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.

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.

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

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.

Pre-fall Inspiration – Pear-Ginger Muffins for Breakfast

Cottonwood leaves

Inspired by this morning’s cool breezy weather, falling yellow leaves and the abundance of fresh pears at my local Farmers Market I made Pear-Ginger Muffins for breakfast. In addition to fresh pear you add dried pears, which add rich texture, intense flavor and moist tenderness. The use of wheat pastry flour and chopped pecans added the nuttiness I so love in breads.

The smell of them baking was intoxicating. I heated water for tea, Good Earth Original Sweet & Spicy Herbal, the perfect accompaniment for my pre-fall celebration and waited.

Pear-Ginger MuffinsThe timer rang, they tested ready, now another small wait before taking them from the pan. They looked fantastic but as always the truth would be in the tasting. Finally, it was time. I carefully slipped the knife down alongside the muffin and worked it slowly around the edge until the muffin popped out. The moment of truth was here, I gently broke the muffin open, I was taught that you never cut hot bread, placed a pat of sweet butter on a piece and popped it into my mouth. The celebration I had anticipated was perfect.

Has your weather started showing signs that fall is on the way? Are you ready for the change? We have had a nice summer, not too much hot weather, but I think I’m ready for some nice cool mornings and milder days.

Pear-Ginger Muffins

Yields 12 muffins

4 oz dried pears

1 Bosc, Bartlett or Anjou pear

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used wheat pastry flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

2 eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsalted butter-melted

1/3 cup finely chopped candied ginger

½ cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

In a small bowl, cover the dried pears with boiling water and let stand 15 minutes. Preheat an oven to 400°F and butter standard muffin tins (I like using my Texas muffin pan yields 6 large muffins).

Drain the pears well and pat them dry with paper towels. With scissors or a sharp knife, cut the pears into ½” pieces. Peel, core and finely dice the ripe pear. In a medium bowl, stir and toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, butter, ginger and fresh and dried pears. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake until a wood toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes (another 5 mins for the larger size). Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan.

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake Tailgate Snack

Mexican Free-tail bat flyout at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Recently two grandmas and five grandchildren headed west looking for adventure. We had reserved spaces at Yolo Basin Foundation’s Bat Walk & Talk, a presentation by Corky Quirk, the renowned “Bat Lady” of Northern California, followed by a trip out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to watch thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats emerge from their daytime sleeping space under the Yolo Causeway and fly into sunset tinted skies.

Corky’s presentation was about 45 minutes long it’s content great for both adults and kids. It’s informative and fun and towards the shared up close projected images of three different live bats showing us their differences. She even fed one mealworms and we watched it munch them down.

Now it was time to load into our cars and caravan out to the Wildlife Area to see the bats fly into the night sky where they would spend their time hunting moths. We followed the line of cars, led by Corky, to a spot far on the eastern side of the property. There we parked and gathered at a place not too far from where the bats would emerge from under the causeway. We stood and waited and then they appeared, thousands of little Mexican Free-tailed bats flying in a long ribbon like formation into the evening sky. It was a beautiful sight.

muffin tail gate party

Carrot Zucchini cupcake tailgate snack

Since there are literally thousands (estimated to be around 250,000 at last count) of bats that need to emerge, the flights come in waves and there can be some time in between where no bats are visible. Just the perfect amount of time for boys of 8 & 9 and girls aged 6 to become totally distracted and start looking for something to do. During one of these breaks I had the kids follow me back to our car for a little tailgate snack; homemade Cream Cheese frosted Carrot Zucchini cupcakes and a glass of pineapple/mango/passion fruit juice. Since I had a few finicky eaters, when asked what kind of cupcakes they were, I just said carrot cake; no sense complicating the veggie issue by mentioning that there was also grated summer squash in them. Two of the kids decided they loved the icing, which they licked completely off of the cupcake before returning it to me to say they didn’t like the cake part even though they didn’t even try it. The other three grandkids and the grandmas ate theirs without complaint and in fact, we found them to be delicious.  After our snack it was back down to watch more bats and a peregrine falcon that had come to see if it could catch a few snacks of its own. It was pretty exciting to watch it cut through the ribbon of bats and snatch one.  The excitement of the evening over we caravanned back through the wildlife area listening to the sounds of the frogs and seeing lots of Black-crowned Night herons flying around, also out hunting. It was deemed a good adventure by all and one we would recommend to all that have not had a chance to see this amazing spectacular.

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The recipe I used for the cupcakes was a modification of Carrot and Zucchini Bars with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, published by Real Mom Kitchen, Aug, 2011 a recipe she adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe. I omitted the ginger and instead added the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon. I didn’t put any zest in the frosting only because I didn’t have any more lemons. This is a great little recipe that I’ll be using again and again.

You can find other cake-like recipes where I have used zucchini on the following links:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

A California Gal Makes Hawaiian Muffins

A Tangelo and a Zucchini Met One Morning

Spaghetti With Grated Summer Squash and Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce

pasta final

I’ve had a printout of a recipe for Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce on my kitchen counter for over a week now. Every morning when I come in from the garden I think to myself, I should have cut basil so I could make pesto but, then I think about the weather forecast and how hot it will be and fixing pasta which was the whole reason I was going to make the pesto, doesn’t sound like a great idea anymore.

But finally, the weather has cooled down and we’re enjoying temps in the 50s overnight and into the mid 80s during the day. Beautiful weather. Weather that makes me feel like cooking pasta. So this morning I gathered pesto ingredients; fresh basil, parsley and oregano and took them to the kitchen along with some summer squash and cherry tomatoes that were ready to pick. Today I would make pasta with the Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce for lunch.

pasta, squash & pestoWith no real recipe in mind but the pesto sauce I decided that I would cook up some brown rice spaghetti and toss it with uncooked, shredded summer squash and the pesto. The final touches would be halved cherry tomatoes from my garden, shredded parmesan cheese and ground pepper.

I have to say I think the squash idea turned out great. If you didn’t see me put it in the dish you wouldn’t even know it was in there. The taste of the raw squash is very mild, so when you add the pesto and toss the mixture the squash just blends in.

roasted garlicThe pesto sauce recipe I used is from Renee’s Garden Blog, June-2013 and it’s one that will become a standard for me. I did change one thing from the original recipe, instead of adding fresh garlic as noted in the recipe, I added a whole head of roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is one of the staples I try to keep in the refrigerator. Its is easy to make, has a more mellow taste than the raw. To make roasted garlic you start with whole fresh heads. Cut the tops off of each head and place in foil, pour olive oil over the heads just so it seeps down amongst the cloves, you won’t need a lot, maybe a tablespoon or less per head depending on head size. Seal the packet tightly then roast in a 350° oven for about an hour or until the garlic is soft to the touch. Let the packet cool, then refrigerate. It’s that simple. To use just squeeze the cloves from the head if you’re using the whole thing.  If you want to extract just a few cloves, I find a fork or the tip of a knife works well for scooping them out.  If you’ve never tried roasted garlic in pesto or other sauces give it a try you just might find that you like it as much as I do.

Fresh Peach Cake

Edith's peachesA recent trip to my sisters netted me not only a great turkey roasting pan and rack at a charity garage sale for $1 but a nice bunch of fresh peaches.

We invited my sisters neighbor, Edith to dinner the second night I was there. We had picked lots of veggies from Judy and Edith’s large shared garden that morning and planned to roast them and serve them with fresh sliced tomatoes, also from the garden,  and a rack of lamb we would BBQ. For dessert,  Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

As the sun began to drop behind the Sierra Nevada mountains to the west and the air began to finally cool the warm afternoon temperatures, we enjoyed our garden fresh feast, outside on the patio.  Before Edith left she reminded Judy that her peach tree was loaded with fruit in need of picking and that we should come over in the morning to pick some before I headed home.

So early the next morning we walked over to Ediths’ and picked peaches. Edith was right the peaches were plentiful and ready for pickn. The turkey pan was just the right size for my share of peaches allowing them to ride home in the back of my car without becoming bruised.

DSCN4706Once home, I decided to use some of the peaches to make this Fresh Peach Cake. With grandchildren coming to stay, I knew I would have plenty of help eating it.

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Fresh Peach Cake – from Food Network Magazine, June 2011

1/4lb (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream ( I used Greek yogurt) at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (You could use nectarines, pulots, plumbs, or even berries. I think the peaches measured out to not quite 3 cups.)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon.

3. Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.

4. Bake the cake for 45 – 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Another cake-like recipe I especially like that uses fresh fruit is one I highlighted in June 2010 for Pudding Cake. You can find that recipe here. I don’t know why it wouldn’t work with peaches. Both of these cakes are good with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you’re serving them for dessert. In fact, the Peach Cake would taste just like shortcake if you spooned some fresh sliced, sugared peaches around it and topped it with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Why didn’t I think of that sooner. Next time.

Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad

grilled corn on the cob

I love corn on the cob, doesn’t matter if it’s steamed, boiled or grilled, just add some butter and a light sprinkling of salt and I’m in heaven. But even when you love something there is a limit to how much is too much.

grilled corn saladLast week was the first week for fresh sweet corn at our local Farmers Market. So I bought five ears. Some of you would think that’s not an unusually large number but I’m the only one eating it. I happily gorged myself on two ears that evening knowing that there were still three left. Plenty to satisfy my corn cravings. Two more were happily consumed the next day but somehow I just couldn’t eat that last ear in the same sitting. Was my corn craving slowing down?

Having corn somewhat on the brain by now, I noticed a recipe for Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Dressing while browsing some recipes online. Having all the ingredients on hand I decided to give it a try. Not only did it sound good it would use up the last ear of corn. The only deviation from the recipe I made was the addition of some fresh salad shrimp that needed to be eaten. The combination of ingredients was tasty and made the perfect light meal for a hot summer evening.

Now it’s the fourth day and there is no more corn to enjoy or worry about eating. The pressure is off but deep down I can hear the tiniest voice saying “You should have gotten more than five”.

You can find the recipe here.  It’s from For The Love of Cooking, July 2009.