté cremini mushrooms in olive oil, white wine, and unsalted butter. Add leeks and continue sautéing. Then add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes before adding spinach. Then add small amount of milk and sour cream, salt and pepper to taste. Cook chicken separate and add at the end.
Cut pastry into circle for bottom and cut another for top. Cut a smaller circle or other shape in the middle of the top pastry (in my case, I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter that my Grandma Barb gave me). Poke holes in the middle of the bottom pastry, and stack top on bottom with egg white in between. If desired, you can add another layer of pastry between the bottom and the top (with a section cut out) to add a more depth and bowl-like shape. Bake pastry according to instructions (don’t forget to also bake the special shape if you made one!) then add the chicken filling just before serving with the pastry shape on top. Voilà!

Paleo Equals Color

Paleo FoodIt’s been just more than three weeks since we started eating Paleo style. The first thing I noticed is how much more fruit we consume. I can, 1000 percent say:  we were not eating enough fruit! Look how colorful this is! And this picture doesn’t even show the greens we had in the refrigerator: broccoli, kale, Mexican squash, brussels sprouts, salad, carrots, cabbage…

We’ve also been buying high quality meats and fish from the better supermarkets and local stores. It’s not cheap to eat this way, that’s for sure! But the food on our plate is so alive!

The best part of this way of eating is that (with a lot of cardio) we are both losing weight. I have also found that I rarely crave anything sweet because fresh fruit is acceptable. Hello fresh pineapple!!!

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Paleo Punks

Paleo Friendly Food

Paleo Friendly Food

My husband has officially turned us into cave people. I am the first to admit that my cheese head tendencies make me want to do the Atkins version of low carb eating. But I know that the Paleo lifestyle is much healthier.

I come from a big Italian family where bread, pasta, butter, and cheese runs through our veins. But I also know that all of those refined carbohydrates are terrible for us. Boooo!

To help with inspiration, we watched Super Size Me last night. Neither of us are McHeads but it was eye-opening anyhow. Morgan’s vegan girlfriend cracked me up and I was happy that in the end, he was going back to protein (read: meat!).

I am going to give this a real shot. Especially since we are joining a challenge at our gym where we will be required to weigh in weekly for the next 3 months. Having to be accountable to someone is helpful. I don’t want to say that I didn’t lose a pound because I was snacking on cheese and crackers for the past week!

With this new way of eating in mind, I made a kale salad today. I first tried it at People’s Market in Ocean Beach, CA and thought it was good. Here is how I prepared it:

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

Kale Salad


2 bunches of kale
2 tomatoes on the vine
2 green onions
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste
juice of two lemons

  1. Wash the kale thoroughly, then drain. Remove most of the middle stalk with a knife, then chop the leaves down to about 1″ size. Place in large bowl.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and green onions, set aside.
  3. Juice two fresh lemons, set aside.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over kale and massage the kale until it is less rigid.
  5. Add salt, massage.
  6. Add the avocado, continue to massage the avocado into the kale to coat the leaves.
  7. Add the tomatoes and green onions and mix together.

This can be served immediately or placed in the refrigerator and served later. It’s so good that it just makes me want to continue to eat healthy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, my husband and I had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner at home, just the two of us. This was the first year where I felt totally prepared. We selected all the recipes in advance and went to the grocery store early in the week. I didn’t forget anything so I didn’t have to go back and fight crowds!

While I do have some family recipes that we’ve used in the past, I decided to try some new ones to potentially add to the tradition. Here’s what we had, which is pretty typical of an American Thanksgiving:

 

Jalapeno, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid

Jalapeno, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid

Jalapeño, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid – we had this for breakfast, to give us energy to cook all morning! It was so good and can easily be made with different ingredients. One of these days, I’m going to make it with calzone fillings.

Naked Grape, Pinot Grigio – this too helped provide energy for cooking!

Classic Herbed Bread Dressing – the fresh sage and thyme really make this recipe wonderful! I have a family dressing recipe that I sometimes use, but I like to alternate years with this one.

Green Bean Casserole – this was my first time making this recipe. I really like the use of fresh green beans. And even though I am a cheese head, it really does not need the cheddar on top. Next time, I’ll just add a few more French fried onions to the top for extra crispiness. Either way, it was very good!

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes – I just made this one up along the way. Red and russet potatoes, roasted garlic, butter, dollop of sour cream, milk, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Came out pretty good!

Turkey – I made the mistake of buying a run of the mill bird. My husband wasn’t pleased. But I had made up my mind that when I was done doing the food shopping, I was truly done. I bought turkey bags and twine though so that made up for us not brining the turkey first. I also used a random mix of spices from the cupboard which worked out great. Now time to make turkey chili!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce – I made this last year and will never again buy canned cranberry sauce! 1 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 3/4 cup orange juice – bring to boil in small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium, add 12 oz of cranberries and watch them pop over the next 5-15 minutes. Viola!

Sweet Potato Pie – my brother-in-law always made these each year but this time my husband decided to learn how to make them so that he can master a recipe for years to come. It turned out delicious!

I am thankful for my husband, family, and health, and thank God for it all. I wish you and yours Happy Thanksgiving!