Eggs and Grits California Style

Breakfast is definitely one of my favorite meals. When I was a kid I can remember all of us kids (there were 7) snuggly sitting around the kitchen table (an oilcloth covered wood picnic table with benches) and mom serving a platter of fried mush. Mush, as I remember it, was corn meal cooked and then poured into a loaf pan to cool overnight. In the morning she would cut the cold mush into slices, dip each one in flour then fry them until they were golden and heated through. We would top our mush with butter (really it was margarine) and hot syrup. She made syrup each time we had fried mush, pancakes or waffles, which she always made from scratch, never using a recipe except the one she kept in her head. To make the syrup she dissolved sugar in boiling water, then added some Mapeline, which came in a little bottle like vanilla does.  The Mapeline, I later learned was, imitation flavoring.  It gave the sugar water it’s flavor and color. The syrup was never thick, like store bought syrup, but it was sweet and tasted good on the crispy surfaced mush.

Polenta and eggs

This morning I felt inspired to get creative with the leftover polenta that I had made for my last post. Taking my mom’s idea of frying leftover mush as the basis for the dish, I lightly browned slices of cold polenta in olive oil and butter (I didn’t dip the slices in flour.), sautéed fresh Spring spinach in the same, then fried a large egg over-easy and layered it on top. It was good. In fact, it was so good I fixed the same thing for breakfast the next day. Sometimes you just can’t get enough of a good thing.

Will have to try mom’s fried mush next time I have leftover polenta. But I think I’ll skip the margarine and Mapeline flavored syrup. I’m more of a sweet butter and Maple syrup kinda girl now.

Butternut Squash Polenta with Sausage and Onion

Butternut Squash Polenta

When I saw this recipe in the New York Times last week, I though, why have I never thought of adding grated winter squash to polenta? It seems like such a natural paring and after trying this dish I can tell you it is a delicious natural paring and one I’ll be using from now on.

Grated squashThe recipe is quick and easy taking a little over 30 minutes to complete. Grated winter squash is simmered with polenta and bay leaf until they are tender, then you add a little butter and black pepper and the polenta is done. While the polenta cooks, you brown the sausage and caramelize the onions.  What could be easier? Add a nice green salad and dinner is served.

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Polenta simmering with grated winter squash and bay leaf.

I used andouille sausage since I had some in the freezer and loved the contrast between the spicy sausage and the sweet taste of the squash and onions. I think you could use just about any kind of sausage and have a satisfying result. I did use rosemary but not the fennel seeds, mostly because I didn’t have them on hand. Using sage instead of rosemary could also be a nice variation.

Thanks to Melissa Clark at the New York Times for this keeper. You can find the recipe, a “how to” video and more information about polenta here.

Waffled French Toast With Sautéed Apples, Walnuts and Maple Syrup

Since retiring my mornings have become a time to ease into the day without the rushing that work mornings were filled with. I still have some rush mornings, days that I volunteer I don’t have the luxury of easing, but there are more days of easing than rushing and the mornings I do rush I am definitely OK with it because in just a little while I am going to be doing something I really love and with people I really like. You can’t always say that about work, at least in my past experience that was oft times true.  Easing is definitely something I look forward to practicing. A great habit I wish I had picked up long ago.

A morning of easing can bring about creativity, like this morning. I’ve put off going to the grocery store for over a week now so choices are becoming scarce, food wise. I almost went to the market yesterday when I was out and about but it didn’t happen. And so it was that I found myself this morning wondering what I could put together for breakfast, my favorite meal.

After foraging around in the refrigerator I came up with; an apple, a spoon or two of greek yogurt, a bit of soy coffee creamer, an egg and a heel of seeded bread. I keep a supply of different kinds of nuts in the freezer so I grabbed a hand full of walnuts when I got out the coffee beans, yes I keep them in the freezer too. The menu would be waffle style French toast with sautéed apples, maple syrup and walnuts, topped off with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cup of fresh brewed coffee.

Apple, walnuts, syrup

A while back I saw an article on making french toast using a waffle iron and I have adopted that idea in preference to just making french toast in a skillet. The toast cooks much faster, since you’re cooking both sides at the same time, and there are all those little indents that are wonderful for holding syrup or butter or what ever you decide to put on top.

To prepare the toast, I use 1 egg with 1/2 egg shell full of milk or in this case coffee creamer, for each piece of bread. Beat the egg and milk/creamer together then pour the mixture over the bread and let it soak in. Turn the bread in mixture at least once so both sides coat well.

DSCN6884Peel and core the apple then cut into 1/4” slices and sauté in a little butter until slightly browned then turn to brown the second side. When the apples are just browned on the second side drizzle a little maple syrup over them and add some chopped walnuts and let bubble a little to caramelize the nuts. Keep warm.

DSCN6888Cook the egg soaked bread in a preheated waffle iron until done. Place on serving plate, top with apple, syrup walnut mixture, top with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The odds of getting this lucky again tomorrow are right around slim and none so I think a trip to the grocery store today will be high on my “to do” list today.

More French toast ideas can be found at Camp Toast with Maple Syrup Poached Fruit and Trou Pain Perdu.

Chicken and Dumplings Southwest Style

It has been literally months since we here in California have had a good rainfall. That all changed yesterday when the storm door finally opened bringing us a weekend filled with rain and I couldn’t be happier.

Mexican Chicken Soup with Corn Dumplings
While I would rather spend my time outside enjoying nature I’m quite content to stay inside this weekend and work on some genealogy research and cook up some comfort food. Add some time to watch a few movies and perhaps catch up on some reading and I think the weekend is going to be pretty wonderful.

After checking several comfort food style recipes I decided to try a Southwestern style chicken and dumplings recipe from Sunset Magazine, Nov 2003. Chicken thighs are simmered slowly with onion, red pepper Mexican style canned tomatoes, chicken stock and enchilada sauce producing a rich, somewhat spicy but not too spicy stew. The dumplings have cornmeal and pickled jalapeño chilies in them and are the perfect accompaniment to the chicken. You could always substitute chopped green chilies if you don’t think you’d like the pickled ones. The only thing I might add to the stew would be some sliced carrots. I also liked the addition of a little fresh cilantro just before serving. Otherwise it was very tasty and easy to fix. The perfect comfort food for a rainy evening.

You can find the recipe here.

Anderson Valley, Apples and Apple Cinnamon Loaf

Traveling south along Hwy 1, after three beautiful days exploring in and around Fort Bragg, my sister Gwen and I decided to take yet another backroad detour off the main highway. Backroads can be beautiful and enjoyable experiences, sometimes they are just the opposite. This time we would try a road headed inland from the coast through the tiny town of Comptche, then south to Hwy 128 just west of the town of Navarro in the Anderson Valley. It turned out to be both beautiful and enjoyable.

The Anderson Valley occupies an area about 25 miles long, extending northwesterly from Hwy 101 towards the Coast along Hwy 128. Early  European settlers described it as “a long valley stretching to the northwest, surrounded by dense woods on the southwestern side, and grassy hills to the northeast. There was abundant meadow grass, and water. Deer, elk, bear, and small game animals are abundant and roam the valley and surrounding hills.”

The settlers started arriving around 1850 and with them came the changes that transformed this wooded valley into the thriving agricultural community it is today. From what I can find in the histories apple production here began just before the turn of the century. Today apples still grow in this region but many orchards have been replaced by vineyards. Since 1964 winegrowing and winemaking has become a big part of the economic landscape of the valley. But then that’s another story for another day. Today it’s about apples.

DSCN6633 As we entered Anderson Valley I remembered a historic fruit stand that I had visited many years ago and wondered if it was still there. Much to my delight Gowan’s Oak Tree was still there, unchanged and best of all it was open. I had to stop.

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DSCN6634Gowan’s has been around since the 30′s when Grandma Gowan would sit under the oak tree, that now shades the building, and sell apples to travelers passing by. Around 1950 they built the fruit stand and have been selling to travelers and neighbors ever since.

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They had a nice variety of apples and pears to choose from but no persimmons even though the sign said they did. During the summer months they sell peaches, plums, berries and home grown vegetables.

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Oh, and they had Arkansas Black apples. One of my favorites and not always easy to find.  To link to a recipe for Fresh Apple Cake and more about these beauties see my previous post Arkansas Black Apples.
DSCN6637This little basket of Lady Apples intrigued me, begged me to try one. So I did. It had a semisweet flavor and was crisp and juicy. The sad thing about these little gems is that they aren’t widely available.

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From what I could find about them, they were first cultivated by the Romans and are the oldest apple variety known. The French, it is said, loved them and considered them as royal; early American colonists thought of them as a symbol of wealth. Pretty impressive history for such a tiny fruit.DSCN6684

Always looking for something new to try and having a nice variety of fresh apples on hand, I decided to try this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Loaf by Sharon Whitley posted on Just A Pinch Recipes. The perfect recipe for brightening a cold winter morning. The only thing I changed was to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts with the apple and use mini loaf pans instead of the 9 x 5. The aroma of this loaf will drive you crazy when it’s baking. Is there anything better smelling than cinnamon and sugar? Quick to fix and yummy.

Another Idea For Shredded Brussels Sprouts

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While reading some articles this morning I came upon another idea using shredded brussels sprouts. This one, found on the blog Food52, is from Danny Meyer & Michael Romano‘s classic Union Square Café Cookbook. The description: “a brussels sprout recipe that will bring a bright new pattern to your life: the hash. Hashing combines the best of our favorite techniques — the loft of a raw shredded salad with the warmth and toasted edges of high-heat roasting or frying. It takes little time or planning to pull off and, just in time for January, gives you a light — but not too light — new favorite.”

OK I’m sold. Will be trying this soon. Hope you will too.

Union Square Café’s Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

New Year’s Eve Leftovers for Lunch

Well 2013 shot by like a rocket. My great aunt once told me the older you get the faster time goes. As I near 70 I can testify she was spot on with that observation.

I thought I’d try again at keeping Anniespickns going. One would think that a retired person would have tons of time to write and take pictures but I haven’t found that to be true. It’s more like I have found sooooooo many things that peak my interest and take my time that Anniespickns has suffered.  Sometimes the interest has been there but it gets replaced with something even more interesting. So, it’s a new year, a time, they say, for new beginnings.

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New Years Eve I cooked a rack of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach for myself. The rack had about eight bones so I naturally had leftovers. After a beautiful bike ride along the river, in sunny upper sixty degree weather today, I came home hungry and ready to eat some leftovers.  I knew I had a few brussels sprouts in the fridge so I decided to saute some in olive with a few shitake mushrooms, sweet Maui onions, and a clove roasted garlic as an accompaniment to the leftover lamb. I also treated myself to a glass of Pinot Nior, also a leftover. Hard to drink a whole bottle of wine by one’s self even on New Year’s Eve.DSCN6544I really love brussels sprouts prepared this way they are quick and delicious. Just cut off the end stem, remove the outside leaves, cut them in half and slice thinly. Don’t overcook them, just saute them lightly. Sometimes I thinly slice bacon, saute it until almost crisp, then saute some onion in the bacon fat, add the slivered brussels sprouts and quickly saute them. In my book there isn’t much that doesn’t taste good with a little bacon.

Other ideas for brussels sprouts can be found at:

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts

Monday’s Two-fer