Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Gratin de Salsify

If I learned one thing from my experience introducing Thatboy and Thatbaby to vegetables it's that everything is better gratin-ized.

If I learned two things, it would be that bacon gets most people to like vegetables.

These are two very important rules to keep in mind when you are embarking on a new adventure with a new vegetable.  Which is why I was only a little scared when I saw this recipe for salsify.  Salsify is a new one for me, and not an especially attractive vegetable, since it looks like a stick.

Sunee says that this is a twist on a Belgian dish using endives and ham.  Between you and I, I think I might like that version better, based on my experience with celery gratin.  But this wasn't bad, which is to be expected when you have a vegetable wrapped in prosciutto and buried in a cheesy creamy sauce.

Gratin de Salsify (From Trail of Crumbs)
4 to 5 stalks salsify, trimmed, peeled, and rinsed
2 to 3 lemon slices
2 to3 bay leaves
1/2 to 1/2 tsp salt
6 to 8 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 to 2 cups Mornay sauce
12 slices prosciutto

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Cut salsify into 4 inch pieces.
  2. Combine salsify and next 3 ingredients in a large pot.
  3. Add enough chicken broth or water to cover.  Bring to a boil and let cook about 8 minutes or until salsify is tender but not mushy.  Gently remove salsify with a slotted spoon and let cool.
  4. Spoon a third of the mornay sauce in bottom of a baking dish.
  5. Wrap each salsify with prosciutto and place seam side down on top of sauce in baking dish.
  6. Cover with remaining mornay sauce.
  7. Top with grated cheese and a crack of fresh pepper.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: French Fry Po-Boy with Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Certain areas are known for certain food specialties.  In San Diego, it's Fish Tacos and Carne Asada fries.   When I lived outside of Pittsburgh, it was pierogies and Primanti Brothers sandwiches.  What separates a Primanti Brothers sandwich from elsewhere is the inclusion of french fries, IN the sandwich.  For the first 30something years of my life, I was under the impression it was a specialty unique to Western PA.  It's a genius idea, but really, who needs french fries sandwiched between bread?  Crazy midwesterners, that's who.

But in reading Trail of Crumbs, Sunee introduced me to the Southern variation.  New Orleans is known for a variety of food specialties too, including the "Po-Boy"  (which is one of Thatboy's favorites) a sandwich on a french baguette.  Typically I've had po-boys filled with meat, or shrimp, but according to Sunee, french fries are also a traditional choice.   She speaks of bars that had these delivered to patrons, and really, that makes sense too.  What sounds better after a night of drinking than french fries, slathered with horseradish cream, between a buttery french roll?

French Fry Po-Boy with Horseradish Creme Fraiche (From Trail of Crumbs)
2 large yukon gold potatoes
1 cup canola oil
sea salt
fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp horseradish
hot sauce
1 loaf french bread

  1. Peel potatoes then cut lengthwise into quarter-inch-thick sticks.  Rinse potatoes in several changes of cold water.  Drain in a colander, spread cut potatoes in a single layer on several paper towels, and pat very dry.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until it begins to shimmer.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Once oil is ready, fry potatoes, turning occasionally, about 6-7 minutes per batch, until golden.  Transfer fries with a slotted spoon to a baking pan lined with several layers of dry paper towels.
  3. Sprinkle fries with salt and pepper and keep warm in oven.
  4. Combine creme fraiche, mayonnaise, lemon juice and horseradish in a small bowl. 
  5. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Add a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired.  
  7. Pile onto french bread.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mommy Mondays: The Third Birthday

When we originally started thinking about Thatbaby's birthday, we thought perhaps Dinosaur Train would be the way to go.  And then started the obsession with Shrek.  

It happened right before we moved.  He was home sick and I popped on the movie, since we surprisingly own few child-friendly movies.  But Thatdad and I had a thing about Shrek, so I owned almost the entire series, up until the one that came out after he died.   And we watched them.  All of them.  Over and over again.  Thatbaby loved Shrek and everything about it.  He literally watched it every day.

So it only made sense for him to have a Shrek-themed birthday party, so we invited our guests to join us at the Swamp.

Which meant turning our home into a swamp.  Thatboy took this as his cue to stop mowing our lawn so everything would be overgrown and swamp-like.  I kind of thought decorating the driveway would be enough.

It ended up being a bigger thing than I was expecting.  So we spread out our dirt, reeds, lily pads.  Hung swampy nets and scattered moss.  Set up a fog machine and a soundtrack of fog noises.

After our guests made it through the swamp, they were greeted at the gate with a warning.

Although what they saw when they entered the yard didn't really need that kind of a warning.

The kids spent a lot of their time in the bounce house, but of course we had refreshments for both Thatbaby's friends and their families.

I got completely swamped once the guests arrived, so I didn't have time to take a picture of the completed table, but the menu included:

Swamp Rat Skewers - chicken tender skewers

In The Morning We're Having Waffle (Fries) - Waffle Fries

Fish Eye Stew - Yogurt Bar

Ogres Are Like Onions (Dip) - Veggies and Onion Dip

Swamp Balls -  Green Cheese Balls (courtesy of Halloween at Target)


Swamp Water - Water

Fuzzy Navels For All My Friends - peach nectar, orange juice, and sparkling water

We sent the kids home with little goodie bags, filled with gifts from the Fairy Godmother (Happiness is Just a Tear Drop Away bubbles), Shrek (Shrek ears), and Gingy (Gingerbread Cookies).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Runday: CHOC Walk

I've got a soft spot for children and Disney.  Put the two of them together, and well, you have a sweet deal.  Which is why every year when I get the notification for the annual CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County) Walk I donate a little something.

The theory of the walk warms my heart.  Disneyland opens its doors and CHOC's children, their families, and supporters.  The walk itself is filled with shirts proclaiming the names and ages of children who passed through its doors, and some who passed beyond. 

I've been donating since before Thatbaby was born.  But now that he's 3, and actually might get something out of Disneyland, I thought participating in the walk would be a good introduction for him.  And then we could spend the day in Disneyland after.

I told my family that we were doing the walk, and everyone wanted to join in.  So early last Sunday morning, we all met up in the Mickey and Friends parking lot (Coincidentally.  We were supposed to meet at Downtown Disney but ended up parking right behind Thatbrother.)

To say this walk was popular would be an understatement.  It was wall to wall people.  So much so that it took us almost an hour to actually enter the park.  And once inside, you could barely move as people shuffled along slowly.  Pushing two strollers through this madness was exactly what Thatbrother and I would call a nightmare.  I have to say, I adore my brother so much because of our similarities.  It's nice to have someone to grouse with as you try to steer past hundreds of people who aren't moving.

On the plus side, Thatbaby got to see so much of the parks.  We were only planning on visiting Disneyland that day, but because of the walk, we got to visit California Adventure too.  Which was especially exciting because that's where Lightning McQueen lives.

It also had gotten much lighter in flow of people by the time we got to California Adventure, which meant we had some breathing room and could enjoy ourselves more.  But we were also tired by that point because this little 5k was nearing hour 2.

The other good part of the walk was that he got to see so many characters.  Some he knew, some he didn't.  He got up close and personal with Minnie and was thoroughly impressed with Sleeping Bue-lee and the fact she had a castle right there.  The one complaint I had was that the big mouse himself was no where to be found.  Really?  No Mickey?  I had one really disappointed kid.

In general, the walk was overwhelming and disappointing for me.  With the crowds and lack of organization (and Mickey) I think we'll go back to just donating instead of participating.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Kimchi Soup

When you have a child, you inevitably hope that some of your best attributes get passed on to them.  "I hope he has your kindness."  "I hope he has my sense of humor."  

Inevitably though, you also pass on some of your less best attributes.  It appears I have passed on my faulty tonsils to Thatbaby as we are dealing with his second round of strep throat since September.  That's once a month, for those of you bad with math.  Exacerbated by the fact that we discovered he has a Penicillin allergy during the last go-around.

As a child, I had strep throat so often that I ended up having to get those faulty tonsils removed.  And if Thatbaby continues on this path, I forsee a similar future for him.  For now, it's time to stock the fridge with ice cream, orange juice, and soups.

Personally, although Thatbaby didn't appreciate it, I think this Kimchi soup is perfect for sick days.  The ginger, garlic, and kick of the kimchi helps to clear up sinuses.  And of course, soup just slides right now sore throats.  Plus leafy greens are great for iron - and just ask Popeye what that does for you.

Kimchi Soup (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 tsp peanut or vegetable oil
 1 1/2 to 2 lbs boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
3 to 4 cloves garlic
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
6 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 cups kimchi
4 green onions
  1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat.  Season pork with 1/2 tsp salt and add to pot.  Let pork brown 8 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and stir.
  3. Add stock, stir, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Skim fat as it starts to simmer and froth.
  4. Add 1 to 2 cups kimchi, stir, and let simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours until pork is fork tender.
  5. Stir in the green onions and remaining kimchi.  Taste and add more salt, as needed.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Chicken Thighs with Cinnamon and Dates

I will probably always prefer white meat.  For years I refused to eat dark meat - thighs, legs, wings.  All I wanted was the breast.  It's not the worst thing in the world, chicken and turkey breast are healthier than their counterparts.

But I was missing out. 

Over the past couple of years I've come to embrace the dark side.  Chicken thighs especially.  They're so much better for slow cooking.  Both in the slow cooker, and for things like braising.  The bring a richer flavor to a dish that chicken breasts just don't.  And I love the way they fall apart, so tender!

I really liked this dish because of the combination of the chicken and sausage.  For me, that such a Cajun thing - Jambalaya, gumbo.  There's nothing Cajun about this dish.  With the dates and cinnamon it seems much more...North African?  I don't know, I just keep thinking of Morocco.  Sunee even suggest making this in a tangine.  It works just fine in a dutch oven, so if you're tangine-less, like I am, don't let it deter you. 

Chicken Thighs with Cinnamon and Dates (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 tsp olive oil
2 sausage links
6 to 8 skinless chicken thighs
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup golden raisins or currants
2-3 carrots, cut lengthwise and halved on the bias
1 orange, cut into 8 wedges
12-15 dates, pitted
2-3 Tbsp chopped cilantro

  1.  Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large ovenproof pan or Dutch oven.  Cut sausage links into halves or thirds, depending on length, removing casings if desired.  Add sausage and chicken to pot in one layer.
  2. Sprinkle with half salt and pepper.  Let cook about 5 minutes.  Turn meat over, season with remaining salt and pepper and let cook 5 minutes more.  Remove chicken to a plate.
  3. Add onion to pot and let cook 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and paprika.  Stir and let cook about 3 minutes.
  5. Add chicken broth and orange juice, raisins, and carrots, and stir.
  6. Place chicken and sausage back in pot.
  7. Add orange wedges and dates.
  8. Stir, cover, and bake for about 1 hour 30 minutes, or until chicken and carrots are fork tender.
  9. Top with cilantro and serve with hot buttered couscous and harissa paste.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Tipsy Melon with Prosciutto

We are all creatures of habit.  Me?  I look forward to my Friday night glass of wine.  It's the perfect way to wind down after a week.

In general I go with lighter reds like cabernet francs and pinot noir.  Thatboy likes dessert reds, like port.  Strong and sweet.  On their own, ports don't make my heart sing, but this is a really nice way to serve it if you're looking for both oomph of presentation and a way to improve on port.  The wine soaks in to the sweet melon, giving it a nice fruity flavor.  The salty prosciutto brings out the deepness of the port itself.  And I love the combination of sweet and salty, so melon and prosciutto is a winning combination anyway.

Tipsy Melon with Prosciutto (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 ripe summer melon
  1. Halve the melon.  Discard seeds.  Slice a small piece off bottom of melon so it will balance on a plate without wobbling.
  2. Fill melons about a third with good-quality port wine.  Chill until ready to serve.
  3. Serve with thin slices of prosciutto.