Thursday, September 30, 2010

SoCal Locals & a Giveaway: Earnest Eats

First things first, let's start with the awkward formalities.

I've been gone for entirely too long from the blogging world, and I do apologize for my absence. The reason is a good one though, I promise. The location is the same as I've mentioned numerous times before, upstate New York, but this time the reason is a little different.

My mom underwent a stem cell transplant in early July as a treatment for Multiple Myeloma, a rare and particularly nasty bone marrow cancer. I've spent the summer and early fall here with her, and we are both thankful she is this far out from the transplant. All things considered, she is doing remarkably well for all that she's endured in the past few months.

That said, I come to you with many a mea culpa for my extended blogging absence. In a brazen attempt to right my wrong by appealing to your enjoyment of yummy stuff, I give to you a GIVEAWAY of epic taste proportions.

Is that blatant enough for you? :)

Let me tell you about a fantastic company I've recently had the pleasure of learning about, Earnest Eats. Earnest Eats was the brainchild of two friends who came together in 2006 in search of real, simple whole foods with unparalleled flavors. This Solana Beach, CA operation prides itself on using only all natural, high quality ingredients to make their hand made, baked granola products.

The Earnest Eats line consists of two products; Earnest Eats Baked Whole Food Bars, and Earnest Eats Granola Planks. The Baked Whole Food Bars come in chocolate peanut butter, almond trail mix, cran lemon zest and apple ginger flavors. The larger Granola Planks come in maple almond crunch, pomegranate walnut crisp, and blueberry vanilla crackle.

Both the Bars and Planks include a hearty dose of protein, fiber and omega-3's, all of which help make these delicious, healthy and filling snack or breakfast alternatives. In addition to their all natural ingredients, all Earnest Eats products are vegan and wheat free.

I had the pleasure of sampling Earnest Eats Bars and Planks, and was blown away by the flavor combinations, the healthful benefits of the ingredients and how filling they are. I enjoyed them both for breakfast entrees, snacks, and crumbled with some fresh greek yogurt and was beyond pleased with each sample.

Earnest Eats products can be found at Whole Foods, Safeway, Wegmans, Fred Meyer and most recently Ralph's. SoCal folks, be sure to check out Earnest Eats Facebook page as they head to local Costco's for tasting roadshows!

Earnest Eats will provide one box of their Granola Planks and Whole Food Bars to the winner (as pictured above).

(One entry per item completed)

1. Post a comment about the flavor you'd like to try and how you'd enjoy it

2. Follow @socalsustenance and @earnesteats on Twitter (its a package deal!)

3. Tweet about this giveaway and let me know about it.

The winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, October 6.

Good luck to you and it's great to have you back - I've missed you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

From Porch to Plate: Couscous & Summer Squash Cucumber Cups

Summer has officially begun here in Southern California. It's presence is punctuated by a notable increase in grilling, the arrival of June gloom, and lazy evenings spent savoring the cool of the night breeze. Thankfully fire season has been kept at bay so far, and hopefully it will stay that way.

A recent hot spell last weekend kicked out little garden into overdrive. We decided in early April to use our teeny apartment patio as a container garden. A few tomato plants soon grew into a veritable produce stand, in a mere two weeks and three trips to Home Depot later. Our patio is happily overgrown with rolling planters, hanging baskets and one extremely creative hanging herb garden. We are loving being urban farmers, with tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, herbs, five kinds of peppers, summer squash, snap peas and pickling cucumbers included in our backyard bounty. Not bad for two city kids and 30 square feet!

To show proper love to our homestead harvest, I've decided to post only dishes containing at least three items from our garden in them for the next two weeks. Why two weeks, you ask, when you have a whole summer of growing ahead of you? In two weeks I'll be heading back to my little slice of lakeside heaven for the summer. I hope to continue with the Porch to Plate posts along with others while I'm there. Until then, we will dine on the literal fruits of our labor, and enjoy the endless bounty of the SoCal summer.

This cool, refreshing starter features summer squash, pickling cucumbers and scallions plucked from the garden yesterday. It's designed to be served cold, in one satisfying bite. The couscous and squash make a pretty tasty cold salad on its own, but enjoy however you choose.

Couscous & Summer Squash Cucumber Cups
1/2 cup couscous
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup summer squash, diced
2 large cucumbers
1 tsp fresh scallions
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Prepare couscous as instructed, and chill in refrigerator. In a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute diced squash and garlic in olive oil for 4-5 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Add squash mixture to chilled prepared couscous, and season with salt and pepper. Return couscous mixture to refrigerator to chill for 20-25 minutes.

Slice washed cucumbers into 3/4" inch rounds*. Scoop out seeded center area through 2/3 of the thickness of a slice. Heap rounded teaspoons of chilled couscous mixture atop the cucumber rounds. Garnish with sliced scallions, chill and serve.

* I left the skins on the cucumbers, and didn't fancy them up at all. You can run the tines of a fork down the sides of each cuke before slicing to add a festive stripey effect to each round as well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Equal Exchange Giveaway Winner

Selected via, the lucky winner is....

Comment #6, Noelle from An Opera Singer in the Kitchen!

Congratulations Noelle! Please contact me to claim your gift certificate.

Thanks to everyone for participating and have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Equal Exchange Giveaway - UPDATED!

In an effort to open this giveaway up to EVERYONE, not just those with a Paypal account or those willing to sign up for one, the Paypal stipulation has been removed. If in fact you DO have an account, fantastic, but if not you are still absolutely welcomed and ENCOURAGED to enter this amazingly awesome giveaway! Hope this works better for everyone, and my apologies if you felt left out because of it. THANKS! :)

You may have heard lots of buzz lately about products being fair trade certified and wondered just what the heck that's all about. The fantastic folks at Equal Exchange are pioneers in Fair Trade merchandise, and 100% of their products are fairly traded. Not only do they have a fantastic assortment of Fair Trade products, including coffees, teas, chocolate, sugars, cocoa and dried fruits, but their website is an amazing resource about Fair Trade products.

So, how about you head on over the Equal Exchange and check out their products, vision and mission?

To sweeten the deal, Equal Exchange has generously provided a $50 dollar gift certificate to their online store to one lucky SoCal Sustenance reader.

There is one teeny catch... to redeem the certificate, you MUST have a PayPal account. No worries if you don't have one, it's super easy, quick and secure to sign up. Check out how to get a PayPal account here.

How to enter:

One entry will be tallied for each of the following;

1. Comment below on what wonderful goodies you would select from Equal Exchange if you are the winner!

2. Follow SoCal Sustenance on Google Friend Connect

3. "Like" SoCal Sustenance on Facebook

4. Become a follower of @socalsustenance on Twitter

5. Tweet the following about this giveaway
"Fair Trade products Giveaway from Equal Exchange ( & @socalsustenance"

Please leave one comment for each one of the above entry methods you utilize. If you already follow on Google, Twitter, or Like SoCal Sustenance on Facebook, let me know in a comment as well!

The winner will be selected at random on Friday, June 4th. Good luck and happy browsing!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chocolate Nutella Pop Tarts

It's hard to believe it's been nearly two years since I moved to California. Uprooting a perfectly sane, sensible life including a great job, amazing colleagues, and a house renovated by the sheer will and Irish tenacity of my mother and I seems like a leap. It's been called many things by many people.. a big change, a roll of the dice, a transition, a new chapter, all of the colloquialisms that reflect a major life event. The move was precipitated by one large piece of my life and heart being located precisely 2577 miles away.

I've been fortunate that the leap has been wonderful, challenging, life expanding, fulfilling, and eye opening all at the same time. Aside from the daily fun of cohabitating with Mr. SoCal, I've also had the joy of getting to know and spend many weekends with his two adorable nephews in San Diego. For the longest time I felt that kids and I were a match made in the depths of Dante's inferno, sheerly out of lack of little kid knowledge and experience. Having now earned a few more kid credibility notches in my Bob the Builder tool belt, we might just have a future together, kiddos and I.

The things I've learned from these two little munchkins never ceases to amaze me. If you told me three years ago that I would soon learn life lessons from a couple of toddlers, I likely would've inquired about what particular brand of crazy pills you were on. Now, I get it. Appreciating the simple joys of chasing bubbles for hours and never tiring of popping them or their infinite sticky, slippery qualities. The exuberance of a new toy, petting a puppy or mastering a new word. The power of the words please and thank you, and kindness learned between brothers.

Of all the things I've learned from these two mini men, one thing will stick me from this day forward. The true love, the excitement and the pure delight of one thing.

Wait for it.


Shocked? I KNOW! Now, I not only have love for tiny humans who often wear more food than they eat, are revered for going poopy on the potty and can watch Toy Story repeatedly like their lives depended on it, but I love this stuff as well. But in a distinctly different way. And never had I ever experienced this creamy, chocolate spoonful of heaven before before sharing it with these aforementioned wonderful little ankle biters. So I suppose I owe them a few thank yous for not only sharing the joy of kids with me, but also the mesmerizing power of Nutella.

Chocolate Nutella Pop Tarts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 small jar Nutella

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers or food processor until the mixture looks like wet sand, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it.

In another small bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Add egg and milk to flour mixture and stir with a paddle or electric mixer, until just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and roll into flattened circles. Place in refrigerator (in zip top bag or plastic wrap) for one hour before rolling.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften for 10 to 15 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured surface, and roll it into a thin square (roughly 1/8" thick). Cut dough into 3" by 4" pieces. Reroll scraps (chill again if required) and roll and cut other half of dough as well.

Place 1/2 of cut pieces on a greased cookie sheet. Add a generous tablespoon of Nutella in the middle, smoothing evenly and leaving the outside 1/2" of each bare. Place the top piece on the filled bottom, using fingertips to firmly seal the pop tart on all sides.

Press the tines of a fork around the edge of all pop tarts. Poke the top of each tart multiple times allowing tarts to rise (I used a meat thermometer). Refrigerate the tarts uncovered for 30 minutes, while oven preheats to 350°F.

Remove tarts from fridge and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly, then enjoy.

Makes 8-10 tarts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Betty White's Banana Nut Muffins

In the past week, alot of serious, world changing events have transpired. There's been the nomination of the newest Supreme Count Justice Elena Kagan. A thousand point stock market plunge that took the wind out of the sails of millions of investors. An epic oil spill off the Louisiana coast that will undoubtedly have unfathomable environmental and economic impacts. A ferry crash in Staten Island causing dozens of injuries, leaving hundreds more shaken from the incident.

It's been a rough week America. We could all use a good laugh. And a good muffin.

If you didn't catch Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live this past weekend, boy did you miss out. Her appearance not only brought about astronomical ratings, but was the humorous shot in the arm that we all needed at the end of a crazy week like that one. Betty White was all things she was destined to be... crass, hysterical, and with perfect comic timing carefully crafted over her decades of work in the business. For this momentous occasion, the writers brought back one of the all time best skits in SNL history, the Delicious Dish.

A word of warning; if you have delicate sensibilities, are easily offended or don't care for obvious, coarse, deliciously crude humor, stay away. For all my fellow humor seeking deviants, proceed to YouTube pronto and check out Betty White's muffin skit.

So by now you've either gotten a good hearty laugh, or banished SoCal from your RSS reader. UNFOLLOW! Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wasn't there something about a muffin recipe in this post somewhere? Oh yeah, about that...

Betty White's Banana Nut Muffins

Tweaked from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, salted
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup vanilla yogurt
2-3 mashed overripe bananas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp raw sugar (demerara) or brown sugar

Heat oven to 375 and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup walnuts in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl using a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, yogurt and mashed bananas. Gently mix in dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Top muffins with remaining 1/2 cup walnuts and a pinch of brown or demerara sugar. You may also add a pinch of cinnamon if desired. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Fill cups two-thirds full for regular muffins or to brim for a big-topped version. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 very large muffins.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quinoa Caprese Salad

A week ago, I saw a recipe for a gorgeous quinoa and vegetable terrine. It was beautiful, with contrasting colors and textures aligned perfectly atop one another. Between the tasty contents and the gorgeous end product, I was in hot pursuit of my first terrine.

After multiple failed attempts at the terrine, it turns out quinoa and my take on the original recipe makes a pretty darn good salad. My terrine layers slid, collapsed, and mushed into each other like melted crayons. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it wasn't anywhere close to pretty. I'm still not sure where I went so tragically wrong, but I'm happy to have wound up with this great salad as its delicious stand in.

Quinoa Caprese Salad
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup mozzarella, cut in cubes
3/4 cup sliced tomato
2 Tbsp fresh basil
1 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and sliced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cooled quinoa with balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Mix in sliced tomato, mozzarella, cucumber (if desired) and salt and pepper. Gently stir to mix all ingredients. Chill for one hour, top with fresh torn basil and serve.


As you may have noticed, I have a shameless love for balsamic as a flavor base, as seen here and here and over here. This salad would be great tossed in a light citrus and olive oil vinaigrette, or simply with oil and fresh herbs. Get creative, have fun and as always, happy eating!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SoCal Sustenance Blog Anniversary!

It's hard to believe that one year ago, I was toiling away at my very first post here in SoCal. It makes me giggle a little to read back through my old posts, complete with newbie goofs, cringe worthy photographs and the requisite corny food analogies. This blog was created out of personal curiosity about what this blogging world was about. I've learned leaps and bounds more than I ever anticipated, and enjoyed it much more as well.

SoCal has been a rambling adventure that's allowed exploration of my every cooking whim, regardless of how out there the combination or recipe may be. I've so enjoyed having you along for my kitchen excursions, with your wonderful feedback and support that constantly blows me away. A heartfelt thank you for continuing to wander along with me, in my meandering homages to all things tasty.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Simple Shrimp Ceviche

Spring has officially sprung here in Southern California. Toes long deprived of a winter's worth of sunshine are bravely peeping out through flip flops, grills are having the dust knocked off them and fired up for the first barbecue of the season, and garden centers are abuzz with excitement as the earth is ripe for planting. Here at Chez SoCal, we planted tomatoes and peppers on Sunday, and have an avocado sprouting from seed that I have high hopes for. As an aside from my inner farm girl. we've grown an avocado successfully in this manner before. It's just over a year old now, and lazily stretching towards the sun. It's tough to be sustainable and grow things in an apartment, but our container gardens are alive and well.

That last wandering diatribe was for you, my favorite SoCal folks, just in case you've missed my verbal meandering in the past few weeks. We are back in business, after slogging through a couple solid work weeks and a few of life's regular distractions. I have some great recipes and cooking concepts conjured up to make up for my blogging transgressions. I hope you will consider forgiving me.. or at least try this ceviche if you don't :)

To begin, a disclaimer. I've never made ceviche before, and I've only experienced its divine citrus punch and freshness since moving to California. Yet again, it's another one of those where have you been all my life food experiences. I stayed very simple with the flavors, not adding many of the oft added components (cilantro, cucumber, tomato paste etc). As with all recipes, the fun is in what you make of it, bring your own twists and tweaks. These flavors are so distinct they don't need a lot of fussing with and embellishment. The good news is this is so simple to make, only requiring some juicing, dicing and refrigeration for an amazingly fresh, healthful and party perfect meal.

Simple Shrimp Ceviche (Serves 4)
1 lb uncooked jumbo shrimp (16-20), diced
6 limes, juiced (reserving 1/4 cup)
2 lemons, juiced
1 red pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
1 large red onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/8 tsp sea salt

Wash and clean shrimp thoroughly, removing shells. Place shrimp in a square baking dish, in a single layer. Pour lemon juice and lime juice over shrimp and cover. Chill for 3 hours, until shrimp in white and opaque.

Combine remaining ingredients and reserved lime juice in a small bowl and mix well. Place in refrigerator until shrimp is "cooked".

After three hours, check shrimp for opacity by slicing through to the center. If shrimp is finished, combine shrimp with vegetable mixture well. Serve as is, or with tortilla chips.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ginger Lime Macaroons

So what's the deal with Passover? To get the full effect of that sentence, read it with your best Seinfeld inflection...

Once again Passover has crept up and is here to stay for the next eight days. This holiday commemorates when the Jews had to haul tuchus out of Egypt, and in the rush their bread was unable to rise. To celebrate this, we eat Matzoh and other unleavened delights. The next week is completely devoid of wheat, oats, barley, spelt or rye. Think of it as Atkins with a religious twist.

Macaroons - yes, with two O's, not one - are coconut based staples that traditionally provide some sweet relief for starch starved Passover revelers. Many Passover desserts lack the punch that you really want, when you are craving a donut, cake, pretzels or cookies. No time like the present to give a standard a taste tuneup.

A note before embarking on any Passover recipes; many items may be marked as Kosher, but that does not mean they are Kosher for Passover. If your intent is to stick to the letter of Jewish law, invest the time to get the proper, certified Kosher for Passover products.

Ginger Lime Macaroons
3 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
3 cups shredded coconut
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp lime zest
2 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
2 oz semisweet chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until stiff peaks have formed. Fold in the coconut, lime juice, lime zest and ginger by hand. Scoop rounded, packed Tablespoons of macaroon mixture onto wax paper lined baking sheets*. Bake for 16-18 minutes, and cool completely before serving.

To add chocolate, melt chocolate over a double boiler. Drizzle chocolate over macaroons with a teaspoon, and top with lime zest if desired. Makes 18 macaroons.

*Between scoops, dip your scooper into warm water. This will prevent excessive stickiness and result in consistent, rounded scoops.

Monday, March 22, 2010


There isn't a day that passes that I don't shake my head in amazement over where this blog has gone. Nearly a year ago, I set out on a whim to make a blog, not even sure what that meant or entailed. All I wanted was a place to post pictures that I hoped weren't too awful and recipes that were mildly palatable and interesting. To this day it amazes me that people read my little piece of the blog world.

So here I sit, the humble recipient of two awards. They're both from gals named Jenn who are both from Canada. Apparently, I'm huge there. :)

The Sunshine Blog Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blog world. I received this from Jenn at Defunkt Gourmet, my international foodie pen pal.

The Rules & Regulations of The Sunshine Blog Award:
1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers!
3. Link the nominees within your post
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award

Here goes!

1. Jenn @ Sweet Water
It was a no brainer that the lovely Jenn be a recipient for this cool award. She is an amazing writer, with freeing honesty and brutal truth about her challenges, cooking adventures and life North of the border. If you haven't checked out her Top Chef challenge series, where she recreates some of the most memorable dishes from the show, you're missing out on some serious brilliance.

2. Noelle @ An Opera Singer in the Kitchen
I always enjoy how Noelle incorporates her love for music through her posts. She is a recent vegan who shares amazing recipes suitable for both vegans and carnivores alike. I always pick up fun new facts when I hang out on her page... for example, did you know Guinness isn't vegan? Who knew!

3. Natasha @ 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures
An East Coast gal with an eye for tasty, unique ingredients. I've loved vicariously globe trotting through through her blog, between posts about her traveling adventures and amazing stops along the 2010 Culinary Tour Around the World series. Gorgeous pictures, and I always learn something new from her posts.

4. Joanne @ Apple Crumbles
Joanne provides a lovely taste of home, blogging from Upstate New York. An avid healthy lifestyle endorser and believer, and her honey glazed salmon with butternut squash and lemony asparagus rocked my world.

5. Josie @ Daydreamer Desserts
What I love about Josie's blog, aside from the drool worthy images, Josie is passionate about a cause. Through her work with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), she's gotten to hang out with Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro and Kelly Ripa for a phenomenal "Cake off" earlier this year. A gal who has ridiculous kitchen skills with delicious desserts and takes a stand against Cancer is a sure winner in my book.

6. TasteStopping
Oh TasteStopping, how I love thee. Providing consistent, humorous reassurance that all aspiring photographers can and should be published, even when those other sites don't agree. It's also a great resource to learn from and check out other bloggers web worthy pics.

7. Liren @ Kitchen Worthy
This fabulous Bay area foodie is also a former East coast gal with a love for all things food. She blends gorgeous recipes with fun family adventures to make for fantastic, smile inducing posts.

8. Cat @ NeoHomesteading
Cat is a Pennsylvania mama who embraces all the things I want to become as an urban homesteader. She shares her love for canning, homebrewing, artisan breads and a smattering of fantastic unique dishes on her site.

9. Julia @ Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
Julia is a super prolific local OC food blogger. She puts once a week posters like me to shame! Her balance of healthy meal options and tasty recipe remakes (awesome thin mint AND samoas knockoffs!) makes a fantastic addition to your blog reading list.

10. Donalyn @ DessertStalking
Another upstate NY'er who I am so happy to have "met" through blogging. Dessertstalking is a fantastic site to submit photos of all things sweet, and unique to this site, there are no comments. I love that this was done purposefully to encourage DessertStalkers to hop over the submitters blog and leave a comment. Bringing the blog world closer one tasty photo at a time!

11. Alta @ Tasty Eats at Home
I love the voice that Alta brings to her writing. She has a huge eclectic mix of recipes, with an international flair and she has recently gone gluten free. Tasty Eats is a great resource for us gluten gobblers looking to see how the other half lives!

12. David and Luise @ Green Kitchen Stories
This super talented couple from Stokholm, Sweden has a site that is to die for. This truly is a visual feast to behold, with gorgeous vegetarian creations and a penchant for chocolate goodies, a huge plus in my book. They have also just welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their kitchen.. congrats!

The Circle of Friends award is given for the connections and friendships you make through the blog world. It was passed on to me from Jenn @ Sweet Water (see above). As she so eloquently stated in her award post, its difficult not to perpetuate the inbred cycle of award reciprocation and pass it right back to the award giver. Fantastic statements like that are a large part of the reason I really enjoy her and her always chuckle worthy writing.

Without further ado, here are my 5 recipients.

1. Jenn @ Defunkt Gourmet
My Canadian foodie penpal and I were brought together through a Beastie Boys quote, a mutual love of Ben Folds and a similar sense of humor. Like many other bloggers, she is in search of the perfect macaron and well on her way to its discovery!

2. Claudia @ What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine
What I love about Claudia is her ability to jump in and be a fearless leader. She was largely responsible for shepherding the lost masses after the infamous Foodbuzz "change" a few months back. She has provided constant encouragement and has been a generous resource in my blogging adventures. She also has a fabulous blog with great step by step recipes that weave tales of her family through her writing.

3. Mia @ Mia King
This lovely Hawaiian gal is the true definition of multitasker. Mom, cook, workshop speaker, blogger and National Bestselling Author are found among the many bulletpoints on her most impressive life resume. Her writing is like a casual, comfortable conversation with an old friend, and my interactions with her in the blog world are just as kind and comfortable. She truly illustrates how much the blog world levels the playing field, allowing newbies like me to virtually hobnob with best selling authors and cooking standouts.

4. Rachael J @ Laptops and Stovetops
The fabulous Ms. Rachael is a Florida girl who always, without doubt, cracks me up. Her blog has just undergone a serious facelift and is looking divine. I think if Rachael and I hung out in the real world, we might cause some serious trouble together.

5. Dara @ Cookin' Canuck
There aren't many food blogs out there that I consistently am interested in making every single dish featured. This is one of them. Dara just makes me shake my head and smile each time I read a new post, as I think "she did it again!" Check out her creative takes on classic dishes, easy to follow instructions and fantastic photography.

I hope that my little blog continues to entertain you, and thanks as always for your support and kind words. My hope that this space will always brings a little bit of sunshine into your day. You all certainly bring it into mine.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Irish Coffee Marshmallows

St. Patrick's Day is upon us, and the blog world is all aflutter with the best traditional Irish eats to commemorate the holiday. Pages are flooded with corned beef, stout based confections and green iced delights everywhere you look. Earlier this week I posted Wee Little Irish Soda Bread, a traditional hearty staple of the day. As per my usual creative streak, which admittedly has been a bit lackluster lately, I needed to throw caution to the wind and fire up the old Kitchenaid. You never know what mysteries will appear when that happens.

Back around the holidays, I got on a bit of a marshmallow kick, which you can check out here and here. As delicious as they are, I couldn't justify putting another Guinness cupcake out into the world today. Enter my recently earthquake shaken brain putting together an old favorite with a touch of the good stuff. These are bound to get your Irish eyes a smilin'.

Irish Coffee Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from the Food Network and Ina Garten

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup cold water
2 tsp coffee extract* or 3 Tbsp very strong coffee
2 Tbsp Irish whiskey (might I recommend Jamesons?)

1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Creme
1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
1/2 tsp butter

Combine the gelatin and 1/4 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the marshmallow syrup.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Cook at a steady rolling boil for one minute, continuing to stir, and remove from heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the marshmallow syrup into the dissolved gelatin. As mixture begins to thicken, add in whiskey and coffee extract. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes.

Oil the sides of the a large casserole dish thoroughly with nonstick spray or vegetable oil. Pour in the marshmallow batter and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands. Refrigerate while making Bailey's topping.

In a small saucepan, combine Bailey's and whiskey. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir constantly until mixture has thickened to the consistency of caramel. Let cool slightly, and swirl over top of marshmallows.

Remove the marshmallows by inverting the pan onto a baking sheet. Cut marshmallows into squares and store uncovered at room temperature. Makes 25-30 marshmallows.

*I couldn't locate coffee extract, so I went with super strong coffee. I used 4 scoops of coffee with 1/4 cup water, left to steep in the French press overnight.

If you were looking for something St. Patricks Day worthy that's a little different, you might also like these Moonshine Whoopie Pies from awhile back. Pillowy soft Guinness flavored whoopie cookies with a rich Bailey's Irish Creme filling... these are sure to bring you the luck of the Irish.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wee Little Irish Soda Bread

I've only learned of the true joy of Irish Soda bread in recent years. That fact is entirely due to Mr. SoCal and his deep Irish roots. Last year, before SoCal Sustenance existed, I embarked on a quest to make a great St. Patricks Day feast for us. I had to call in the big guns and get this recipe from his dad, and it was well worth it. It was a bread making adventure unlike any I've had before, complete with the stickiest dough known to all mankind and a near disastrous chemical reaction that would have made Mr. Wizard proud. The corned beef was salty and the soda bread was good, but it was nothing compared to what I tasted this year.

Breadmaking has been a St. Patricks Day tradition for Mr. SoCal and his dad for years, often making dozens of loaves over the course of a week to give to family, friends and colleagues. This year I got to watch the magic first hand, as the first six loaves have already been cranked out. I love knowing that there is history and tradition in this bread, that this is the same recipe and technique that his great grandmother made while back in County Kerry. It is truly a labor of love and persistence, and I'm happy to be able to pass on the tradition to you.

Wee Little Irish Soda Bread
(makes two wee little loaves)

Wet ingredients:
1 1/3 cups 2% milk
1 egg
4 Tbsp white vinegar

Dry ingredients:
5 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
2 sticks margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two small 2 quart cast iron pans or dutch ovens with butter or margarine.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, milk and egg. Mix to ensure yolk is broken, and set aside to allow the milk to sour.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together 4 cups of flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the margarine until the mixture is like cornmeal or damp sand. Add the raisins until they are completely covered with flour.

Add the baking soda to the bowl containing the milk and eggs. Stir gently and allow mixture to react for a minute or two. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add wet ingredients.

Work the mixture thoroughly until a dough is formed. If dough is sticking to your hands, add 1/4 cup of flour and continue kneading. Repeat until dough is no longer sticky and can be formed into a ball.

Divide dough into two portions. Cut a cross in the top of each loaf to minimize cracking. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the bottom has a firm brown crust and makes a solid sound when you tap on it. Cool on a baking rack and enjoy.

This recipe comes from the Boston Cook Book, but more recently has been published in the Pasadena Rugby Cookbook. This was compiled two years ago and includes favorite recipes from players and coaches, including clever writing and commentary on rugby. They are available for $5 plus shipping, if interested please comment below.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Cups

After a healthy food failure in the kitchen earlier, these seemed like the perfect way to soothe a broken cook's soul. Plus, I may have been subconsciously steered towards these by the recent influx of Easter candy commercials invading TV. The one I blame directly involves an innocent chocolate bunny inching towards a jar of peanut butter while "Let's Get it On" tenderly serenades the duo. I think these would even make Marvin Gaye proud.

These were surprisingly easy to make, and I did not do one bit of fancy chocolate tempering. That's right, I'm a risk taker. There is no baking, and the only necessary accoutrement are baking cups or muffin liners. The milk chocolate had a wonderful gloss when chilled and firmed, but had more instant melt on your fingers quality than your store bought Peanut Butter Cups. All the more incentive to eat them quickly!

Peanut Butter Cups
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 Tbsp confectioners sugar
12 oz milk chocolate
1/3 cup crushed graham crackers

Microwave peanut butter for 20 seconds until softened. Mix in confectioners sugar and crushed graham crackers until uniform.

Melt chocolate over a double boiler. Spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate in the bottom of a baking cup. Tilt and rotate the baking cup to spread the melted chocolate up the side of the cup slightly. Scoop large rounded teaspoons of peanut butter mixture and press into a half dollar size patty. Place in baking cup, and cover with peanut butter.

Place in muffin tin to maintain shape, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Makes 15 cups.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Parmesan Orzo with Greens and Garlic

I've been craving the creamy goodness of something hearty, rich and altogether not so good for you lately. The urges have been fluctuating between a decadent risotto and creamy, thick, stick to your arteries soup. This was my best attempt at a compromise that wouldn't cost me three days at the gym. Lucky for me, it quashed the creamy craving and is reasonably healthy to boot.

Parmesan Orzo with Greens and Garlic
1 cup orzo
3 oz fresh spinach (1 container)
6 oz fresh asparagus, cut in 1" pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 oz chicken breast
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Prepare orzo until cooked al dente and drain in a colander. When drained, transfer cooked orzo into large bowl.

Pour Olive Oil in non stick skillet and saute spinach and asparagus over medium heat. Add minced garlic to mixture. Saute all until spinach is wilted and asparagus is fork tender. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer cooked veggies to bowl with cooked orzo.

Cut chicken breast into small pieces and saute in the same non stick skillet until browned. When cooked, transfer chicken to bowl with orzo mixture.

Add grated Parmesan cheese to orzo mixture and stir thoroughly, incorporating Parmesan evenly through the entire dish. Plate, serve and enjoy.

Just a quicky from here in SoCal, but too tasty not to pass along! Hope you all are having a delicious day.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

PB & J Hamantaschen

Perhaps you've seen pictures of small, triangular shaped cookies filled with ooey gooey goodness floating around the food blogs in the past week or so and wondered... what's the fuss over these funny little things?

The festive celebration of Purim, a Jewish holiday commemorating the offing of a certain pointy hat wearing bad guy, starts this weekend. Jewish folks are to eat, drink and be merry... not too bad as holidays go right? The celebration includes reading of the Book of Esther, and whenever you hear the aforementioned bad guys name, Haman, you're to make as much noise as humanly possible. Holler, scream, stomp your feet, and make a general ruckus. The purpose of the noise is to drown out his name each time its read.

The other cool thing? Jewish folks are to drink until they can't differentiate the name of Haman and other names read. The goal is to achieve a perfect balance of inebriation, located squarely between inability to distinguish names, but not tipsy enough to violate the commandments or become seriously ill. Sounds like a lot of people have been celebrating Purim for awhile now and didn't even know it!

Back to the pointy cookies. Haman (BOO! HISS!) wore a triangular hat, and Hamantaschen, literally translated to mean Haman pockets, commemorate his downfall. Typical fillings include poppy seed and fruit jellies. Go figure, I went all non traditional and added a kid friendly (and Mr. Socal friendly!) twist to the recipe.

This recipe is loosely based from one found here, plus tweaks that I added from my memory of making and eating Hamantaschen as a kid.

PB & J Hamantaschen

2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup orange juice
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Extra flour for dusting and rolling

3/4 cup peanut butter
2 tsp powdered sugar
Jelly or fruit preserves (I used strawberry, blackberry and sour cherry)

Soften peanut butter for 15 seconds in microwave, and mix in powdered sugar. Spoon small (less than 1 tsp) rounded scoops of peanut butter onto a wax paper lined plate using a small spoon or melon baller. Make 20 small scoops, and place plate into freezer.

Combine softened cream cheese and sugar in a stand or electric mixer. Add oil, eggs, baking powder, salt, orange juice and vanilla until well mixed. Slowly add flour until completely incorporated into the dough.

Generously flour a rolling pin and flat work surface. Place 1/2 dough on work surface, and place remaining dough in the refrigerator. Roll out dough until its 1/4 inch thick. Cut into circles using a cookie cutter or a pint glass. Repeat with remaining chilling dough.

To assemble Hamantaschen:
Scoop 1/2 - 1 tsp of jelly into center of dough

Remove peanut butter scoops from freezer and place one on top of the jelly. Press peanut butter scoop down firmly to slightly spread the jelly

Pinch each of the three corners together firmly. Don't be afraid to really be an aggressive corner pincher; this will prevent the dreaded Hamantaschen blowout later.

Repeat for the remaining Hamantaschen. Place all on greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 20 of these pointy little lovelies.

Now, about those blowouts... A Hamantaschen blowout is the Purim equivalent to a Matzoh ball sinker. You really try to your best to avoid them, but despite your best efforts, they happen.

The good news is, even the blowouts still taste good. And if you follow Purim traditions to the letter of the law, I bet you won't even know the difference.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

English Muffins & A Free Short Stack

I've been talking about making these for a long, long time. The simple joy of hot, steamy muffins with their nooks and crannies filled with butter, jam, peanut butter or whatever else you choose is tough to match. It's been cooler here lately, I guess its what Californians consider winter. Having been on a recent breakfast smoothie kick, this fresh griddled delight is a welcomed start to the mornings when the temperature is a bit less California like.

You may have noticed I said griddled, not baked... that's right, griddled like a pancake. That works as a convenient coincidence as it as National Pancake Day. If you have a hankering for flapjacks, head on out to your local IHOP and they will serve up a free short stack today until 10 PM. While you're there, why don't you make a donation to Children's Miracle Network... there are lots of kids out there who would love your help.

And I digress...

This recipe is from King Arthur Flour recipes and can be found here.

English Muffins
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) milk, warm*
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar**
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 - 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

* I used Silk Vanilla Light Soy Milk
** I used 2 tsp honey

Place the ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment. If using bread maker, use the "dough" or "manual" setting. Mix the dough thoroughly until it pulls away from the side of the bowl in a uniform ball.

Transfer the dough to a cornmeal-sprinkled surface and roll it out to 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out circles with a 3 inch cutting ring. Re-roll and cut out the leftover dough. Cover the muffins with a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a frying pan or griddle to low heat (I used a dry cast iron skilled). Before placing muffins on griddle, coat both sides with cornmeal. Cook for four minutes at a time with lid of pan on. Remove lid, flip muffins and repeat for four more minutes.

Check after about 3 to 4 minutes to see that the muffins are browning evenly. If they are cooking either too fast or too slowly, adjust the temperature of your pan.

When the muffins are brown on both sides, transfer them to a wire rack to cool, and proceed with the remaining muffins. Serve hot with your favorite shmear and enjoy

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winner Winner, Pasta Dinner

Thank you all for your entries in the pasta maker giveaway. Your food misadventures and mishaps cracked me up, I love that so many of you shared them!

Congrats to Scott at Fight the Fat Foodie for being randomly selected using as the giveaway winner. Please email me your shipping information and your brand spanking new pasta maker will be on its way!

Thanks again everyone.. let's do this again real soon ok? :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet Potato Shao Mai Dumplings

A quick lunchtime fridge expedition yielded these delightful, delicious dumplings. A quick note of disclosure before you jump all over these... My dumpling folding skills admittedly leave something to be desired. Google, being the all knowing wonder tool it is, gave me a perfect solution. Shao Mai dumplings are make with round cut wonton skins, and have the added bonus of simplicity as well as being able to see the beautiful contents contained within. Shao Mai are typically served in dim sum, and are a quick and easy to throw together with any filling you choose. If you are a dumpling rookie like me, you definitely want to check this out.

Sweet Potato Shao Mai Dumplings
(Yields 8 dumplings)
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato
8 wonton skins
3 cloves roasted garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp Parmesan Reggiano cheese, shredded
1/4 cup pine nuts

Place a small, dry saute pan over medium heat. Add pine nuts, and toast until golden brown. Turns pine nuts often, making sure to avoid burning them.

Place a wonton skin on a cutting board. Using a round cookie cutter or knife, cut out circles. Repeat with all remaining wonton skins.

Mix sweet potato, garlic, parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts in a small bowl. Spoon rounded tablespoons into each wonton skin. Holding wonton skin in left palm, make small pinches around the diameter of the skin. Fill remaining wonton skins with potato mixture.

Place wontons in steamer basket* for 8-10 minutes. Remove carefully and serve while still hot.

*Don't have a steamer basket? Me neither!

Here was my solution...
Place a small saucepan of water on the stove top and bring water to a boil. Place a metal colander or strainer atop the saucepan, and gently place dumplings in the bottom on the colander. Top with lid of a larger saucepan and steam for 8-10 minutes.

Worked like a charm! Hope it works for you too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Caprese Gratin with Balsamic Poached Tomatoes

In the wake of post Superbowl feasts, parties and soirees, I'm sure many of your refrigerators look as bad as mine does right now. Tin foil wrapped bowls, assorted mystery condiments and odds and ends are running amok in the old chill box. Somehow we acquired a cooler full of various foodstuffs from a party we attended in San Diego this weekend. Among the acquisitions were at least a dozen plain white dinner rolls. The rolls and a pint of near forgotten cherry tomatoes were the base components for the idea of this gratin. I realize I am interpreting the term gratin rather loosely, but whatever you want to call it, its pretty darn good.

Caprese Gratin with Balsamic Poached Tomatoes
3 round white dinner rolls
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 oz mozzarella
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp salted butter
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp Parmesan reggiano cheese, shredded
3 cloves garlic

In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Place thinly sliced onions in pan and cover with melted butter. Slowly cook until the onions are caramelized, stirring often.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Carefully slice dinner rolls with a serrated knife into 1/4 inch slices. Combine olive oil with grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. Grate garlic cloves with a zester or microplane and add to oil mixture. Stir thoroughly, and using a basting brush spread oil on slices. Place slices on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

While slices brown, place balsamic and tomatoes in a small saucepan. Place over medium low heat until simmering. Stir gently and cook for 10 more minutes at a simmer, until the skins of the tomatoes start to blister. Remove from heat.

In a casserole dish, place an even layer of caramelized onions. Pour reduced balsamic vinegar and poached tomatoes gently on top of onions. Top with toasted roll slices, and place thinly sliced pieces of mozzarella between slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until cheese is just melted. Remove from oven, garnish with fresh basil and serve.

By the way, have you entered the GIVEAWAY yet?

In your friendly reminder news, if you haven't signed up for SoCal Sustenance's very first giveaway, a super amazing wicked awesome (yea, I said it) pasta maker, you can do so here. The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, February 12th. Get your entries in and good luck!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flourless Almond Torte

A few weeks ago, I read an article entitled Cancer Fighting Foods:What to eat before, during and after Chemotherapy. Written by Rebecca Katz, it provided some fantastic, specific, science based information for patients undergoing chemo. I snooped around for other things by the author, and lo and behold Ms. Katz just so happens to be the go-to gal on the forefront of cancer nutrition.

As per her website, Ms. Katz is a nationally-recognized expert on the role of food in supporting health during cancer treatment. She has a Masters of Science degree in Health and Nutrition Education, and received her culinary training from New York's Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. As a consultant, speaker, teacher and chef, she works closely with patients, physicians, nurses, and wellness professionals to include the powerful tool of nutrition in their medical arsenal.

Rebecca has published two books that read like friendly, thoughtful, educational guides to a getting the best out of a rotten situation through the healing and restorative powers of food. They include a wealth of creative, healthful recipes with spectacular images to boot. Her first book, One Bite at a Time was written in 2008, and followed up with Cancer Fighting Kitchen. Her latest book includes a wealth of nutritional resources, including strategies to thrive during treatment and the Culinary Pharmacy, which we should all spend some time exploring.

So what gives with all the cancer talk? The topic is something that is close to my heart. My father died of Osteosarcoma more than a decade back, and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma claimed my uncle's life less than a year ago. Currently, my mother is battling Multiple Myeloma, a rare and particularly nasty cancer of the blood cells. Cancer is an uninvited nightly guest at my dinner table, and I am determined to carve my future path without its legacy carrying on to me. I staunchly believe in the power of preventative practices, especially those that lie within food.

This recipe is from Rebecca's first book, and it came together unbelievably fast. In a matter of mere moments, and looked, smelled and tasted phenomenal. This can easily be a go to dessert that will fool your guests into thinking you slaved away all day at this beauty, and no one will ever be the wiser. Did I mention there is no processed sugar, no dairy or no gluten in this? And its STILL exceptional.

Flourless Almond Torte
1 1/2 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 large organic eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup fresh raspberries
3 cups bing cherries, halved and pitted

Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut a parchment paper circle to fit the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan*

Grind almonds until flour-like in a food processor, about 2 minutes. The oil from the nuts may cause the mixture to stick to the sides. Run a spatula around the edge to loosen the mixture. Continue to process about 1 minute.

Pre-measure the maple syrup, eggs, extracts and salt in a measuring cup, stir well to break up the eggs. While the food processor is running, pour through the feeding tube and process until smooth.

Pour into the pan (or pans) and bake 25 minutes. Torte is ready when the top is lightly golden brown and center is firm. If the top browns too quickly, tent with foil and continue baking.

Place two cups of bing cherries in a small saucepan over medium heat. As saucepan warms, compress cherries with a potato masher or a fork to release the maximum juices. Simmer cherry juice until its reduces and thickens slightly. Strain cherry reduction juice and pour over tarte shell (or shells). Top with remaining whole cherries and raspberries. Garnish with whipped cream if desired and serve.

* I used small tartlette pans and this recipe made six small tarts.

Thank you for bearing through my personal soapbox in this post. I strongly encourage those of you who've had the misfortune of cancer touch your life as a patient, family member, or caregiver to explore the resources within this post. Cancer has the power to strip those waging war on it of nearly every bit of control within their lives. Having the resources to make comforting, delicious, nutritionally sound meals may be a small gift to give, but the impact of providing health, hope and kindness is immeasurable.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The First SoCal Giveaway!!!

We've all had our share of food mishaps and calamities. Most of mine seem to involve large scale drops, spills or fumbles resulting in speckled furniture, a colorful smattering of naughty words, and one heck of a mess. There was the agua fresca incident, an epic vegetarian lasagna bobble that covered everything below hip height in my kitchen, and an unfortunate gnocchi episode where they actually bounced when dropped. No really, like little pasta-esque bouncy balls that you used to get out of the 25 cent machines at the supermarket.

Needless to say, I have not braved pasta making since. But thanks to the amazing folks at, you now have a chance avoid any future pasta incidents with the amazing Cucina Pro Pasta Fresh 5 Machine, shown above. Wouldn't you love to check your mailbox and have this waiting for you? This fantastic addition to any kitchen makes spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, ravioli and lasagnette while being stylish and not taking up a ton of valuable kitchen space. Want to whip up some fresh, healthy pasta any time you darn well please? Well then check out the rules below.

The winner will be selected at random on Friday, February 12th. Consider it your first of hopefully many lovely gifts for Valentine's Day! This contest is only open to the continental United States, so my apologies to my friends in Canada and points beyond.

I bet you'd like to know how to get your hot little hands on this beauty. Here's the low down.

Entrants will receive one vote for each of the following actions;

* Share your best cooking misadventure story by commenting on this post
* Become a Fan of SoCal Sustenance on Facebook
* Follow @Socalsustenance on Twitter
* Follow SoCal Sustenance with Google Friend Connect

Thank you so much for continuing to support and read SoCal Sustenance through its growing pains and misadventures. It means so much that you continue to read, comment, laugh and encourage the things you find here. Best of luck and I look forward to reading about your best culinary mishaps as well!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maple Dried Plum Granola Bars

Mother Hubbard's cupboards have tumbleweeds blowing through them. More specifically, our seemingly bottomless stash of granola bars, snacky fruit bars and healthy type treats has run dry. Necessity being the mother of invention, these lovelies came to fruition this afternoon.

Now I fully admit subscribing to the once bitten twice shy mantra. In this instance, its using sweet potatoes for a binder or a sweet substitute ingredient. I've been burned by this tasty minx once before, trying to recreate Mimi's Cafe sweet potato buttermilk biscuits. The results were less than stellar. Safe to say, I proceeded with cautious optimism into this granola foray, but was rewarded handsomely.

Maple Dried Plum Granola Bars
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup chopped California dried plums
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until a large ball of sticky granola goodness is formed. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press granola onto parchment paper with damp hands until it is 1/2 inch thick throughout. Bake for 25 minutes. Cut into 12 even bars shortly after removing from oven. Store in air tight container for up to two weeks.

In other exciting news, SoCal Sustenance will be hosting its first giveaway shortly, and its a pretty darn good one. I'm excited for a chance to say thank you to those of you fabulous readers who've taken part in this blogs growth and development in the past 9 months. I hope you have enjoyed it just as much as I have. Stay tuned SoCalers, you're not gonna want to miss out on what's to come!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Panko Ginger Shrimp with Citrus Sauce

Last week a good friend and I went to a fabulous lunch to celebrate her new job and 30th birthday. Significant events such as those warrant a formidable lunch selection, so we decided on Katsuya in Glendale. Neither of us had been there before, and we both enjoyed it immensely. As those of you still drying out in Southern California may remember, last week brought more rain to the region than we typically see in a year. Of course we picked a downpour day to go to lunch, but it worked out splendidly. With no one but a sparse few other brave, damp souls in the restaurant, we were treated to the waitstaff's undivided attention and their hugely helpful suggestions.

Lunch started with a cocktail that served to be the inspiration of dish, in a roundabout way. "The Dragon" was a perfect blend of vodka, ginger and yuzu. Yuzu was a new thing for me, and it happens to be a type of Asian citrus that tastes like a grapefruit-mandarin hybrid. I was smitten, with both Katsuya and yuzu. After a fruitless (get it? :)) search for the elusive fruit, I settled on satsuma mandarins as a yuzu stand in, and out of the depths of my gray matter sprung forth this really, really yummy shrimp. Serves one as a meal or two as an appetizer.

Panko Ginger Shrimp with Citrus Sauce
1 lb jumbo shrimp, deveined and peeled (16-20 shrimp)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs

Citrus Sauce
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (I used oranges and satsuma mandarins)
1/3 cup mirin
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

Rinse shrimp and devein by peeling the shell off. Use a paring knife to make a shallow slit along the back from the head to tail. Look for the black sand vein that runs along the center of the back. If the vein is there, use the knife tip to carefully remove it, Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and dry with paper towel.

Combine ingredients for citrus sauce in a medium saucepan. Slowly bring just to a simmer and reduce to medium low heat. Reduce sauce for 20-25 minutes, until thickened and reduced by half.

While sauce reduces, crack two eggs into a small bowl and whisk together. In a larger bowl, combine flour, panko, coconut, ginger powder, salt and red pepper. Mix thoroughly. With one hand, dip shrimp in egg wash. With the other hand, dredge egg washed shrimp in flour mixture. Press flour mixture firmly into shrimp. Repeat with remaining shrimp.

Check on citrus sauce, stirring occasionally. Place just enough oil in a skillet to coat the bottom. Heat for three minutes over medium heat. Cook shrimp in batches of 5 or 6, cooking until golden brown. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side and remove from skillet. Plate with citrus dipping sauce and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Balsamic Lentil Salad with Edamame

I've been slightly enthralled with lentils since my venture to check out the Rose Bowl Parade floats a few weeks back. Having never cooked them, or eaten them to the best of my knowledge it was high time to investigate. That curiosity has been combined with the fact that I need to add more fiber and protein dense foods into my repertoire. Recently, I've become oddly enamored with this thing called running, and have stuck with a training program for three weeks. That may not sound like much, but its exactly two weeks and six days longer than any prior attempt. Eating whole foods with solid nutritional components is becoming essential, and this combination seemed like a good bet.

For the record, edamame is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. It's a solid source of protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, and isoflavones. Isoflavones are compounds found only in soy that have been shown to significantly reduce serum cholesterol levels. Lentils also are protein powerhouses, being rich in dietary fiber as well as B vitamins, folate and magnesium. So go ahead, mix up a batch and eat guilt free, knowing that you are putting lots of good for you stuff in your belly.

The first pass at this salad wasn't the success I had hoped for. The combination of colors and textures of the ingredients were largely lost into a vat of grey toned mush, as my first error was to boil two types of lentils and split peas together. Fail. Fear not, no lentil went to waste, as I've saved the first attempt for a lentil soup.

It may not have been the most time or energy efficient method, but I decided to preserve the color of each component to boil them separately. The yellow split peas took a bit longer, so they have an extra 10 minutes of boiled love to their name. The end product was tastier than I could have imagined.

Balsamic Lentil Salad with Edamame
1 cup black beluga lentils
3/4 cup orange lentils
3/4 cup yellow split peas
3/4 cup red onion, diced
3/4 cup edamame, shelled*
1/8 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar**

Place each lentil and split peas in their own bowl. Add two to three cups of water and rinse, checking for small pebbles, dirt or other organic matter. Remove any non-lentil or non-pea matter.

Place three saucepans with three cups of water in each over medium high heat. Let water come to a boil and add first three ingredients to their own individual saucepan. Bring lentils and peas to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer lentils for 15 minutes, until cooked through. Peas will require an additional 8-10 minutes of boiling.

Strain water from lentils and place in a bowl to cool. Repeat with the peas when they are cooked. Let all cool for 15-20 minutes. While lentils and peas cool, shell edamame. *This required 9 oz unshelled edamame. Dice red onion. When lentils and peas are cooled, combine all and add sea salt. Mix thoroughly. Cover and place salad in fridge and chill thoroughly before serving. ** To maintain color of salad, add balsamic shortly before serving.

As a side note, I left the lentils and peas with a slight bit of al dente tooth to them. My first attempt - see the aforementioned gray mush referenced above- was way too cooked and simply had minimal texture. If you are particular about the texture of your lentils, stand by at the end of cooking and test often until your desired chew level is achieved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chai Risotto Dessert Egg Rolls

So how many of you checked this out just out of morbid curiosity? The what in the heck did she go and do now knee jerk response that made you click on over and take a look see.. hopefully this will not disappoint.

The origin of this dish is simple. It was high time to fill up the fridge and pantry once again as they were beginning to echo if you shut the door too hard. Yet another epic Costco trip commenced.

Surveying our purchases, we were now the proud new owners of roughly 5 lbs of kiwis. As you know those little stinkers aren't all that big, and that's alot of kiwi. The quest for a kiwi laden dish began.

This was supposed to be a healthier, non fried version, specifically a spring roll. Turns out in my haste I grabbed egg roll wrappers... hmmpph. Well, egg rolls it is. After poking around the old interweb for awhile, I realized I wasn't quite sure what I was making. What's the difference between and egg roll and a spring roll? I found a vast amount of variances. For your reading pleasure, here's what I learned.

An egg roll has meat and is typically thought to be Chinese, while a spring roll is mainly vegetable and noted as Vietnamese cuisine. Egg rolls are wrapped in square wonton like skins, while spring rolls are wrapped in lighter rice paper rounds. Egg rolls are wider, thicker, and typically fried, while spring rolls tend to be more delicate and slender, and can be fried or raw. So what exactly is it that I made? A blintz? Lumpia? Final verdict seems to be that I made a fried, square wonton wrapped, fruit and risotto filled... hybrid roll? Who knows. At least I've learned the difference between the two, and that next time I'll make sure to get spring roll wrappers.

Chai Risotto Dessert Egg Rolls (Adapted from Vegetarian Times)
4 chai tea bags
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 Tbsp agave (or honey)
1 vanilla bean
4 kiwi, finely diced
6 strawberries, finely diced
1 package egg roll wrappers
Oil for frying

Vanilla Orange Dipping Sauce
3/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
Zest of 1/2 orange

Boil 4 cups of water, and steep tea bags. After 5 minutes, remove tea bags and set aside.

Place rice in large saute pan over medium-high heat. Slowly add hot tea, allowing rice to absorb tea after each addition. Make sure to stir risotto continuously. Add agave and scraped vanilla seeds into pan before adding last 1/2 cup tea. Cook until rice is tender, and remove from heat. Cool for five minutes. Fold in diced kiwi and strawberries.

To make rolls, carefully lay wrapper flat on work surface, and place 1 kiwi slice and 1 strawberry slice side by side in center. Spoon 2 Tbsp of rice mixture atop the fruit. Fold in sides of spring roll wrapper, and tightly roll up. At each fold, moisten edges with water and smooth down together. Moisten edge of wrapper with water to seal the roll shut.

Heat oil over medium high heat in large, high sided pan for 3-5 minutes. Carefully place egg rolls in hot oil, and cook until golden brown on each side (4-6 minutes). Remove rolls and place on paper towel lined plate to cool.

For sauce, combine all ingredients in saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until thickened. Cool and place in refrigerator, covered. Serve rolls with small bowls of the dipping sauce or one communal bowl, depending on your company.

A few afterthoughts...

Frying is NOT my thing. The extent of my frying knowledge is limited to wontons and funnel cakes, both made on the same day we purchased a small fry daddy on a whim. It's been collecting dust since. Fried turkey, however, is something not to take lightly and a magical entity of its own right. Never made one myself, but have absolutely polished off my fair share.

A large part of the appeal of this recipe for me (not my creation, the original linked above) was its healthiness and visual appeal. Sadly both went down the tubes a tad with my egg roll skin blunder. I'd remake this in a heartbeat with spring roll wrappers. Visually I'm not jumping up and down excited about the brown tint that the chai gives the risotto... I mean who really wants to eat a brown dessert that isn't chocolate? Jasmine or another flavorful light tea might solve that, but the subtle undertone of spice and fragrance of chai really is rather warm and enticing. The strawberries took on a bit of a tartness after cooking which was disappointing. This as well could be avoided with using this recipe with spring rolls.

Feel free to check out the links below to assist with spring roll and egg roll making.. enjoy!
How to Roll a Spring Roll
How to Roll an Egg Roll
(Note: In the demo these are rolled on a diagonal, I rolled mine as a square)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chorizo Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Nothing like finding a convenient excuse to make something tasty. Trying to be more protein and fiber aware in 2010, quinoa is a perfect vessel to sneak some extra health into any dish. This nutty seed was a dietary staple of native Incas of the Andes region for over 5000 years. Despite near total elimination of quinoa when Spanish conquerors attempted to destroy Inca culture, it was recently popularized in the US in the 1980's. Quinoa is packed full of heart healthy benefits, and rich in minerals like magnesium, iron and riboflavin. Along with the multitude of health benefits, quinoa readily absorbs any flavor imparted on it, and makes a fantastic, healthy addition to any meal.

Chorizo Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
(8 servings)
4 large bell peppers
12 oz pork chorizo
1 cup quinoa
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
4 garlic gloves, finely diced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
8 oz queso fresco
Fresh cilantro

Wash bell peppers thoroughly and pat dry. Cut top to bottom, starting through the stem and cutting to bottom of pepper. Remove seeds and veins from each half pepper, and repeat for all four. Place the eight pepper halves on a baking sheet and place in 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until peppers are slightly softened.

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil. Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer or sieve for 30 seconds and drain. Place rinsed quinoa in boiling chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed (10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Quinoa will appear translucent when its finished and a white ring will be visible around the saucepan. Remove from heat.

As quinoa is cooking, place chorizo in a large saute pan over medium heat. Break up chorizo into small bits with a wooden spoon. Cook through until lightly browned. Drain excess oil from chorizo. Mix drained chorizo into quinoa.

Place onion in the same saute pan used for chorizo and sweat onions until translucent. Add garlic and jalapenos, cooking on medium heat for two more minutes, stirring throughout.

Combine onion mixture with quinoa and chorizo. Add black beans, cumin and red pepper flakes, stirring until completely mixed.

Remove peppers from oven and cool for 5-10 minutes. Spoon mixture by heaping tablespoons into peppers, packing it firmly. Top with crumbled queso fresco, and return to 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove and top with fresh cilantro, and serve.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Playing With Your Food is Encouraged

Happy 2010 to all and welcome to the new decade! Hopefully you had a safe and fun holiday season and by now have properly recovered and rehydrated. Pasadena is just starting to wind down from an eventful few days, namely the Rose Bowl and the Rose Bowl Parade. Tens of thousands of football fans, parade goers and New Year's revelers descended on Pasadena en masse, and by this time tomorrow it should be a little quieter. The parade floats are on display for two days after the parade, so I thought it was time check off seeing the floats from my California bucket list.

I knew the floats were created with precision, patience, painstaking detail and oodles and oodles of flowers. What I didn't realize was how much fruit and vegetable matter was used. Here's a non traditional post for your viewing pleasure, highlighting the amazing uses of some common pantry staples.. who knew?!?

Orange leaves, dried chrysanthemum, split peas and yellow lentils

Pineapple and lime skins, orange slices and kidney beans

Green split peas, dried parsley, dried lima beans and corn husks. Each corn husk was hand cut and individually ironed

Kidney and pinto beans, orange lentils, crushed yellow lentils and corn husks

Green split peas, black beans, ground white lentils, ground split peas

Black beans, coconut flakes and dried chili pepper flakes

Nori seaweed, ground coffee, coconut, lima beans