Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Papusas, Black Beans and Fresh Tortillas in Guatemala

[picture coming soon]

I was delighted to encounter the Central American food of papusas. They are delightful and filling. Made with a cornmeal dough where fillings (my choices were queso, frijol, chicharron) are pushed into the center of a ball then covered and flattened into a pancake for cooking on the griddle.

While it took several minutes for my order to be made and cooked, it was well worth it and filling to last me the rest of the day.

My first papusas were 2 chicharron-filled. The second were 1 chicharron, 1 frijol. The third were mixed with frijol and chicharron. Topped with a cabbage mixture, red salsa, guacamole sauce, cilantro and lime, then served on a small plate with fork and knife, my stomach is growling for the next time I can eat one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Avoidance Cooking

Sunday was a busy day in the kitchen. I found several things to use up and put together in order to avoid what I really needed to get done: my business class homework which required me to deal with cash flow projections. Oh yeah, procrastination was essential.

The list of delectables is as follows:
  • fresh salsa made from tomatoes from Jacky's garden, onions and green bell peppers (so I didn't have jalepenos, but bell peppers served nicely in a pinch)
  • Foodfresh guacamole made from the last remaining avocados mixed with the fresh salsa from above
  • Foodroasted root vegetables: onions, potatoes, yams, and garlic mixed with garlic pepper/salt and Tony Chechero's Creole Seasoning for a spicy touch.
  • I fixed up a green salad for later in the evening in which I topped it with the leftover ground turkey taco meat to make taco salad.
  • I baked up some homemade tortilla chips using some of the corn tortillas leftover from the turkey tacos.
  • FoodI made up a little fruit salad using Gopher Glen apples, black grapes, walnuts, coconut and Trader Joe's French Village plain cream line yogurt. Yummy!
  • FoodCocoa rice crispy treats, too,

During all this madness I had two more business ideas pop into my head. Of course they both had something to do with food and cooking.

My dream is to spend time in a local taqueria to watch and learn how true California Mexican food is created so I can have a closer understanding to the flavors. Also it has something to do with one of my business ideas which I won't reveal because it's too exciting to give away to just anybody.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Lunch at Higuera St Cafe

Today's office lunch took place at Higuera St. Cafe, just behind the new SLO County government building. While the menu is fairly limited, it's choices are well-described and concocted.

Out of the seven of us having lunch, only two ordered the same thing: fish tacos. From what I could tell, they came with a blue and a white corn tortilla and French fries.

The special fo the day was fish 'n chips. The plate was overflowing with the battered fish and a non-tartar sauce to go with them.

Next was a grilled vegie panini that looked very delicious. It took a long time for the cooks to make this for some reason, but the result was really nice.

I had the croissant club which while tasty, was overpriced considering it didn't come with anything else. The $7.25 price tag should also include either fries or a salad to improve its value. Also, I found a piece of plastic inside the sandwich. Who knows what else was inside?

Someone got the Chicken Misto Wrap that looked and tasted delicious, according to the eater.

Finally, a half tuna sandwich and side salad were well prepared and filling.

Besides the lunch menu, there is also a breakfast and coffee menu. There were also some pumpkin scones that looked like they'd be worth trying. Prices for lunches range from $4 - 8.

Overall, depending on your taste, you'll be pleased by the offerings here.

Value for meal: ar
Location: aa
Quality/Taste: aa
Service: ar
Atmosphere: ar

Scoring Key
aa = worth going again
a = visit occasionally
ar = hit and miss, one visit a year is plenty
r = try it for yourself
rr = avoid it completely

Fudgy Almond Butter Cookies (no bake)


I found the recipe in the local coupon clipper that comes with the weekend paper. I ended up substituting a few of the ingredients just because that's what I had on hand. The greatest surprise was that this recipe required no baking whatsoever.

Main ingredients:
10 packets of Hot Cocoa mix (I used 3 regular and 7 Caramel Creme)
2/3 cup hot water
1/2 corn syrup
18 oz peanut butter (I used Marantha almond butter)
2 cups powdered sugar
4 cups crushed vanilla wafers (I used Trader Joe's regular & ginger cat cookies for people)
A lot of chocolate kisses (I used peanut butter kisses)

Combine hot cocoa mix and hot water. Beat in corn syrup and peanut butter. Stir in powdered sugar. Carefully stir in the crushed cookies.

Roll teaspoonfuls of fudgy mixture in powdered sugar, then press with thumb in middle to make room for the kiss.

Keep refrigerated. Ok if left out, but they get a little soft.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

My First Taste of Southern Food in the South

I spent a short week visiting friends in Birmingham, Alabama September 16-20. They promised to take me to the places to experience Southern cooking. Here's my review:

Wednesday night: dinner at Chick-Fil-A
Now, I had never eaten at an official full-sized Chick-Fil-A, but did work at a food court version in my university days. I was the Chick-Fil-A chick. My friend took me there and said that she ate there at least once a week. I hadn't eaten there since my college days so I was game. I got the 8-piece chicken nugget meal with coleslaw, wedge-cut fries and sweet tea (though it was really 1/2 sweet and 1/2 unsweet). It was good, but I'm still not fond of those kinds of fries. I of course chose the honey mustard dipping sauce as I rememberd that was my favorite, or was it the sweet and sour. Hmmm. . . I just don't remember.

Thursday night: dinner at Jim 'n Nick's BBQ

I went out with the entire family: Nick (not of Jim 'n Nick's fame), CanCan, JoJo and baby D. Collard Greens were on the menu and as I have never eaten the Southern version, I thought I would ask how they were prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was the waitress's dumbfounded look.

Ehem. "She's from California," CanCan spoke up.

"Ahh. . . Well, first we pick them out of the garden, then we wash the dirt off of them. . ."

Me, "How do you cook them?"

"Oohh. . . We boil them with seasonings and fatback, and add pork. That's it. How do you prepare them?"

Me, "I cut off the leaves, then cut the stems and leaves into pieces and stir fry them in a skillet with garlic."

"Well, I never thought of cooking it that way!"

Me, "It's the Asian way."

CanCan ended up requesting a sample for me. Let's just say I was glad I ordered the side of creamed spinach with my BBQ Chicken sandwich.
Friday lunch: Surin West in downtown Birmingham
Friday dinner: Dale's Southern Grill

The Curse of Chef Gordon Ramsey

I have become a fan of watching Kitchen Nightmares, starring Chef Gordon Ramsey, and now I found myself analyzing all my food from restaurants with a fine-tooth comb.

The lettuce is brown and wilted. . . The meatballs are cold and taste re-heated. . . Is this pasta freshly cooked? . . This fried okra is tasteless. . . Only three pickle slices and chicken on this sandwich?

. . . and so on. . .

It's now a habit: possibly a bad one? But I must admit, like Chef Ramsey, I enjoy good food that's prepared well. I don't need anything fancy schmancy, though. I would much rather eat my own if I only get semi-good food by eating out.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Roasted potatoes with onions

Oh, I wish I had smell-o-vision because roasting potatoes with onions, sweet potatoes and garlic is such a mouth-drool inducing scent.

Here's the nitty gritty.

I cut up chunks of red potatoes, sweet potatoes, red onions, and peeled 1 bulb of garlic. It all got tossed with olive oil and garlic salt/pepper. I laid it out in a cookie sheet with sides. Oven temp. was 350. They roasted for 1 hour? I can't remember exactly. I just pulled them out when I couldn't stand not eating them anymore.

Let me tell you, they were deee-li-cious! Yummy in my tummy.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Call for Bundt Cake Recipes!

I'm just beginning to test and learn how to make bundt cakes, not that they are all that difficult, but certainly have different issues than just a plain old round or square cake.

In that light, I've started a Bundt Cake Swap over on Swap-Bot to gather new ideas to try out. I can't wait to start testing and tasting. Sign-up by October 15.

Happy Bundt-ing!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Homemade Applesauce

Mmmm. The yummiest thing about apple season besides eating the fresh apples themselves is turning the leftowvers into applesauce. I did just that tonight.

First I cut Gala apples (about 15 small ones) from Gopher Glen Apple Farm in See Canyon, San Luis Obispo, California into quarters and cut out the seeds. Then I peeled them. I did this against the overseeing eye of my mother who wondered why I didn't peel them first. I just thought I'd try a different way. Besides I had just seen Martha peel the apples after they were cut.

After the peeled apples, I cut them into small inch-size chunks. Water was added up to an inch and then the apple cubes were boiled til nice and soft. I chose to add about a cup of sugar and some cinnamon and nutmeg. This was mashed until applesauce consistency.

Let cool and enjoy a bowful!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vegetable Soup and Cornbread

Today I was wondering what to make for dinner and wanted something easy and healthy. When I was searching through the fridge for something I realized I had a lot of miscellaneous vegies so I decided on a pot of soup.

It starts with roughly chopped onions cooked til translucent in olive oil. I used a mixture of yellow and red since I only had a small piece of yellow. Then I tossed in some minced garlic (approx 4-5 tablespoons/cloves)

Then I diced up 5 small red potatoes, cut up bite-sized pieces of cauliflower (approx 1-2 cups) and grabbed 3 individual bags of baby carrots. I also grabbed a can of green beans and diced tomatoes plus a quart box of vegetable soup stock/broth.

In addition I found some old BBQ chicken and tri-tip steak that I cut up into bite-sized pieces.

After the onions are ready, I added the potatoes, cauliflower and carrots which I covered with the broth and some additional water to boil. I saved the other ingredients for later since they're less dense and already cooked.

Once all the ingredients are simmering in the pot I tossed in some garlic salt and pepper and some regular salt to taste.

After 30 minutes I had a huge pot of yummy soup. I baked some cornbread to go along with it.

This soup is great to eat as leftovers as it keeps getting better day by day. Perfect for family gatherings or visiting friends!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vegie Marinara Pasta in a Buddhist Communal Home

Birthday night was shared with one long-time friend and one new friend. It was a splendid evening doing what I love best, creating exciting eating plans then cooking it up together with friends. Thanks to Camille and El Caballero (see Camille for his reference) for the inspiration and the hosting.

Dinner plans were initiated by our voicing a desire for dinner on the cheap. Since all the restaurants floated out by Camille were nay-sayed for extravagance by El Cab, he offered his vermicelli and sauce as a dining option. Well, for Camille and I it wasn't enough to just eat packaged pasta and sauce from a jar. It needed our special handcrafted touch.

So, off to the G.O. (God bless the Grocery Outlet) we went for some inspiration. Ooh, let's get some chard. Oh wait, those are collard greeens. That's my favorite vegetable in Cambodia. How about zucchini? Add a red bell pepper. Does he have any garlic? I'm looking for parmesan cheese. Should we have some wine? What about bread? We swooped up all the fantastic ingredients and managed to fine a very inexpensive bottle of petite syrah from Lodi, which turned out to be a delectable wine with our meal.

Back to the commune, no joke, for some kitchen magic. There was a brief hunt for cooking pots and were satisfied to fine one big deep skillet for the vegies and sauce.

Smashed and chopped garlic. Cubed zucchini and pepper. Sliced collard greens salvaged from the steaming pot. El Cab was on top of the sauteing. He heated the oil in the pan, tossed in the garlic, added the zucchini and peppers when ready. Stirred, flipped and tossed. Lastly came the collard greens, and finally to top it all off, a jar and a half of marinara sauce.

The pasta was cooked in its normal way: boiled water. The sliced sourdough bread was toasted and buttered by Camille. The table was set. Then we sat and dined on divine pasta. It was delicious for lack of a better word. Of course it's digestion was vastly improved by the company, and the setting of an old-stlye wood kitchen with a hearty wooden table.

My birthday was complete.

Supersized Salad

Lunch was in Berkeley (California, of course!) It was my birthday and it was a day of lots of fun things that started with a salad so huge it had to be shared in a great restaurant on Telegraph Ave. called Terramezzo (sp?).

The salads are tossed fresh in 12-inch wooden salad bowls and served with a hunk of fresh baked hearty bread and of course your choice of dressing.

The lettuce was fabulous. The tastiest lettuce I've eaten in quite a long time with a real filling feel. Our salad came with garbonzo + kidney beans, sprouts (not to my liking), tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, carrot and half an avocado. I choice the herbal vinagrette and it was the perfect blend of light, sweet and vinegary taste for the salad.

There are tons of small tables and even some benches with small counters to enjoy your salads. If you don't want just a salad there are soup and sandwich options too. The place was packed with students and other academia, but well worth it for just over $5.00 for the giant bowl. Perfect for sharing.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

BBQ Beef and Roasted Potatoes

I found some beef in the freezer and a honey BBQ sauce mix while I was rumaging through the pantry cupboards the other day. This inspired me to make a crock pot meal since I was busy cleaning during the day and crock pot meals are self-cooking.

So I popped in the frozen beef, added the BBQ sauce with a little honey, then turned on the crock pot. I put it on low, but it should have been on the Auto Shift because as I found out later, the Auto Shift starts at high for a couple of hours then goes down to low. I ended up turning it to high later, so it was a little backwards.

Once the beef was nearing completion I gathered some red potatoes, a couple of yams and a red onion hanging around the house. I really wanted some cloves of garlic but none was found. All was chopped up in big chunks and cubes then splashed with olive oil and garlic pepper and salt. I popped that in the oven in a Pyrex baking dish at about 375 F. They cooked for about 45 minutes to an hour.

The beef was so tender that you didn't even need a knife to cut it because it just fell apart so easily. The potatoes were perfectly roasted. Yummy!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cocoa Crispy Treats

There were excess mini marshmallows lying around the house, so what else to do but
get crispy rice. I found some cocoa crispy rice at the Grocery Outlet for $.99
a box. What a deal!

It was 5 1/2 cups marshmallows, 1/4 cup butter melted for 2 minutes in the microwave.
Add 5 1/2 cups crispies. Stir very carefully then transfer into a buttered pan.
It also helps to butter the fingers for keeping the gooey mess off of them.

I made a double batch and fit them both into one 13 X 9 glass dish to make them
extra thick. Yummy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Costco dogs

A trip to Costco would not be complete without ending it with a hotdog for $1.50. I go for the Kosher dog (not polish). I like to put sweet relish, onions, lots of ketchup and top that off with a few drops of yellow mustard. It's a nice treat every once in awhile.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Corndogs and Brownies

Today's quick fix was frozen Foster's Farm corndogs. Reheated for 4 minutes, then toasted at 350 degrees in the toaster oven for about 15 minutes, turned once, to crisp them up. I prefer a dip of mostly ketchup with a small amount of yellow mustard to tart it up.


See the recipe for these fudgy brownies (and more) at Not a Domestic Diva

Of the 11 packages of brownie mix I counted in the cabinet under the hutch, I utilized two boxes to make some quick brownies for a friend's party. Just a quick mix with water, oil and eggs and pour in the baking dish. Thirty minutes later I had brownies. Sometimes I add chocolate chips to the mix to make it interesting. Today I did nothing but bake them. One trick to avoid excess dirtying of dishes is to measure the oil and water in the same liquid measuring container.

Gotta love brownies.