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

Soy and Corriander Marinaded Grilled Eggplant

Fall is definitely in the air here in California’s central valley. Already I am seeing winter squash at the Farmers Market and pumpkins being harvested in several fields adjacent to the river. Day and night time temps have cooled by at least ten degrees and my garden’s production has cooled down too. I’m getting a squash, a cucumber and a few eggplant every now and then.

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Recently a friend shared an eggplant marinade with me that used coriander, aka cilantro leaves, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. It sounded pretty good there were a couple of eggplants in the garden that would be ripe soon so I printed out the recipe, picked up some fresh coriander at the farmers market and waited for the eggplants to get eat’n size.

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The eggplants finally being big enough to pick, it was time to give the new recipe a try. It’s a pretty simple recipe, although there is a 45 minute marinade time so it’s not something you can throw together last minute. You put all the marinade ingredients in to a blender jar, hit the switch until its well mixed then rub marinade into the eggplant’s cut side, place them in pan with remaining marinade and wait.  The recipe recommends microwaving the marinaded eggplants but I’m not much for microwaving veggies so I grilled them. The link to the recipe can be found here.

All in all I thought the dish turned out pretty tasty. I was worried that I might have put in too much ginger but it seemed to be just the right amount and for those of you who who don’t especially like the strong flavor of coriander/cilantro I didn’t feel it was overpowering in any way.  I think that a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds would be a nice way to finish the dish. I not sure If I like this marinade better than my favorite green onion marinade but it’s a nice alternative I’ll use again. You can find my recipe for Sesame Eggplant with Green Onion here if you want to try a nice eggplant marinade but really don’t like coriander/cilantro.

As I started writing this I got curious about coriander/cilantro. I found out it is not only an herb it is also considered a spice, it has been cultivated and used as a medicinal and culinary herb for at least 3,000 years tracking back to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. It’s Asian use goes back several thousand years. Its also unusual as all parts of the plant; root, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds can be used. I found the site The World’s Healthiest Foods to have good information for those of you, who like me always, want who want to learn more.

Inspiration – A True Seedless Sugar Baby Watermelon

Dave's signNot only am I lucky enough to live within cycling distance of what I consider to be one of California’s best Certified Farmers’ Markets, the Sunday Downtown Sacramento Market, there is a wonderful farm stand about 5 miles down river from me for those times when I need to replenish either fresh fruit or veggies during the week.  From May until the end of October, Dave’s Produce becomes my mid-week “go to spot” for fresh produce shopping.

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Dave’s Produce belongs to Sacramento River Delta Grown an Agri-tourism Association of businesses adjacent to the lower Sacramento River. The group’s mission is to promote: Agricultural sustainability and profitability through Agri-tourism, and Agri-education, by providing public accessibility to local farms, while enhancing the public’s awareness of production agriculture, and enjoyment of the rural farming experience. The businesses are varied and include many of the wineries from the Clarksburg region, which I might add make some very nice wine. It’s a beautiful area and one I love exploring in all seasons.

Dave's farm standDave’s Produce is part of Vierra Farms which is where the farm stand is located. Here’s how they describe their location on their website: “Vierra Farms is influenced by the Sacramento Delta Region by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Situated at the edge of the Sacramento River, Vierra Farms takes advantage of the coastal gap as the northern and southern coastal ranges meet at the Sacramento Delta. As temperatures rise in the central valley, cool maritime breezes are pulled directly across the Sacramento region creating a distinctive climate that helped create Vierra Farms’ premium mouth-watering watermelon and bountiful hard squash​ that has been provided to the greater Sacramento area wholesale, retail and food service customers for over the past 10 years.”

I have to say they are right on when they talk about premium mouth-watering watermelon, the squash too, but I want to talk about one of the varieties of watermelon they grow, Inspiration.

Inspiration watermelonInspiration is what is called a black watermelon, the name referring to the outside color of the melon. It is a true Sugar Baby seedless, early maturing watermelon with a brix of 9.5, Brix being a measure of sweetness , where 7.8 – 8.2 is somewhat sweet, 8.3 – 9.0 is sweet, and >9.0 is very sweet. The melon I bought was definitely sweet, seedless and juicy, a perfect summer melon. 

I think this particular watermelon is grown in other regions of the US and would love to hear from you if you have tried it or other black watermelon varieties this summer. I’ll be looking for it again out at Dave’s next season.

chopped watermelon

Camp Toast With Maple Syrup Poached Fruit

Mt Lassen reflection

Mt. Lassen reflected in Summit Lake

Recently friends asked me to join them at Lassen Volcanic NP for a few days of camping. How could I say no. Lassen is one of my favorite places to camp and this time we would be at Summit Lake.

toast & fruit on camp stoveWe shared cooking meals so on one of my turns I made one of my favorite summer breakfast recipes, french toast with fresh fruit poached in Maple syrup.

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The fruit, this time, was white nectarines and blueberries sauteed in a little butter then poached for just a little while in maple syrup.

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The french toast was made by soaking a piece of whole grain, seeded bread in a mixture of one egg beaten with one-half egg shell of milk until the mixture is absorbed into the toast, then cooking it in a little olive oil and butter until it browns on each side. To test for doneness touch it with your finger, if it springs back, its done.

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To serve pour the fruit and syrup mixture over the toast. Another tasty addition is to add a dollop of Greek yogurt and light sprinkling of cinnamon to the top of the fruit.

Another idea I have tried when cooking french toast at home is to use a Belgian style waffle maker. The toast cooks quicker and the holes contain the syrup. Actually I have grown to prefer french toast cooked this way. But, when camping a cook stove and a frying pan works just fine. Throw in some gorgeous scenery and you have the perfect camp breakfast.

The Power of Procrastination

Play-DohI’ve always said that a tight deadline can bring on some pretty creative ideas and for me procrastination is usually what creates the deadline. I’ve known I was going to a 4th of July potluck party today for about a week now but didn’t press myself to decided what to take until that tight deadline started showing it’s ugly head. OK, the deadline is here. “What are you going to take?” I ask myself. Well, I have lots of fruit that could be used in something. So I start thinking about the fruit, that leads to cobblers and then it hits me. What about the Berry and Peach Cobbler I make each year when I’m with my family at Packer Lake? “Perfect idea”, if I do say so myself. But instead of putting heart shaped pie crust pieces on top I’ll use stars. The problem is I don’t have a star cookie cutter. Or do I?

After fretting about the star cutter and wondering who I could borrow one from or where I could buy one on very short notice I remember where I might have one. So its off to my closet where some toys my grand children play with are stored to find the Play-Doh stuff and sure enough, there was a star cutter. Love it when it works out that way.

Berry and Peach Cobbler

Cookie cutter in hand. I’m back in the kitchen peeling peaches, mixing berries, sugar, lemon juice and tapioca. Now the fun part cutting stars from the pie dough (store bought this time but works just fine) and placing them on the fruit. A nice brushing of melted butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon and turbinado cane sugar and it’s into the oven and wait.

Here’s the final results and judging how incredible the house smelled this morning I can tell this is going to be a hit.

You can find the recipe for the Berry and Peach Cobbler here.

HAPPY 4TH EVERYONE!

Clear Lake Road Trip – Kelseyville and Vigilance

After a short drive off the main highway I arrived in downtown Kelseyville. It’s a small (pop. around 3000) town and I found the people to be very  friendly. After a nice walk around the block long main business area I popped into Studebaker’s, a cute little deli,  for a lemonade, then sat outside enjoying its refreshing taste and the local sights.

It’s history says, Kelseyville was established in 1882 and is named after Andrew Kelsey, the first American settler in Lake County. A quirky trivia bit about Lake County I found while researching is that it is the only one of California’s 58 counties that has never been served by a railroad. Evidently it was too hilly to build one.

The area surrounding the town has long been known for its farming. Vineyards and wine making were established as early as 1870 but prohibition in 1920 ended that era of farming and the vineyards were torn out and replaced with walnut and pear orchards, which remain as prominent crops today. In the early 1960’s vineyards were again reintroduced with around around 100 acres being cultivated in 1965, to a total of over 8800 acres today. Many of the vineyards in Lake County today support sustainable farming practices.

The last Saturday in September, the town hosts the Kelseyville Pear Festival. It features craft booths, entertainment, a quilt show, art and antique tractor shows and begins the day with a great street parade. Sounds like that might be another good reason for a road trip. Pears raised in this area are delicious. Yum, I’m thinking pear pie, but then that’s another story.

From Kelseyville I begin the drive towards Anderson Marsh my next destination before I meet my sister, Gwen, for the birding-by-boat trip. As I’m driving I get a glimpse of Anderson Marsh off down the hill to my left. I turn off on the next road looking for a spot to stop and take in the view and find a parking area beside an old barn. The barn I learn from a farmhand who is just leaving the parking area is part of the Vigilance Winery, and that just down the hill a little is the tasting room and they are open. Well, I have snap peas, chèvre and the bread with me, they have wine and a picnic area with an incredible view. Easy decision. I head down the hill to do a little tasting

They are indeed open and since it’s still before noon, early for most wine tasters, I have the place to myself. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The winery is owned by Clay & Margarita Shannon who believe in and practice the art of farming using sustainable practices helping to preserve the land for future generations.  The name, Vigilance, (alert, watchful, keenly aware, careful, observant) reflects their spirit and commitment to winemaking.  The tasting starts with their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a very nice white that is light and fresh tasting. Definitely a good start. I taste six wines and decide to buy a couple of bottles; the Savignon Blanc I tasted first and a 2010 Cimmaron, a delicious blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all grown sustainably in Lake County.

I take a glass of Cimmaron to the picnic table and enjoy it with the peas, chèvre, bread and the view. It was all as tasty as I had imagined. I hated to leave but Anderson Ranch was calling and if I wanted to walk some of the trails there before I met Gwen I would need to get on down the road.

Next up: Anderson Ranch

Clear Lake Road Trip

I set out early, with Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake entirely in California, as my destination. I have several things in mind as I travel up through the Capay Valley; enjoy a leisurely two hour drive through some outstanding scenery, check out yet another Farmers Market, explore the south side of the lake around Kelseyville, and do a little birding.

Late spring is the perfect time to visit Clear Lake if like me, you like watching birds. The marshes surrounding this part of the lake attract large quantities of waterfowl many of whom like the Western grebe are exhibiting courting behaviors. There are also several large egret and heron rookeries in some of the tall trees that line the shore. I’ve also heard there might be a Golden eagle nest that is visible if you approach by boat and have binoculars. Hopefully I’ll be lucky on both counts as I have reservations to go out into the marsh area by boat in the afternoon and I brought binoculars.

But before I go birding, I head to the Lake County’s Farmers’ Finest Saturday Morning Market at Steele Wines to take a look around and hopefully pick up picnic supplies for lunch.

It’s a beautiful morning and the local population has turned out to shop and catch up on the local news. The market is small compared to what I am accustomed to, but with a good variety of very friendly vendors, and music for those of us who are willing to stop for a while and enjoy it.

Keeping in mind I wanted something I could take and have for lunch later, I purchased some lovely snap peas from Sky Hoyt. He says he grows these in a green house because it’s just too cold to grow them outside. The one I tasted was crisp and sweet.

Yerba Santa Goat Dairy had some tasty fresh herb chèvre  and I thought that it would taste pretty nice with the peas so into my basket it went. So peas and cheese, what else?

That’s when I found the most incredible loaf of savory bread I have ever tasted.  It’s called GREAT Bread and is made from organic winter wheat flour, whole wheat flour, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, roasted garlic, fresh rosemary, and asiago and parmesan cheeses. I know now why the named it GREAT,  I’m still dreaming about it weeks later. The leftovers made incredible toast.

Farmers Market exploration complete I headed back down the road to Kelseyville in search of the Main Street Bakery, the vendor I bought the bread from, and to see what the little town of Kelseyville was all about.

Next up: Kelseyville and the marsh.