Juice – not very scrumptious

This is the reason for my absence from posting recently.

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I’ve embarked on the juice cleanse bandwagon. My Facebook feed was taunting me with news from quite a few of my friends who were taking the challenge. So, I thought why not. I’ve never tried a cleanse before and this one seemed the most approachable (no random pick ups or extra supplements to take). It’s just juice and tea and water for 3 days. I’m on day 2 and am still standing. Although, the food temptations are almost magnetic. How did that donut end up in my hand? (just kidding)
The prep for the cleanse was the hardest (and by “prep” I mean giving up my morning hot cocoa and evening vino). The good thing is that I’ll be completely “weaned” off the cleanse in time for some El Salchichero hot dogs cooked on the campfire for the 4th.

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Picnic Dinners

Sometimes, picnic dinners are the best. Whether the baby took longer than expected to go to sleep, there was traffic getting home and it’s now 7:30, it’s too hot outside to turn on the stove (that would be nice), or you just don’t have the motivation to cook, a hodge podge of condiments, cheeses, meats and crackers are what’s necessary (especially if it also includes a glass of wine).

I always have crackers, some cheese and olives on hand for this occasion. You could even freeze some artisan cheese and pull it out when you get home. Once you’ve got your “grubbies” on, the animals are fed and you’ve had some time to unwind from the day, your cheese will be ready to snack on.

I was lucky enough to find myself in Santa Cruz yesterday and so I stopped in at El Salchichero. One of the cheeses is a farmstead goat cheese called Capricious from Achadinha in Petaluma and is so freaking good. The other cheese is a triple cream brie. We also had some assorted olives, roasted tomatoes, crackers and bread, figs, dark chocolate covered almonds and extremely local honey (like from the house 4 doors down local).

My favorite combo was a cracker with the Capricious, a sliced fig and drizzle of honey.

Go get in your grubbies* and have a carpet picnic tonight.

*Mom would call her house clothes or pajamas “grubbies” and it stuck.

Leftovers reincarnated into Sonoma Browns

New potatoes* are everywhere in HMB right now and they’re delicious. Since they don’t take as long to cook, adding them to a weeknight meal means dinner can still be ready in 30 mins. But this post isn’t about new potatoes, it’s about what the hubby inspired for breakfast the next day: A rendition of Hobbee’s Sonoma Browns.
I can’t remember what the prior night’s meal was but it included smashed potatoes (15 min boiled new Yukon Golds, Red fingering and Blue potatoes with their skin still on, drained then smashed a bit with a dollop of butter, a slash of milk and a generous pinch of salt). Before the leftovers were put in a storage container and put in the fridge, hubby says “these would make good Sonoma Browns”. After a quick mental check for ingredients, I knew what breakfast would be the next day.
Does anyone else plan their next meal before finishing the meal in front of them? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

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G Browns Recipe
(makes 1 serving)
• 1 cup or so of leftover cooked potatoes (smashed if they’re still whole)
• 2 TBS pesto (recipe below)
• A bunch of greens (I used arugula but spinach would also do fine)
• Cheese if you’re not a lactose adverse person like me
• 4 cherry tomatoes cut in half
• 1 egg (fresh from the chickens out back)

Put a bit of butter in a nonstick pan. Smash your potatoes and cook until warmed through. It’s better if you get a little bit of golden crunchies so don’t turn over the potatoes too often. About halfway through cooking, add your tomatoes.
Once warmed, put in a bowl, add your greens, and cheese and pesto on top of the potatoes.
In the same pan, add a bit of butter and fry your egg.
Then place the egg on top of the layered scrumptiousness.

Pesto recipe

• 3 handfuls of basil leaves (Purple basil is what was at the market and it adds a bit more spice to the pesto)
• 1 handful of toasted nuts (pine for traditional pesto but you could use pecan, walnut, hazelnut, etc)
• 1 handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
• 3 cloves of garlic smashed with the skins removed
• about a quarter cup of olive oil (more if necessary)
• salt and pepper

Put the first 5 ingredients in a blender (shout out to the Vitamix). Start your blender on low and slowly add more oil if needed. Once done, add salt and pepper to taste.

This freezes really well. But if you’re keeping it in the fridge, you’ll want to press some cling film into the pesto. Otherwise, it’ll turn brown (think guacamole).

* New potatoes are potatoes that are recently pulled out of the ground.

Brined chops and breaking in the Weber

We bit the bullet and caught up with the Jones’. We are now proud owners of a shiny, new Weber Genisis 310. She’s a beaut.

Summer Lovin’

There are so many great things about getting the grill including cooking outside, no stinky smoke inside, Chris is cooking now!, and lots more. But the best thing about the grill is the food. Grilled food looks and tastes so good. The perfect amount of crispy charring on the outside and the roasted insides make for delicious chops, hotdogs, corn on the cob, and burgers. (That’s what we’ve had so far. I’m looking forward to burning up a cedar plank with some Salmon soon).

Cedar plank (made by our fab contractor) photographed with radishes from his garden.

These chops come out perfectly! and the salad was refreshing too

Brined chops and mediterranean salad

Recipe for the chops:
2 thick pork shoulder chops (bone-in)
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 brown sugar
4 cups water
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
Rub

Brine the chops by mixing the salt, sugar, herbs and water until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Put the chops in the water and let them soak in the fridge for 4 hours.

Take them out and let them sit on some paper towels for 20 mins before cooking. In the meantime, heat up your grill to 400 degrees.

Rub the rub (a dub, dub) on the chops and place on the grill. (Our rub was made by our contractor and is a spicy orange concoction) Let the chops cook for 6-8 minutes per side. I like to do the quarter turn half way through on each side to get the diamond char marks.

Take the chops off the grill and let them rest for 10 mins or so.

I served them with some caramelized onions and red peppers and a mediterranean salad. The salad is just some greens with Harley Farms feta (so damn good), cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and black olives with a drizzle of walnut oil and balsalmic vinegar.

What do you like to grill?

Chocolate – makes a good day great

No recipe today. Just a reminder to stop what you’re doing and go enjoy some chocolate today.

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I don’t mean pop a piece of Hershey’s while whittling away at your inbox. I mean grab some chocolate (your fav or whatever is around), go outside, sit down, take a deep breath, and then take a small bite. Chew slowly. Now take however big a bite you want. And enjoy.

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Yaprakia

Holy crap, it’s June! Every Summer, I start to get nostalgic for Christmas. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the 6 month mark. Maybe it’s missing family. Whatever the trigger, June for me comes with Christmas food cravings and the start of Christmas carols sneaking into my humming patterns.

To satiate my Christmas food cravings today, I pulled out Yaprakia from the freezer. It was lovingly made with my family during the Christmas break. And we even got a special lesson from my Uncle on how to make the eggs perfectly frothy for the final touch. I’m still unconvinced that Yaprakia is not a dish my family made up. Supposedly, it’s a typical Greek dish (my grandfather is 100% Greek) and my cousin did find a recipe for it (named Yaprakia) in a very random Greek cookbook. So maybe it’s real. Whether or not it’s made up, it’s a Christmas tradition for this FDF.

Most people think anything Greek that’s wrapped in grape leaves is a dolma. Though this has many of the same ingredients, it’s served hot with lemon, buttermilk and feta. And it’s deliciously rich and tangy and hearty and satisfying for a girl missing sitting around the table with family rolling Yaprakia and complaining about stinging hands (if you’ve ever rolled with grape leaves, you know what I’m talking about).

Here’s a loose recipe (again, possibly made up but delicious):

Disclaimer: this is a leisure day in the kitchen starting with making broth and ending with a delicious meal but it takes a very long time. We usually start around 6 and eat around 2. Most of the time, it’s just a pot on the stove simmering.

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Yaprakia

5 lbs of ground round beef
1/2 lb of ground lamb
3 med yellow onions, small dices
1 bunch of parsely
1 box of Uncle Ben’s instant rice (the only time of year I don’t use organic non-instant rice)
5 jars of grape leaves
4 eggs
5 lbs of beef bones
1 quart of water
Lemon
Feta
Buttermilk

Preparing the stock: Get a large soup pot and simmer beef bones with water for 3 hours. Skim froth occasionally. This can be made ahead but needs to be warm when added to the rolls.

Preparing the stuffing: Separately, loosely mix the first four ingredients together. Then shake on the rice so that it looks like a 1/3 rice to 2/3 meat combination. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Remember that the grape leaves are salty.

Getting the grape leaves ready: Unpack the grape leaves, discarding the liquor. Begin pinching off the stems and laying them flat on a plate with the veins face up. You only want whole leaves. Any with holes in them can be laid in the bottom of another soup pot. This helps to protect the Yaprakia from getting scorched (I think it’s more of a tradition than actually purposeful).

Rolling: Get a plate for each of your “rollers” – people helping roll Yaprakia. Place one grape leaf, veins up and oriented so that the top of the leaf is at the top of the plate and bottom at the bottom. Now grab about 1 to 2 TBS of mixture, depending on the size of your leaf and lower 2/3 of the leaf nearly touching the stem end. Fold in each of the sides of the leaf and then roll from the bottom up. There should be no stuffing showing.

Cooking: You’ll be putting your rolled Yaprakia into the large soup pot you started with the holey grape leaves on the bottom of the pot. Your first rolls will be placed end to end against the side of the pot and then work your way inward (kinda like a snail shell). They should be pretty tight. When you put your last roll in, start a new row the same way. Keep stacking until you get about 4″ from the top of the pot. Now slowly ladle in the beef broth you’ve been making until it just covers the rolls. Put the lid on the pot (cracked) and simmer very slowly (you don’t want to break up your rolls) for ~1-2 hr. You want the grape leaves to get soft and the rice to be cooked. Keep checking the level of the broth and add more if needed.

Finishing it up: 10 mins before serving, whip the eggs with lemon juice into a frothy yellow cloud of heaven. We do this by hand but I assume it could be done with a machine (my Uncle says no, only by hand). You achieve the yellow cloud of heaven by very slowly adding the lemon juice bits at a time while you’re feverishly whipping the eggs. This is best done with two or more people so that your wrist can have a break.

Turn off the Yaprakia and add the egg mixture over the top. Cover and let it cook with residual heat for 10 mins.

Eating it up:Spoon out rolls and dress with feta, buttermilk and a squeeze of lemon.

Happy Eating!