Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco De Mayo Prep

Okay so this is technically a quesadilla, but then again, it totally and completely is not. But it's the best I'm gonna get for a Cinco De Mayo post since it is tomorrow and I am at a coffee shop "studying" instead of at home making yummy Mexican food. Plus, it's absolutely, one hundred percent, completely and totally, amazingly delicious. And, easy-easy-easy. This is my new staple for a quick lunch. (I just really wish I had a cast iron that was big enough to use when I make this with 10 inch 8 grain tortillas! But that is totally off point.) I got this recipe off of 101 Cookbooks and Heidi described it as an unda style quesadilla, which is something she discovered at a kati roll place, when they put a beaten egg on the grill and topped it with roti bread. Now, she makes everything that she possibly can unda style. Which I applaud, because this recipe is amazing.

Pseudo Quesadilla
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Zest of half a lemon
Large dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream (Clover brand sour cream is absolutely amazing and tastes like a mix between creme fraiche and sour cream)
2 tablespoons capers
olive oil
1 6 inch corn tortilla (sometimes I use a 10 inch wheat tortilla and when I do that, I add an extra egg)
1 egg
A bit of shaved parmesan

Whisk together the zest and creme fraiche/sour cream. Set aside
Heat a bit of olive oil and add the capers to it. Wait until they start to brown and then spoon them out onto a paper towel. They will crisp as they dry.
Beat the egg and in a slightly oiled pan (the correct size for your tortilla) on medium heat, add the egg and swirl around so that it covers the whole pan.  Once it sets just a bit (like 10 seconds or so) place the tortilla on top. Once it seems set enough that the tortilla and egg and starting to attach, flip the whole thing over.
Sprinkle parmesan over the egg side and let melt while the tortilla browns. Fold in half and top with the sour cream mixture and the capers.

I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing, but completely intrigued at the same time, and it turns out, the intrigued part of my mind was right. It's really a perfect lunch, hearty and filling with the egg (especially with a whole grain tortilla), but fresh from the lemon and tangy from the capers. And in case you were skeptical as well, it turns out that fried capers are mighty delicious--they taste just like capers but are nice and crunchy. A perfect topping! I make different variations of this now, adding different cheeses, taking out the lemon, adding chopped herbs, etc. and they've all come out great so far. So if you're feeling in the mood to have a pseudo-mexican lunch on Cinco De Mayo, try it out and let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Green

I have a new cookbook that I'm slightly in love with: Chicken and Egg--A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes. It's a compilation of the wonderful recipes inspired by a family's chickens. Since I have a huge urge to raise chickens of my own, this book fills two purposes for me. 1. To further that urge as well as justify it by showing me all of the wonderful dishes I could bring to my kitchen if I did raise a few hens. 2. It allows me to live vicariously through this family so that I don't act on the urge and actually buy some chicks the next time I see them sold at farmer's! Although I'd love some chickens, I don't think it's practical since my backyard is either garden or cement and I'll be moving to who-knows-where in less than 2 years. Instead, I pour over this cookbook whenever I get the urge.

The first recipe I made out of this book reflected the blooming spring outside--Green onions, cucumbers and basil make this an extra-ordinary egg salad and much more colorful than the normal, boiled eggs, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper egg salad that is often found at spring picnics. To prep for this meal, I made homemade mayonnaise that can be seen in my last post. The rich olive oil that I used to make the mayo brought a wonderful fullness to the salad. I highly recommend taking the time to make the mayo if you are so inclined.

Note* I hear my neighbor's hen clucking in their backyard right now. Resist the urge, Brittany. You can't have chicks right now!

Cucumber Basil Egg Salad
Adapted from Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole

6 hard boiled eggs, diced
3/4 cup seeded, diced cucumber. I prefer Persian cucumbers with the skin on.
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup sliced green onions. The green parts only.
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the eggs, cucumber, shallots, green onions and basil in a bowl. Stir in the mayo, salt and pepper. This can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days if it is made with conventional mayo, but should be eaten in the same day if made with homemade mayo.

I prepared some bread to go with this meal topped with fresh herbs and olive oil from the garden and popped it in the oven for a bit to dry it out and make it somewhat crunchy. It was a perfect addition, but some nice pita or a regular sandwich would be great too. Or slice some cucumbers and use it as a dip! I was absolutely crazy about the way that this came out. It had all of the familiar flavors of egg salad, but was completely revved up by the flavor of the basil and green onions and the wonderful crunch of the cucumber.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Being Brave

I feel like my new thing this spring is simplicity. Okay, that's not right. I mean, I always tend to make plenty of dishes that are "simple", so maybe that's not quite accurate. Maybe "basics" or "fundamentals" or "staples" would work better? Anyway, the moral of the story is that I'm really trying to make sure that I work from the ground up with all of my foods. And since I'm working from the ground up on the whole meal, that usually means putting more time into my meals which then necessitates the simplicity, I guess.

A while ago, I was wanting to make an egg salad recipe (that post will come next), and I'm really not a fan of store bought mayonnaise, so carved out a good chunk of time in my day, I whipped out my Alice Waters, In the Green Kitchen-Techniques to Learn by Heart cookbook and decided to make my own mayo. I'm really in love with this cookbook and I've been leafing through it every time I make something new to see what she has to say about everything I cook--eggs, soups, salads, chicken, etc. It gives really great tips and makes things really easy and straight forward. I adjusted the recipe a bit, because the one in the book was for Garlic Mayonnaise, and I wanted a plain mayo.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Adapted from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen-Techniques to Learn by Heart

Makes about 1 cup

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon water
1 cup olive oil
A few drops of vinegar

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk and the water until they are completely blended and the mixture is an even color. Slowly dribble in the oil. Here, it is important to make sure that you're using good quality olive oil. My mom is obsessed with olive oils and it's really wearing off on me and I'm starting to get quite the collection of olive oils for myself. At the time that I made this, I didn't have as many choices and I used my "rich and robust" option which is really delicious but definitely has a strong taste. It turned out great, but next time I would probably go for a lighter option so that the olive oil taste wasn't quite so rich in the dish that I'm making it for. It really depends on your preferences and what you're using it for though. Regardless, if you don't like the taste of the olive oil before you make the mayo, you won't like the way the mayo turns out. Use-good-olive-oil. Anyway, continue dribbling in the oil and whisking constantly. The yolk will absorb the oil and the mixture will thicken and begin to lighten in color. Gradually, you can begin pouring the oil a little faster as you continue whisking. Finish with a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice. Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve the mayonnaise right away or refrigerate it. According to Miss Alice, it actually taste better after sitting a while, however, it should be eaten the same day that it is made.

If you are wanting to flavor it with garlic, herbs, mustard, chilies, etc. pound whatever it is you want in a mortar with a pinch of salt until it is a smooth paste. Whisk about half of the paste with the egg yolk and then follow the above directions. Add more of the paste at the end if desired.

I was completely intimidated to make this, and I'm pretty sure that I read through the directions a good 3 or 4 times before nervously diving in. I really don't know why I was such a bundle of nerves. It's yolk...oil...and whisking. Nothing involved in this recipe was anything I wasn't used to. And the results: incredible. Absolutely delicious. I actually dislike mayonnaise, but this tasted nothing like store bought mayo. It was wonderfully creamy and was basically an olive oil spread, and with my obsession with olive oil, that was perfect. Lesson for me: stop being freaked out by the kitchen. Find someone with good technique, learn from them, pay attention to what you're doing, and you'll be amazed at what you can do in the kitchen.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sad Goodbye

The moment I walked into Fat Face for the first time, I fell in love. That was March 5th, 2010. On March 11th, 2011, I walked through those doors for the last time. I've been a regular at both Jaymes' L street location and her Farmer's Market booth since I first discovered her amazing sammiches and pops and I can't believe that it has finally come to an end. On March 11th, she shut down her sammich operation in Davis in order to focus on her pop production make a move to Sacramento. Though she'll still be at Farmer's with her pop and her breakfast sammiches, I still had to say goodbye to her Cola Braised Pork, Herbed Grilled Cheese, Fig and Goat Cheese, warm soups, and all of her constantly changing sammich menu at the L street shop.

I was so happy to walk up to her shop to see it absolutely spilling over with patrons. A completely appropriate response from a community that adores her. I went a little over board with my ordering, but I couldn't resist all my favorites along with a new few foods on my last visit to Fat Face.

Caribbean Chicken and Cabbage Soup-This was a new dish for me. I'm not sure how long she had been making it. It was hearty and full of spices. If she were staying open, it'd be a perfect winter meal.

Cola Braised Pork with Avocado Salsa and Queso Fresco-I think this is my favorite sammich besides the smoked salmon sammich she hasn't made for a long time. Jaymes really has some skill when it comes to pork. Maybe her pig tattoo gives her some super powers in this field. The meat is done perfectly, the queso fresco is light, cold and delicious and the avocado salsa really brings it all together with a nice creaminess.

Herbed Grilled Cheese on Walnut Bread-Okay I know I just said the Cola Braised Pork was my favorite but I think I would cry if this ever went off the menu. So simple but simply amazing. The walnut break is a perfect pick and the aged cheddar she uses goes perfectly with the herbed butter she grills it in.

Fig Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions-Most of my friends claim this is their favorite sammich and I can understand why. The figs are prepared perfectly and go wonderfully with the goat cheese.

Bacon Avocado Parmesan and Sun Dried Tomato-I feel like she's made this in the past but I'm not sure, and if she did, it was a while ago. The bacon was excellent, the avocados perfectly ripe, the Parmesan perfectly tangy and the sun dried tomatoes wonderfully smoky.

Mango Kiwi Pop-Applaud me for not crying while I finished my last Fat Face meal with this incredible Mango Kiwi Pop. No words.

March 11th was one of the first truly nice days of spring and there was so much warmth and love in the air as Jaymes' friends and fans gathered around her shop to show their support. I'm sad that I lost my favorite food spot in town and I'll miss Jayme's incredibly sunny "hey brittany!" every time I walk in the door and her rush to give my parents hugs with a "hi mom and dad!" She's become a big part of my life in Davis and I'm so grateful that she'll still be around Farmer's. Goodluck Jaymes! I can't wait to see what she does next.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sun, Oats and Berries

Yeah, I know. I fail. Things happen, I get busy. I apparently neglect my blog...but it's still here and since it's spring break, I have time to write without stressing about other projects. Since I'm sitting in my parent's kitchen with my mom, waiting for granola bars to come out of the oven, I thought it'd be a perfect time to share my recipe for berry oat bars. I know I've talked about it before, but Davis really has an incredible farmer's market. America's favorite, in fact! After growing up with farmer's markets that had about 4 vendors, and then graduating to the Fresno markets with, probably about 30 vendors, the Davis Farmer's Market is like fresh food mecca for me. It's also the place to be in town on Saturdays for families, professors, and students alike (although you probably won't see the students until it hits 10:30). My friend Lianna and I were really good this winter quarter about getting our butts out of bed almost every Saturday and making our way to the market. One day, it was the first truly beautiful day in months, which made for a perfect market day before the hours of work and studying that were looming in front of me. That day, something caught our eye at a vendor that we had never visited before, Flour Chylde. They had these oat bars with raspberry jam on top, and for 1.50 a bar, they were the perfect breakfast, especially since I was really craving something sweet but not sickly sweet like the pastries I usually go for. So we grabbed our bars and our coffee and went and sat in the sun. (I was wearing a tank and wanted to cry for joy as the sun soaked my skin.) Anyway, so we both took our first bites and cried out for joy. Like seriously, I'm pretty sure we both started shouting about how good it was! They have a dense layer of oats on the bottom, topped with a wonderful raspberry jam. Simply incredible. So every week since, Lianna and I have gone to Flour Chylde and begged them to bring back those bars (and they actually finally did last time I went) but the next week, when they didn't have them, Lianna and I decided we'd have to find a substitute. It was another beautiful day and we just had to have our craving satisfied. Here's what did the trick:

Raspberry and Blackberry Oat Bars
Adapted from Color Me Vegan by Collene Patrick-Goudreau

2 cups berries (of your choice, can also use frozen)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax seed
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter (clearly, I changed this from the original vegan recipe)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, water and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes until it thickens a bit.
In a medium boil, combine the remaining ingredients except the almonds.
In a greased 8x8 pan, press half of the oat mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Take out of the oven and cover with the berry mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the oat mixture on top, and lightly press down. Sprinkle the almonds on top last.
Bake for another 20 minutes. Let cook before cutting.

These were definitely a good substitute for our raspberry oat bars. I want to experiment more with this recipe--less brown sugar, more honey, more oats, different types of berries, etc., but this is definitely a good start. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cookie Buzz

Last weekend, I was in the mood to bake. So instead of sitting down to watch the Superbowl game, I ventured into the kitchen. The weather has been beautiful lately in davis and something about the 65 degrees, bright sun and the the cool breeze makes me want to open all the doors and windows in my house and bake. I think it's something about the smell of spring (I know it's not spring, but it sure smells like it in Davis) mixed with the smells of sugary treats wafting through my house that is drawing me to these sugar-filled recipes. I decided on a coffee sugar cookie recipe, but I left out the baking powder to make them into thin, crispy cookies. I'm so happy with that decision!

Coffee Sugar Thins
Adapted from i am baker

1 cup butter softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs, coffee grinds and vanilla.
In another bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon and salt.  
*Note: If you'd prefer these to not be crispy, you could add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder here like the original recipe that I adapted this from.
Slowly add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and combine. Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least a few hours.
Preheat the oven to 375.
On a well floured surface, roll out the dough (in sections) until nice and thin. Make sure to also flour the rolling pin. The dough is sticky and needs to be worked with quickly, while it's still cold. The scraps get too warm to work with again, so I re-chilled the scraps before I rolled them out again. Once the dough is rolled out, cut out your desired shapes and place on parchment paper or a silpat on top of a baking sheet..
Bake in the oven for 7-9 minutes. Pay close attention the last couple minutes and pull out right before they start to brown. Let sit for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Look at all of those specks of coffee in there! This is a great study snack--sugar and caffeine to keep me awake! The crispiness of these cookies make them so satisfying to eat. And for someone who isn't a huge sweets fan, I could devour so many of these in one sitting. They're especially good dipped in a hot drink (coffee of course!) to bring out the coffee flavor.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sweetie Pie Honey Bunch

So, I have this habit of buying sweet potatoes but never eating them. Here's my theory as to why I have developed the first part of this habit: I grew up in a region that is jokingly stereotyped to be the land of meat and potatoes--but of course, I couldn't eat red meat or potatoes. Great. So I was the "weird" kid that ate sweet potatoes instead (and tofu). But I loved them! And since my family was always running from music lessons to dance practice to soccer tournaments, etc., sometimes sweet potatoes were more than welcome as a simple dinner fix. So, sweet potatoes were a staple in my gotta-break-the-midwestern-stereotypes-when-you-have-a-kid-with-a-weirdo-health-diet home. (That's what they called us, probably along with "those hippies down the street".) Anyway, back to the moral of the story, I still love sweet potatoes, hence my compulsive buying of them. However, I always forget about them at the bottom of my fruit/vegetable bowl...the second, sadder part of the habit. This weekend, I decided to fix that when I realized that I had been craving sweet potato gratin for about 2 weeks in a row. Why? I really have no idea, because I've never even had sweet potato gratin...but I was craving it nonetheless.

Sweet Potato, Parmesan and Gruyere Gratin

Sweet Potatoes
Salt and Pepper 

Okay, I'll take the harassment for not using measurements. I was hungry and didn't feel like being a good food blogger. But really, there's no need to have specific amounts for this dish.
Preheat the oven to 400
First, peal the sweet potatoes and slice them into disks. Then, slice the disks into thin strips, like shoestring potatoes.
Place a layer in a casserole dish and place a few small slabs of butter over. Shred a bit over both cheeses on top (it really doesn't need to be covered, just sprinkled over) and season with salt and pepper.
Repeat with another later of all of the ingredients. Pour the cream in, until you can start to see it peaking through the sweet potatoes. You don't want so much that it starts to come to the top of the them though...just enough at least to start covering the first layer. Specific, I know.
Place in the oven, covered with the dish lid or with aluminum foil for an hour. For the last 10 minutes, uncover so that the cheese can brown on top. Make sure that the sweet potatoes are cooked all the way through before pulling it out.
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

My craving was satisfied! I really loved those two cheeses with the sweet potato. But really, how can you go wrong with sweet potatoes, cream and cheese? You just can't.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Saturday Morning Cuppa Coffee

Now that I work at a coffee shop, I've sadly become more addicted to really is sad. But delicious at the same time! And at least a great supply of delicious coffee comes with it. However, if I'm going to be running the closing shift and then going home to continue reading for school, I just simply need some artificial liveliness running through my system. It's gotten to the point where all I need for motivation to wake up on Saturday mornings is that beautiful cup of coffee that I know is waiting for me at the farmer's market.

Pachamama Coffee Co-op
At the Davis Farmer's Market

Pachamama is collectively owned by it's 140,000 farmers who ship their beans from Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru--improving the lives of small scale farmers and giving us delicious coffee.

Somehow, this beautiful cup of coffee has some sort of magical power over me to get me out of bed even on cold January mornings and to bike my butt over to farmer's. And I'm not even a morning coffee person let alone a morning person! I first had it a few weeks ago and I was shocked that I had never noticed how awesome this stand was before because really what is so unique about their coffee is that they brew it individually for you as you order. They have this beautiful wooden coffee drip bar where the filters fit snuggly in ceramic holders and your cup sits underneath. As you order, they pour your grinds into the filter, place a cup underneath and pour some boiling water right in. With a few stirs of the grinds, you have your personal cup of coffee ready in minutes.

I think half of the magic of my Saturday morning coffee is watching the process of my coffee being made and then after a few minutes of watching and waiting, finally having that cup in your hand. But the other half is certainly the taste. They usually serve their breakfast blend at farmer's and it's almost like a chocolate. After the coffee cools down a bit (rather quickly because it's so cold outside), I can taste more and more undertones of cacao. This blend is so smooth and so delicious that I refuse to add anything to it. Yes, I am a black coffee drinker now. Gasp all you like. So I sit with my breakfast sandwich from Fat Face and my wonderful cuppa coffee and I watch through the winter fog at all the hustle and bustle of the market. No wonder it gets me out of bed in the beautiful is that image?

Side note: Last Sunday, the woman who served me my cup of coffee on Saturday came into the place I work and I was able to repay her with a cup of our roast.

Monday, January 17, 2011

One Fish, Two Fish, Three Fish, Four...

(The title of this post was inspired by my wonderful roommate, Caitlin. She's so clever.)

Last year, Caitlin and I made one of my favorite dinners--Salmon Cakes, Hot Crash Potatoes and Sauteed Spinach--inspired by the wonderful Miss Sophie Dahl. For some reason (probably because I was having too much fun with Caitlin), I didn't take any photos, so I didn't write a blog post for it...something I've felt lame about ever since. I've had a craving for them for a few days now, so I decided I would finally pick up the ingredients from the Co-op and Farmer's and make them over my 4 day weekend.

Sophie Dahl's Salmon Cakes with Tartar Sauce, Hot Crash Potatoes and Sauteed Cabbage
Inspired by The Delicious Miss Dahl and Miss Dahl's Volumptuous Delights

1 large serving, plus a little left over for your roommates to nibble on.

For the potatoes:
2-3 small potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Red pepper powder
Olive oil
For the Salmon Cakes:
1 cup flaked salmon (I baked mine ahead of time with salt pepper and lemon juice)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
1 red chili finely chopped (I forgot to buy one this time, so I just put in a bit of red pepper powder, but it was way better with the fresh chili when Caitlin and I made it)
2 teaspoons good quality mustard (I used Sierra Nevada Stoneground)
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Tartar Sauce:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 small gherkins, finely chopped (a few teaspoons of capers would be a nice addition if you have them)
A small handful of chopped parsley
Juice from 1/2 a lemon.
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the cabbage:
1 chunk of cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste.

Bake the salmon ahead of time. Let it cool and flake it.
Set the oven to 400 degrees.
Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 15 minutes, until they are softened all the way through. Once they are softened, drain the water and in a baking pan, lightly crush the potatoes with a fork. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and red pepper powder. Place in the oven at 400 for about 15-20 minutes until they are crispy and browned on top.
Meanwhile, prepare the tartar sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Set aside.
Combine the ingredients for the salmon cakes and form into two patties.
Head two skillets with oil--one for the salmon cakes and one for the cabbage. Place the cabbage in one skillet and season. Saute on either side for about a minute each. Don't let it get too mushy. Place the two patties in the other skillet and cook to brown for a couple minutes on each side.
Serve all together and enjoy!

I don't often make a full meal for myself--sides and all--so this was a real treat to prepare and to eat! I love these cakes because unlike some others, they aren't loaded down with bread crumbs and the salmon is still able to shine through in the dish. The purple potatoes I used were so delicious, especially with the added red pepper powder. They were a lot creamier than I was expecting--almost decadent. I'm also a huge fan of this homemade tartar sauce it goes perfectly with every part of this dish...the cakes, potatoes and cabbage! This was a perfect end to my MLK weekend. I could always do with more time in the kitchen, focused on the delicious smells wafting from the oven and practicing the art of cooking while relaxing my nerves before another week of hectic days and long nights. In honor of the day, I'll leave you with this:

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' "-MLK Jr.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mornings in Mom's Kitchen

As I was growing up, my mom was the queen of breakfast! Whether it was grapefruit, a full on brunch, coffeecake, hot cereal, eggs, pancakes or a fruit salad, it was always ready on the breakfast table to start off our days. For Christmas this year, I got slow cooker and the cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook--which isn't a very good title in my case because my mother owns the same cookbook which is how I discovered it and why I love it! After a trip to the Farmer's Market last weekend, where my roommate ate slow cooked steel cut oats, I decided that oatmeal would be the first meal made in my slow cooker. Oatmeal from my mom's slow cooker on freezing cold IL winter mornings is such a beautiful memory and I was so excited to recreate it with my roommates.

Slow Cooked Oatmeal
Adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

2 cups rolled oats
4 3/4 cups water
Pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in the slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours (overnight). This could also be done on high for 2 to 3 hours.
In the morning, stir the oatmeal well and set onto warm. Serve with your preferred toppings. That's it!

I topped mine with pure maple syrup, soy milk, cinnamon and brown sugar. The texture of the oatmeal is completely different when it it made in a slow cooker. It is thick and creamy and absolutely wonderful. I can't believe I've been making mine on the stove top all these years! I just simply can't go back to that now. This really brought my back to our kitchen in Illinois and the cold winter mornings when this breakfast got me warm and ready for the day. My whole house enjoyed a warm hearty meal that morning and our tummies were full and happy for hours.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Some of my favorite memories from High School involve loads of pasta, garlic bread, occasionally salad, episodes of The Office and the wonderful Alyssa Hook! We were obsessed with making pasta together. I even made her a recipe book with our favorite pastas in it and we still use that book to this day. When we were back for break, we decided to use the old recipe book (which she always packs to bring home on breaks, just in case), and we made one of our favorites--Creamy Baked Fettuccine with Asiago and Thyme, or as we like to call it "The Creme Fraiche Pasta". Alyssa and I both have major issues with fettuccine (we think it's way too thick and creates a completely incorrect pasta to sauce ratio), so we substituted it with linguine and one of our favorite pastas was born.

The Creme Fraiche Pasta
Adapted from Everyday Italian on The Food Network

1 lb linguine
2 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/4
2 (8 oz) containers of creme fraiche
1 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Bring salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain pasta and reserve 1 cup of the water (this is key).
Meanwhile, combine the 2 cups of asiago cheese, creme fraiche, parmesan, thyme, reserved water and pasta and toss until the pasta is coated. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining asiago cheese. Bake until golden on top, around 25 minutes.

Almost too beautiful to dig into.

But we do it anyway.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Sometimes, I see a recipe and I simply cannot wait to make it. It doesn't even go into my list of recipes to try, and instead, the ingredients go straight onto my shopping list. When I saw the recipe for this noodle and bean soup, that's exactly what happened. It was my first day back in Davis and as I sat watching my fence steam outside, I knew that this dish was exactly what I needed to feel right at home. Plus, who can resist the beautiful sight of beans soaking on the counter all day?

Bean and Noodle Soup
Vaguely adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups dried bean mix of your choice
1 can cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed
½ pound angel hair or some other thin pasta (I used whole wheat)
3 oz fresh spinach leaves, finely shredded
¼ cup finely shredded cilantro leaves
Juice of one lime (I had to use a lemon, but a lime would be much better!)
For the Toppings:
Very thinly sliced onion
Crème fraiche
Chopped cilantro
Thinly sliced jalapeño
Lime wedges

Optional: soak the dried beans over night or even for just a few hours before.
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the pepper and cook until they soften. Add the spices and then stir in the broth. Bring to a boil and add the dry beans. Cook until they are just tender, around 1 hour. Stir in the cooked beans garbanzo beans. Add salt to taste and let cook until the beans are heated throughout. Add the noodles at the end to the simmering pot soup and cook until al dente. Stir in the spinach and cilantro. Add a squeeze of lime/lemon.
Serve topped with the thinly sliced onions, crème fraiche, jalapenos and cilantro.

I was right. This was a perfect first meal back at home, all cozy in my warm house before venturing out to bike to work.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Nesting in Davis

I'm back to school and back to blogging! It's been quite a while, but I'm ready to get back into the whirl. This break was much different than past ones. I had to stay in Davis for a while to work at the coffee shop, and with a lot of my Fresno friends either very busy or out of town entirely, there was a very different vibe--not bad, but different. I did, however, have a wonderful break with my friends that were in town and with my family. I had a few food adventures as well, including gnocchi with my friend's Nonna, a cupcake making party (also at Nonna's house), baked goods galore and tamales with my mom and of course, pasta with Alyssa (some of these dishes will of course be the stars of future posts). After the excitement of break, I wasn't quite ready when I packed my friend's car to come home to Davis last Sunday night. It was not a good feeling. Usually, I am pretty ready to return to Dtown by the end of break, but this time, it just didn't seem right. For me, there's no better way to cure a homesick heart than to nestle into wherever I am. And that is exactly what I did Monday morning.

Monday, I had no classes, so I started the day by waking up around 9 (good time for me!) and taking a trip to TJ's for groceries. I had to fix my pathetically stocked kitchen! Looking in my side of the fridge and only seeing parmesan cheese was not doing it for me. Once the kitchen was stocked once again, I was already starting to feel better, so I sat down to one of my favorite breakfasts--a grapefruit. That's it. Nothing to it. However, I am awfully particular about the way I eat grapefruit. My mom taught me this technique when I was a child and I still do it this way to this day.

I begin by cutting the grapefruit in half and cutting around each section to separate the segments from the walls. It's totally worth it when each section comes neatly out into your spoon and you don't have to spend time digging out all of the good stuff.

And then it looks beautiful like this! Just the site of a beautiful grapefruit like this makes me feel happy. Side note: I use grapefruit scented face wash so I can have feel the joy of this breakfast whenever I wash my face!

The final step is squeezing all of the juice into a bowl and drinking it all. Mmm, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. It was beautiful to sit at my dining room table and watch out the glass door as the fence in the backyard steamed from the rising sun hitting it's surface. I was all warm and cozy inside with my grapefruit in the beautiful new bowl that my mom got me for breakfast. Everything was starting to feel homey.

Throughout the day, I consumed a lot of tea. Tea always relaxes me and sets my mind at ease, so it felt like a perfect medicine to settle me back into my home. 

After breakfast, I spent much of the day unpacking and cleaning the house--kitchen, bathroom, floors, and my own bedroom. Something about getting everything in order made me feel a lot better about being back in my Davis home. Around mid day, I started dinner--a beautiful bean and noodle soup that will be featured in my next post. At night, I went to the coffee shop to close. It was great to be back at work and out of the land of Starbucks (Fresno).  By tuesday morning, I woke up ready to go to class and completely excited to be back and starting a new quarter.