Monday, August 29, 2005

Comment Spam. That is a pesky problem with blogs and so I have added protection by using Blogger's "word verification" for comments. If you comment, you will see a series of letters that only a human can see... and you will have to type them in to post the comment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tomatoes! And what to do with them - Part One. (Or was it Part Two? Or Four? Or?)

One simple tomatoe sauce recipe. Take a bunch of tomatoes and a 9x13 roasting dish. Cut and slice the tomatoes into approximate quarters. Don't peel. Fill the dish with one layer of cut tomatoes and add 25 cloves of garlic, scattering them across the top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the dish with olive oil. Now place in a 450 oven for twenty minutes. Remove from oven and put the roasted contents of the dish into a food processor. Chunky or smooth? You decide. I like the smooth and it tastes great. The roasting softens the flavor of the garlic and intensifies the flavor of the tomatoes.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I don't want to sound like I'm a shill for Trader Joe...but, they now have a cream filled cookie with a ginger filling and it's great. You may have tried the other versions of the Joe-Joe sandwich cookie and found them to be OK, but not great. Well, try the ginger version for sure!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What's in your pantry?

The must-have items to keep in the kitchen cupboard, according to

1. Canned tomatoes
2. Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
3. Dried pasta
4. Canned or dried beans (string, wax, lima, black, navy, pinto,
kidney, garbanzo)
5. Canned tuna fish
6. Dried fruits
7. Olives
8. Breadcrumbs
9. Tomato sauce/tomato paste
10. Rice

I didn't have dried fruit...unless you can count cranberries?
Chicken was the entree for tonight's dinner and I did it a little bit differently than normal. Using foil, I created a packet to cook in. I added a boneless, skinless thigh, a handful of yellow and zucchini squash slices, some cut up chunks of tomato, some rough chopped red onion and 4 slices of avocado. A dash of olive oil and some of Pappy's vegetable seasoning was added before closing the packet tightly. Then it was into the oven (I used a large roasting pan) at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. That was more than enough time and heat. My thermometer read 189 in the center of the chicken when I opened the package. But it was not overcooked, juices were running clear and the meat was very moist. I might try 35 minutes at 350 next time.

I served it in the packet, putting it on a plate and allowing it to cool for about 5 minutes. Very good! Although I made a slight mistake by omitting garlic.

I'm going to try the same thing with a thick pork loin chop; slicing it in half lengthwise and making two servings from the one chop. This form of cooking (en papillote) should keep the pork quite moist. And I need to experiment with other ingredients, perhaps some apple slices?
Tomatoes! They are everywhere! But I have been busy preparing them for winter time consumption. I made a spaghetti sauce last night, using the yellow Russian heirloom tomatoes. This morning I am making a tomato sauce with the Japanese Momotaro "pinks"; boiling them down after peeling and seeding them. I also freeze them and have a good supply already.

Tip: Trader Joe has perfectly chopped yellow onions in a bag for sale. Very handy. But double bag them in your refrigerator. Also, check out the vegetable department in your supermarket for refrigerated, peeled garlic in plastic jars. Reasonable, and so easy to grab a few when you're motivated to enjoy a touch of garlic.
Here is a Brussel Sprout recipe that "sounds" good... I know! How can any Brussel Sprout recipe do anything for this much maligned little vegetable? But Jill assures me that she and Bill tried it and it was good. I have to admit that the ingredients sound intriguing and so I will have to try it.

Question: Is it Brussel or Brussels?

Crumb-Covered Sprouts
12 fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 Tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
½ Cup soft bread crumbs
2 Tbs. real bacon bits
½ Cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket; place in a saucepan over 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil: cover and steam for 15-20 minutes or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over med. Heat, cook and stir the sesame seeds and garlic in oil and butter for 2-3 min. or until sesame seeds are lightly browned. Add the bread crumbs and bacon; cook and stir for 1-2 min. or until crumbs are golden brown. All the Brussels sprouts, cheese salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rendezvous Ribs
This is the place! I've had the good fortune to have eaten here twice. Now BBQ fans are probably the most opinionated of any fan when it comes to their favorite food...but most will agree that this restaurant deserves it's world class reputation, even if it's not their "personal favorite". Look at their's really quite good.

Rendezvous Ribs

The first time I came here, I was escorted by one of the estimators in our Memphis office, who told me that he knew of a place that had some good barbecue and asked, did I like dry rub? Well, I had no idea as to whether I did or not but I was willing to try. We parked a few blocks away, near Beale street and walked over towards the famous Peabody Hotel. When we were about a block away, the aroma of ribs grabbed our noses and directed us the rest of the way. The entrance is well hidden, being down a narrow alley filled with the usual array of dumpsters. This is where you wonder if you have made a mistake, but you will see other diners hurrying down the alley as well, so you join them. There is a small neon sign to mark the entrance and then you have to go down a flight of stairs to the basement. It's all hustle and bustle down there, but it doesn't take long to get a table. The basement has been divided and subdivided into a maze of dining areas, so you need to remember how you got to your table. The menu is quite extensive, but the service is great! The waiter are quite willing to explain the odd terms found on the menu and to make suggestions. For the first time diner, ribs should be your order. Dry rub does not mean dry ribs, as they are moist and flavorful...very enjoyable.

The second time I ate here, I was with the whole office staff (8) and we ordered a variety of items from that large menu and I was able to sample quite a few. All good! And afterwards we headed across the street to the Peabody Hotel for dessert. Check out their website.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Welcome to Cook's Country
I just subscribed to this magazine after getting a sample issue. Why did I subscribe? Because of the 10" x 12" format. Oh, and the contents as well. But I love magazines that look like magazines used to look like!
Carnivore Restaurant
I would love to do a review of this restaurant! But, according to my friend Julia, it's over 23 hours away via jet. She recently went there and here is what she wrote...

"...eating our last dinner there at a place called The Carnivore (no menus, you get several salads and the waiters just come by with slabs of roasted meat -- gemsbok, crocodile, zebra, wildebeest, gammon, kudu, ostrich -- on a sword, and they cut you off whatever you want)"


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tipped Off
A provocative story and one that lends itself to emotional discussions as to which is right or wrong; tip or don't tip.

My take: Why do I have to be the judge of the servers performance? I just came in for a meal. That should be the job of the owner and they should be very interested in the qualifications of their wait staff, after all; good service brings in customers. So owners need to be giving the rewards, not the customers.

Monday, August 08, 2005

How about a warm peach, fresh from the tree? A nectarine? Today I picked the last of them...but not to despair, I also picked the first three pears of what looks like a bountiful harvest.

Last night we ate salad for dinner. Fresh spinach with tomatoes, red and yellow, chopped walnuts, cranberries, red onion, cucumbers, apples, peach, nectarine, TJ's Quattro Formaggio cheese and Ken's Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette doesn't get much better than that.

Tonight's fare? Chicken leg, marinated for a day in Ken's Greek Dressing. I will barbecue that along with some fresh squash. Perhaps some mushrooms on the grill along with the squash?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

More on Trader Joe...Now we know where TJ will locate when they come to town and it's a good location with plenty of parking. And they say that they will be open before the end of the year. It was also noted by Trader Joe corporate types that it was the support of the Chico area TJ fans that made them decide to move here. OK, no applause...but I did write a letter to TJ corporate headquarters and told them that Chico was the place to be.

And speaking of that store, be sure and try the TJ Punjab Spinach Sauce. Don't shake your head; try it! It has a great flavor and goes very well with chicken.

Friday, August 05, 2005

We were in the Sacramento area yesterday, so I thought it might be time to revisit Fins restaurant. I decided to go down Kenneth Avenue on our way to Fins and as we approached Madison Avenue, I was confused…what had happened to the ugly and decrepit shopping center on the corner? There was a new, very upscale shopping center in its place. Yes, it was the right corner; I saw the Sheriffs sub-station sign over the window of a newly remodeled storefront. But…would Fins restaurant still be in its old location? We turned the corner and there it was and the Open sign was lit. Good. Lunch was on.

We noticed that the restaurant hadn’t changed much; there was a new coat of paint on the interior walls that harmonized with the exterior design and there were some new wall decorations. Since Fins is a “seat yourself” kind of place, we chose a booth and were quickly given a menu and some water. The menu hadn’t changed and that’s a good thing/bad thing. Good because the variety and choices are just right, and bad because the prices are just a little high. But that’s not uncommon among fish restaurants. (Why is that?) I ordered the Fish and Chips ($8.95) while Laurae had the Fish Tacos, also $8.95. While our lunch was being prepared we noted once again how pleasant it is to sit in a fish market/restaurant where the aroma of ancient fish is not present at all. Yes, Fins sells fresh fish as well as serving it and the display cases are right there in the restaurant.

The lunch was served promptly and the first thing I noted was the absence of heavy breading on my fish. The fish was light, flaky and done just right. The chips, (fries) were thin and not overdone. A tartar sauce was included and that had just the perfect amount of spice in it and wasn’t half mayonnaise as so many of these tartar sauces are. The only complaint I had was in the malt vinegar selection; Heinz Gourmet is an oxymoron and it lacked any flavor at all. I kept sprinkling it on, hoping that volume might improve the taste, but it only made the fries soggy.

Laurae’s lunch certainly looked good, two tacos with the same light fish that I enjoyed, plus the usual Fins slaw topping. She reported that it was delicious, as always.

All in all, a good lunch, though pricey…$24 for two is not exactly a bargain lunch. But the prices are the same for dinner so dinner might be the better value. And the service is always good. So if you are ever in the neighborhood of Madison and Kenneth, stop and try Fins. (Try the clam chowder and the carrot cake as well) Let me give this restaurant 3 clams out of 5.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Good news. Laurae spotted an article that tells us how to freeze tomatoes and it doesn't require blanching. Peel the tomatoes and core them. Then leave them whole or cut them up...your decision. Same with seeds; remove if desired. Put them in a plastic freezer bag. Easy.
It's a Trader Joe day. We are heading south to Roseville for a dental appointment and that will give us an opportunity to see what new things that the Trader has in the store. Bananas, yes...and some avocados, of course. Quattro Formaggio cheese blend will be in our basket, as well as some salads.

Oops! Suddenly my mind is blank! I had a long mental list of things I wanted to buy, but as I envisioned the crowded aisles, the list faded away. I guess I will have to do what I do best; go up and down every aisle until I am sated.

I'm going to be very happy once the Trader opens the Chico store. Hurry up, October!
And what did we have for dinner last night? We had one of my favorite summertime dishes...salad. But it was a spinach salad and mixed in with the spinach were tomatoes, both red and yellow. Dried cranberries, red onion, chopped walnuts and pecans, nectarines, peaches, asiago cheese and a side of cooked and seasoned strips of pork . Top it off with some raspberry pecan vinaigrette and you have a great meal.
You Think You've Got Tomatoes A good article and oh so true! Tomatoes take on a life of their own during summer.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

It's time for a local restaurant review and it's going to be El Vacquero in Orland. There are two or three Mexican restaurants in the valley that qualify as "Good" or better and El Vacquero usually tops my list. Although I wish that their menu had more variety, what they do have is quite good. The restaurant is situated in a somewhat rundown shopping center, but don't let that distract you. It's a simple storefront restaurant, not much ambiance...but most Mexican restaurants don't do "ambiance" very well anyway. After all, once you've seen a dozen serapes and big hats...what else is there?

Service is always predictable and always good; you're given the usual chips and salsa as soon as you're seated. They have two salsa's, one a rough chop of onion, jalapeno, tomato and cilantro, while the other is a smooth red salsa with lots of heat.

Since they cater to a mixed clientele, hispanic and basic American, the menu has the usual burritos and tacos as well as menudo and posole. But I have a favorite; Chili Colorado. It comes with 3 tortillas and the typical rice and beans, which are surprisingly good. The beans are light and don't appear to be weighted down with lots of lard. The rice could be spicier, but it's very fluffy, something I like to see. The chili itself has a bright and sharp taste, as though only the freshest spices were used. And the best part...the portions are not big! When you finish your meal, you are still comfortable. And I always finish my meal...right down to the last drop of the red sauce.

And every once in awhile, I will order the Chef's Special, a very spicy shrimp dish. Once again, the flavors are bold and the heat is on...but you will enjoy it. Honest...

Laurae likes to order the Chili Relleno, which you can order ala carte, although it isn't on the menu that way. I've tried it and think it's one of the better Relleno's I had over the years.

On the downside, they make a small taco salad that would be the perfect size for a summer meal, but it's so bland, it's really not worth the small price.

I will give it 3 1/2 "tortillas" out of a possible 5. Where is it? On South Street, right next to I-5. There is a motel and shopping center at the South Street exit from I-5 in Orland and the restaurant is located close to the motel.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Glad to hear it. One fad gone...although I'm sure there will be something else to take it's place within a week or two. Those who make money off of the promotion of these diets can't wait too long before getting back into the wild claims of some new/old diet scheme. Maybe it's time for the Grapefruit diet again?
Remember that squash recipe I mentioned a few days ago? Well, I used it yesterday and this is how I modified it. I added 2 bratwurst, cooked and sliced thin. I also added one large apple, sliced and diced; make the apple chunks any size you like. I only added 1/2 tsp of Cholula hot sauce. And if you are a person that turns up your nose at onions, the onions in this recipe disappear from view, but give their support in added flavors. I can tell you that it was delicious! And talk about economical...and healthy!