Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My So-Called Lunch

Spicy Asian Peanut Noodle Salad Thingy Dear Lunch,

I have a love-hate relationship with you. Sometimes you are so good and appetizing but most of the time you let me down. Like today, for example. What were you thinking? I picked you up at Ralph's because you looked so good there on the deli section. Your curvy noodles seemed to be floating in the clear container; the cilantro-scallion-julienned carrot combination enticed me, but it was the peanut dressing that did it for me. I just couldn't pass you up. And at $3.99 I thought you were a good deal.

All night long I looked forward to eating you the next day. I couldn't wait to get to work and devour you at exactly noon. Then the next day came but I was extremely busy at work that noon came and went. Then 1PM came, and I was still busy...then 2pm rolled around. It wasn't until 3pm in the afternoon that I was finally going to enjoy you.

My salivary glands were, well, salivating. I took you out of our mini-refrigerator and I opened the clear container you came in. I got my super-cold diet 7UP and I was ready to consume you. I opened you up and you smelled so good. My mouth couldn't wait to slurp up one of your dreamy noodles. I placed the peanut dressing all over you and covered every single strand with the creamy goodness and then, I tasted you.

Ay! Caramba...woe is me.

I thought I was eating cardboard noodles with peanut butter. I could barely taste the scallions or carrots. The only flavor I could identify was the cilantro. I tried so hard to find something good in you, but there was nothing. Nothing.

Why does this always happen to me. I'm an equal opportunity lunch eater, yet most of my lunches end up being disappointments???

I guess, for now, I'll have to stick to the usual salads they sell at our cafeteria. But mark my words, people, I will find the perfect lunch one of these days!

Minnesota Wild Rice Sausages

The fixinsMinnesota is famous for three things: Paul Bunyon and his blue Ox, the Mall of America, and wild rice--don't ya know. Wild rice isn't a rice at all, but a cereal grain, for which reason the French explorers called it Folles Avoines (wild oats). Its technical name is Zizania Aquatica because it is a grain found growing in lakes. The Ojibwe and Chippewa Indians have been harvesting it from canoes for centuries.

We purchased Lunds/Byerly's Wild Rice Sausages on our recent trip to Minnesota and we grilled them here in San Diego last night. These sausages are SO GOOD! The wild rice gives them a fuller and nuttier texture and a totally different taste. One sausage contains your meat group and your grain group! As always, we like to eat our sausages with saurkraut, pickled cauliflowers and carrots and a good grain mustard.

If you can't find wild rice pork sausages at your local store, you can order them online from Louies Fine Meats located in Cumberland, Wisconsin.

Here's a dressed sausage with grainy mustard, pickled peppers and cauliflowers and lots of saurkraut!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kay's Dill Seed Bread

My husband and I are finally back in San Diego after spending a week in Northfield, Minnesota. We had a great time although it did take me time to get used to the cold weather. I learned many new recipes from my in-laws and I can't wait to try them on my family here. As I mentioned before, my father-in-law is a great breadmaker, but my mother-in-law, Kay, is also an incredible breadmaker. The night before we left she made her famous Dill Seed Bread. If you can't find dill seeds at your grocery store, try a natural food store or you can order it online. Note, these are actual seeds, not dill weed.


  • 1 pkg. Or 2-1/2 t. Dry yeast
  • ¼ c. Warm water
  • 2 T. Sugar
  • 1 c. Cream-style cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 1 T. Minced onion
  • 1 T. Melted or softened butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 t. Dill seed (not weed)
  • 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 c. (or slightly more) flour
  1. In a small glass bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and add the sugar to proof.
  2. In a separate large bowl combine the cottage cheese, minced onion, butter, egg, salt, baking soda and dill seed; add the proofed yeast to the mixture.
  3. Now start adding the flour one cup at a time; you should add enough flour to allow the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Knead approximately 10 minutes until all of the cottage cheese curds are no longer visible. If you are mixing by hand rather than by Kitchenaide style mixer, you may want to blend or process the cheese prior to kneading by hand.
  5. Let dough rest in a warm, draft free area and allow the dough to double in size, about an hour. Once the dough doubles in size, punch the dough to expel the gasses.
  6. Shape dough into a loaf and place on a sprayed cookie sheet and allow to double in size again.
  7. Brush the loaf with a mixture of egg and milk.
  8. Bake at 350 F. until dark golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  9. Brush the loaf with softened butter upon removal from oven. You can also sprinkle with kosher salt and/or dill seed.
  10. YUMMY!

    Monday, November 28, 2005

    Cracked Wheat Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

    Yum! Homemade Bread! My father-in-law, Jim Blaha, is a master breadmaker. He makes all sorts of breads but his forte is cracked wheat bread. While I was visiting the Blaha's during Thanksgiving he made this bread but it had cranberries and walnuts in it. The bread was hearty and really good. All you need for breakfast is a warm slice of this bread with butter. The following recipe is not exactly the one he makes but it's pretty close. Jim bakes his breads in the cob oven my brother-in-law, Michael, built for him. If you don't have a cob oven (which 99.99999% of Americans don't) a regular oven will do.


    • 1/2 cup cracked wheat
    • 1-1/2 cup boiling water
    • 1 pkg dry yeast
    • 1/3 cup warm water
    • 1/4 cup shortening
    • 1-1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp molasses
    • 2 tbsp honey
    • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 chopped walnuts
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    1. Cook cracked wheat in the 1-1/2 cup boiling water for 10 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Add flour, a little at a time
    2. In a small glass bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup of warm water and let proof.
    3. In another bowl, stir together shortening, salt, molasses, honey, cranberries, walnuts and the rest of the water and add to cracked wheat.
    4. Stir in the flours a little at a time. When the dough is stiff, turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes, use extra flour if necessary. Punch down bread
    5. Shape into a ball, place in oiled bowl, cover and let rise until it's doubled.
    6. Punch down and shape into 2 loaves. Let rise again until they double.
    7. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on racks.

    Sunday, November 27, 2005

    The Perfect Sangria

    So, what do you do with all the leftover red wine you have after a party? Okay, okay, some of you may not have leftover wine after a party, but what if you buy a bottle of wine and it's really bad, what do you do then? Well, my friend, have I got the recipe for you. Sangria.

    Sangria is a blood-red color beverage, usually served chilled. Its name literally means "blood" in Spanish. This fruity concoction is made with red wine, fruit juices, soda water, fruit and brandy or cognac.

    We had a lot of leftover wine and fruits after Thanksgiving and we used up all these ingredients by making sangria. The recipe is easy, however you do have to wait at least 18 to 24 hours before you can drink it. The key to this recipe is letting the sangria chill overnight for the flavors to develop.


    • 1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Rioja)
    • 1 Cup orange juice
    • 1/2 cup brandy or cognac
    • 1 short cinnamon stick
    • 2 Tbsp sugar
    • 1 Apple, diced
    • 1 Orange cut into thin slices, set 4 slices aside
    • 1 Lemon, halved
    • Ginger ale or club soda, optional

    In a 2 qt. sauce pan, heat up the orange juice on medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon stick, sugar, four of the thinly sliced oranges and the brandy or cognac. Simmer for a few minutes until sugar dissolves.

    In a large pitcher, pour the wine in and add the diced apple, the remaining orange slices and squeeze the juice of one lemon. Add the brandy-orange mixture to the wine and stir to combine. Chill overnight. I chilled mine outside in the snow! When ready to serve, add ice into your glasses, pour sangria and add some of the fruit. Top it off with ginger ale or club soda if you prefer.

    Please drink responsively. As you can see in the background my brother-in-law, Michael, who had a bit too much sangria to drink!

    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Norwegian Pancake: Lefse

    Dot Blaha's Delicious Lefse
    Minnesota is a state of many cultures but the predominant influence here is the Scandinavian culture, yah! Since I've been staying in Northfield, Minnesota these past few days, I found that there is a Norwegian community here. There is even a private college in town, St. Olaf College, named for Olaf II, the patron saint of Norway. Saint Olaf's School was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1874 and a great dish these immigrants brought with them is lefse. It's a potato-based pancake that is very yummy. I had the opportunity to learn how to make this pancake while I was here.

    Lefse was introduced to Norway a little over 250 years ago and, like Ireland, Norway suffered from the effects of the potato famine in the mid-1800's, which is about the time that many Norwegians came to the United States. They brought their knowledge, griddles, mashers and rolling pins. The result is a delicacy that's part of a special tradition that's been replicated in every Norwegian-American town for more than 150 years.


    • 5 large potatoes
    • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
    • 1/2 cup flour to each cup of potatoes
    Boil potatoes, mash very fine (with a ricer, if you have one). Add evaporated milk, salt, sugar and butter. Beat until light. Let stand until cool.
    Add flour, one cup at a time. Remember, it's 1/2 cup of flour to every one cup of mashed potatoes. So try to measure how much mashed potatoes you have.
    Place a linen cloth over your cutting board and sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour. The linen cloth prevents the lefse from sticking. Get our rolling pin out and sprinkle it with flour, too. Roll small pieces of dough (about 2" diameter), place it over the cloth and roll with your rolling pin. Sprinkle flour so that dough doesn't stick. Roll out as thinly as possible. Use a lefse stick (see below), if you have one, to move the thin pancake to the hot griddle. If you don't have a lefse stick, use your fingers or a thin spatula. Bake the pancake on a medium heat griddle until light brown, turning frequently to prevent from scorching. Place lefse between clean towels to keep from becoming dry. To eat the lefse while still warm, spread butter over it then sprinkle it with brown sugar. Roll the lefse like a taco and enjoy anytime! I like to eat it in the morning for breakfast. Thanks to Dot for this recipe.

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    A Sweet & Spicy Cheese Spread

    With Thanksgiving over and Christmas coming up, it's always good to know a few quick recipes to bring to holiday parties or to make for your own party. Since I've been in Minnesota, I've learned several new recipes and I've picked up a few good tips. One super quick recipe I recently learned is this sweet and spicy cheese spread. All you need is a pound of cream cheese, a jar of a jalapeño jelly and crackers. I'm sure you have this jelly in your pantry right now. I know most of us do, but we don't really know what to do with it. Well, this is the perfect recipe for that jam. You will absolutely love this cheese spread.



    Place your cream cheese in your serving platter. Spread about a cup of the jalapeño jam or jelly on top of the cheese. Place your crackers around the spread and watch it sell like pancakes!

    Thursday, November 24, 2005

    Frozen Cranberry and Orange Relish

    What I love about cooking are all the various recipes there are out there for me to try! I've been in chilly Minnesota these past few days and I've already learned so much about the regional cooking here. One recipe that I tried and really enjoyed was this cranberry relish made from frozen cranberries. Yes, you read correctly: frozen cranberries. What I love about this recipe is that it only contains three ingredients and there is NO COOKING! My father-in-law, Jim Blaha, showed me how to make the relish in a food grinder but if you don't have one available, a food processor will work just as well.


    • 1 (12-ounce) package Ocean Spray® Cranberries, rinsed and drained then frozen
    • 1 unpeeled orange, cut into eighths and seeded
    • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
    Directions: Place half of the frozen cranberries and half the orange slices in food grinder or food processor. Process until mixture is evenly chopped.

    Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining cranberries and orange slices. Stir in sugar. Store in refrigerator overnight. Makes about 3 cups.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Quick Party Platter

    A good tip I learned from watching the Food Network all the time is to "always keep cheese, fruits and vegetables around the house for easy snacks or for unexpected company." I like to keep a wheel of brie and pastry dough (frozen) in case I need to make emergency baked brie. Other cheeses that are good have in store are fresh mozzarella balls, feta and smoked Gouda. Apples always go great with cheese, specially brie and Gouda. And sliced or quartered tomatoes pair up magnificently with either feta or mozzarella.

    I had to put together a quick platter the other day for unexpected guests. So what I did, I sliced a tomato and seasoned it with kosher salt and pepper and sprinkled a little bit of dried basil on it. I then cut bite size pieces of feta and alternated it with the tomatoes. I also sliced a Granny Smith apple and alternated it with slices of smoked gouda. Fortunately, I also had some left over cooked lamb shanks and I sliced it thinly and placed it on the platter. Drizzle the lamb shanks with a little olive oil and serve at room temperature with crackers. So you see, it does pay to watch the Food Network; I learn so many things from it all the time!!!

    Chicken and Spinach Manicotti

    There is nothing like homemade manicotti with béchamel sauce. It may be time consuming because you have a lot to prepare, but the outcome is awesome manicottis that your entire family will love. The best part is that it's not as fattening as other manicottis and it's quite healthy!!!!


    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1 lb. ground chicken
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 small red onion, diced
    • 1 bag of ready to eat Spinach (poke bag and microwave for 3 minutes and let it cool)
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. oregano
    • 1/4 tsp. thyme
    • 1/4 tsp. basil
    • 1 pound non-fat cottage cheese
    • 2 cups grated mozzarella, divided
    • 1 cup grated parmesan, divided
    • 1 package of Manicotti (about 12 to 14 shells)
    • 4 TBSP. Butter
    • 4 TBSP. Flour
    • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 Cup Warm Milk
    • 1 garlic clove, sliced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Dash of nutmeg
    1. In a very large pot, start boiling water for the pasta. Season with a palm full of salt.
    2. In a large 10" non-stick pan heat 1 tsp. olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic next and sauté for another 3 minutes.
    3. Add the ground chicken to the pan and cook until it's no longer pink. Meanwhile, remove the spinach from the microwave and squeeze out excess water. Give the spinach a rough chop.
    4. To the chicken add the remaining spices: oregano, thyme, basil, salt, and pepper. Then add the spinach and cook to combine for another 5 minutes. Place the mixture in a glass bowl and let it cool down (about 15 minutes).

    5. Once the water for the pasta starts boiling, add your manicottis and cook according to package instructions. Make sure you don't overcook them. Strain and add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pasta so that it doesn't stick. Let it cool until they are easy to handle.

    6. To your chicken and spinach mixture, add 1 pound cottage cheese, 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Mix to combine. You can add the mixture into a piping bag and fill the manicottis, or just use your fingers (like I did) and fill them up. Set aside.

    7. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees

    8. To make the béchamel sauce: Melt 4 tablespoons of butter on medium-high heat in a large sauce pan. Add the 4 tablespoons of flour and keep stirring with a wire whisk. Cook for about 3 minutes, but don't let the flour brown. Turn heat down to medium. While still whisking, slowly pour in the warm milk about 1/2 cup at a time. Keep whisking after each addition. Once your sauce gets to desired consistency (that of an Alfredo sauce) add the sliced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Also add a dash of nutmeg and keep on whisking until the mixture comes to a boil. The total time for the béchamel sauce should be between 10 and 15 minutes. Use sauce immediately.

    9. To Assemble: In a 9.5 x 10.5 glass baking dish, place 1/2 of the béchamel sauce at bottom of dish. Then place your filled manicottis over it. Top the manicotti with remaining béchamel sauce then 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/2 cup parmesan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then place manicotti under the broiler for 5 more minutes to caramelize the top.

    10. Remove from broiler and let it cool for about 5 minutes. It will be bubbling hot. Serve with a side of tomatoes and a slice of garlic bread. Believe me, your family will love it!

      Tuesday, November 22, 2005

      Grilled Jack Daniels Steaks

      Not too long ago, my husband found a Jack Daniels®EZ-Marinader bag in the grocery store and we wanted to give it a try. Usually, we prefer to give our steaks a dry rub then grill it, then slather it with BBQ Sauce, so this EZ-Marinade was new to us. The bag is sturdy and it has a zip-loc type of seal. The marinade is already inside. All you have to do is place your meat in the bag, close it and let it marinate. Check the EZ-Marinader website here.

      • 2 Steaks (T-Bone or Sirloin)
      • 1 Jack Daniels® EZ Marinader® bag
      Place the steaks inside the EZ Marinader bag. Let it marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.

      When ready to grill, turn on your grill to high. Make sure the grates are clean. Oil the grates with a paper towel or cloth. When the grill gets to 350 degrees, lower down to medium-high.
      Remove steaks from the bag and place them for direct grilling. If they are thick steaks (3/4 to 1") grill for 10 minutes on one side and 8 on the other for medium-rare. Grill longer for well-done steaks. As you can see, the steaks come out juicy and slathered with the Jack Daniels Sauce. Serve with a baked potato or your favorite side dish.

      And enjoy the sister sure did!!!

      Monday, November 21, 2005

      Grilled Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Lemon

      Here's an easy recipe for grilled lamb shanks (and finished off in the oven). The marinade is very simple but full of flavor and it is also very Greek. You can marinate the lamb shanks in a large zip-loc bag, or two smaller ones, as I did. This recipe is for two lamb shanks.



      • 3 garlic cloves, minced
      • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
      • 1/2 tsp. salt
      • 1/2 tsp. pepper
      • 2 TBSP. mint, finely chopped
      • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
      • 2 Lamb Shanks
      In a glass bowl, whisk garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh mint. Slowly, drizzle in the olive oil until it emulsifies. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper, place them in the zip-loc bag and pour in the marinade. Place it in the fridge and let it marinate at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours. Heat up your grill to high. Place lamb shanks on grates and turn down heat to medium-high. Grill for about 10 minutes per side, until it caramalizes on the outside. Place the shanks in an oven-safe plate and place it in a 350 degree oven for 10 more minutes for medium, or 20 minutes for well done. When ready to serve, squeeze more fresh lemon juice over the shanks and top with feta cheese, if you want. A good side dish is Roasted Spaghetti Squash.

      Sunday, November 20, 2005

      Roasted Spaghetti Squash

      During this time of the year the winter squashes start appearing in the supermarket. You have your butternut squash, acorn, banana, the ever elusive golden nugget squash, and spaghetti squash, which is my all time favorite winter squash. The texture of this gourd is creamy but still with a little crunch. Though it tastes like squash, the "noodles" can serve as a low-calorie substitute for pasta. I learned the following recipe when I was on the low carb kick. Serve it as a side dish or you can even make it your lunch-time meal.

      First, get a 1-1/2 to 2 pound spaghetti squash. Cut it lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds.

      Rub the insides with a little olive oil. Place the two halves flesh side-down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, turn them over (very carefully because they are hot) and bake an additional 20 minutes. With a large fork, scrape out the flesh from the squash. The texture will be tender but stringy. Place all the pulpy goodness into a large baking dish. Mix in 4 tablespoons of butter, kosher salt (to taste), fresh ground pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Mix to combine and top with 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (the real stuff, please!). Place it back in the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese begins to melt.

      Enjoy the goodness, my friend!

      Saturday, November 19, 2005

      Five Minute Breakfast

      As some of you may know, I've been sick the last couple of days and haven't been doing much cooking. But this morning I finally woke up with an appetite for breakfast. Unfortunately, I didn't have much to work with since I haven't done any grocery shopping. What I did have were eggs, cheese and croissants. So I made this fast and tasty breakfast for myself and my sister and it came out pretty darn good. The best part is that you only need 3 ingredients!!!


      • 2 Croissants
      • 2 Eggs
      • 4 Slices of American cheese (or your favorite cheese)
      • Oil for frying

      First, in a large non-stick pan, heat a teaspoon of oil on medium-high. Slice the crossaints lengthwise and place a slice of cheese (optional).

      Crack two eggs into the pan and fry them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. After two or three minutes, flip. Top with a slice of cheese and finish cooking for another two minutes. If you don't like a runny yolk, cook it a minute or two longer.

      Place and egg with the melted cheese into the croissant and serve immediately.


      Wednesday, November 16, 2005

      Mexican Hot Punch

      I got the sick. I tried to fight it, but it finally found me. It took over the back of my throat yesterday at work and last night it invaded my sinuses. This morning I woke up with a stuffy head and nose and I called in sick. When I get a cold, I don't get very hungry but I do get quite thirsty, especially for hot tea or calientito, which is a hot punch my tia Bea makes during Christmas time. It's basically a punch made out of stewed cinamon sticks, cloves, anise, ripe guavas, raisins and other fruits and sweetened with piloncillo, which is a small cylinder block of dark brown sugar. I do not have the recipe, nor could I find one online, so I invented one last night. It didn't taste as good as my aunts, but it was quite savory.


      • 1 qt. water
      • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
      • 1 tsp. cinamon or 2 large cinamon sticks
      • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
      • 1/4 tsp. Allspice
      • 2 cloves
      • dash of salt
      • 6 ripe guavas, halved
      • 1/4 cup raisins
      In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the brown sugar and dissolve. Make sure you keep stirring. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until it reduces by about 1/4. To serve, ladle some of the hot punch and raisins into mugs, and a couple of the halved guavas. To spice it up, add a bit of Morgans Spiced Rum and enjoy!

      Tuesday, November 15, 2005

      Chicken Mole (MOH-Lay)

      Chicken Mole with rice and black beans In order to make authentic mole, you would need to set a few hours aside. The process of making mole is very time consuming, but the outcome is delicious. Some of the best moles I've tasted were from Oaxaca, Mexico; the spices were bursting withDoña María's Mole sauce flavor and aroma . But since I do not have time to toast my chiles, dry roast my tomatoes, and crush my spices, etc, I like to use Doña María's Mole sauce. This is a staple in most Mexican pantries and one can find it in many grocery stores in the U.S. The glass bottle the mole comes in can also be used afterwards. Simply rinse the jar, remove the label, and you can use it as a water glass! I remember that in our household in Mexico my abuelita Lucila used to have a collection of Doña María glasses!


      • 1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • 1 tablespoon oil
      • 1 (8.25-ounce) jar DOÑA MARÍA® mole
      • 3 cups chicken broth
      • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

      Preheat oven to 350°F**. Rinse chicken breasts and blot with paper towels. Spray with nonstick coating spray or brush with oil. Season with salt and pepper and place chicken on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake uncovered at 400°F for 30 minutes or until internal juices are no longer pink. **You can also sautee the chicken in batches in a 10-inch non-stick skillet, on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.** Set chicken aside.

      Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Stir in Dona Maria Mole and heat for 1 to 2 minutes; stir constantly. Gradually add chicken broth; stir to dissolve mole, stirring freaquently. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer, covered with lid, for about 10 minutes.

      Add the cooked chicken to the prepared mole sauce and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to serving plate and top with some of the mole mixture and sesame seeds. Serve with remaining mole mixture. Don't forget to serve cooked rice and black beans with the meal.

      Sunday, November 13, 2005

      Restaurant Review: The Bailey Wood Pit Barbecue

      The Bailey Wood Pit Barbecue 2307 Main Street Julian, CA 92036 (760) 765-3757

      Julian, California is a small, mountain town 90 minutes east of San Diego. The town still has historic buildings dating back to the pioneer days when gold was discovered in the area in 1870. Today, Julian is more famous for its apples and delicious apple pies. There are many restaurants, antique stores, country shops, plenty of apple pie vendors and a couple of wineries in the area. Julian is also known for its nearby hiking. One thing to keep in mind is that the drive to Julian is scenic and a bit woozy at times; the roads are very windy and are only two lane highways.

      Our family usually takes a trip to Julian in November or December when it begins to snow. Yes, you heard right, it snows in San Diego County. Unfortunately, we're having an Indian Summer this year and the temperature today was in the 70's. The main reason we visit Julian is for the apple pies. On our trip today we bought our apple pie from the most famous pie vendor in Julian, Mom's Pies, and we stoped at The Bailey Wood Pit Barbecue for dinner.

      The Baileys Wood Pit serves Texas style barbecue. On the menu are wood smoked meats such as port ribs, pulled pork, chicken and Louisina sausage, along with cole slaw, beans, and potato salad. They also serve homemade biscuits, pies, beer, wine, cocktails, and apple cider. One can really taste the smokey wood flavor in the meat, but it's not overwhelming. The sauce is vinegar-based and is tangy and semi-sweet. My mom had the chicken, which she really liked. My sister had the ribs and she gave it a thumbs up and my husband and I both had the pulled pork. We all thought the BBQ meats were quite good, but their sides were, at best, good to take home to your dog. The cole slaw was good, but the beans and potato salad were not palpable. The homemade buiscuits were huge, but they were drier than week-old bread that was laid out on the hot sun!

      Your best bet is their special, which is a half-sandwich with your choice of BBQ meat and a cup of soup ($6.95). The BBQ plate is also good, but definitely pass on the beans or the potato salad ($12). Their apple cider is not to be missed either. I think that the cold cider is a bit better than the hot cider ($3). For you adventurous people, you can also get a mug of hot cider with a shot of Morgan's Spiced Rum ($5).

      All in all, this was an okay place to eat. The joint has that hometown, country feel with bench tables and outdoor dining. The service wasn't the greatest, but I think that's because the median age of the waitstaff was 18. The main reason we chose this place to eat was because it had the shortest wait time and that's because Saturday and Sunday's are Julian's busiest days. So if you take a trip to Julian, make sure you don't miss Mom's Pies and check out the nearby wineries. If you're truly, truly hungry for barbecue, stop at The Baileys Wood Pit. It's inexpensive and some of their menu items are pretty good.

      Saturday, November 12, 2005

      Spaghetti a la Bolognese

      Instead of going out for cocktails or a wine tasting on a Friday night, sometimes my husband and I like to stay home. This gives me an opportunity to create recipes I found on the internet and test them on my husband! Since I'm an avid reader of Simply Recipes, I saw a Quick Bolognese Sauce recipe. I also found a Simple Bolognese recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, who has her own show on the Food Network. And since I usually like to experiment myself, I combined both recipes, more or less, and came up with a pretty good tasting bolognese sauce.


      • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      • 1 medium onion, chopped
      • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
      • 1 celery stalk, chopped
      • 1 carrot, chopped
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 2 pounds ground chuck beef
      • 3/4 cup medium-bodied wine, such as Chianti
      • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
      • 1/4 to 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (if necessary)**
      • 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
      • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
      • 2 pounds cooked spaghetti
      1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and cook until transluscent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic; saute for another minute. Add the bay leaf, celery and carrot and saute for 5 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.
      2. Raise heat to high and add the ground beef. Saute, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomatoes; cook until flavors come together, about 40 minutes. **If sauce gets too thick, add low sodium chicken broth 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistancy is achieved.
      3. Lastly, add the basil leaves, salt (if necessary) and black pepper and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving and finish bolognese with Pecorino Romano.
      Serves 8 hungry Hobbits or 6 humanoids.

      Friday, November 11, 2005

      Natilla or Butterscotch Pudding

      In Mexico, and in most Latin countries, this pudding is called Natilla. It's a simple yet delicious custard we eat. In Mexico, you can usually find this custard being sold on the street or in abarrotes (grocery stores). They are sold in muffin cups. Natilla is usually made with cinnamon sticks for flavoring however this butterscoth flavor is a more modern recipe. I believe the key to this recipe is the cornstarch. When my grandmother used to make this pudding she used Maizena, which is a very popular brand of cornstarch in all of Mexico. During Christmas my grandmother also makes champurrado, a hot chocolate, cornstarch based drink. You can find Maizena in the Latin Section of the grocery store.


      • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
      • 2 tablespoons Maizena or cornstarch
      • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) CARNATION Evaporated Milk
      • 1/3 cup water
      • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
      • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • whipped cream (optional)
      1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes just to a boil. Remove from heat.
      2. Place egg in small bowl; stir in small amount of milk mixture--this is called "tempering." Make sure you don't scramble the eggs! Then add to milk mixture; cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Pour into dessert dishes or into a muffin pan, lined with muffin cups. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Top with whipped cream.

      Wednesday, November 09, 2005

      Can I Chimi your Churri?

      Chimichurri. Isn't that a great word? I would say that chimichurri sauce is the pesto of Argentina. With its vivid green color and bold flavor, it looks just like pesto but it tastes a lot different. In Argentina, this sauce is used as a dipping sauce for empanadas or to top bruschetta or boiled yucas. However the way I like it best (and it's the way most of Latin countries use it) is as a sauce for your steak. You can also use it on pork or chicken or you can use it as a marinade. Basically, chimichurri is what I call an "all-around" sauce. The best part is that it's super easy to make. If you have a food processor, it's even easier. And I have to thank my sister-in-law, Lindsey, for the fabulous wedding gift she gave us: A top-notch Cuisinart Food Processor. I used that baby all the time!

      Nobody really know how this sauce got its name, but a popular story is that the unusual name comes from 'Jimmy McCurry', an Irishman who is said to have first prepared the sauce. However 'Jimmy McCurry' was difficult for the native people to pronounce, so Jimmy's sauce was corrupted to 'chimichurri'.

      Anyhoo, you only need a few ingredients. If you don't like parsley you can use cilantro, or vice versa. The authentic way to make it, though, is on a mortar and pestle, but the food processor is just as good!


      • 2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 2 bunches)
      • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
      • 1/4 cup lemon juice
      • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      • Salt to taste
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper or to taste
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
      Pulse parsley and garlic in a blender or food processor just until finely chopped. (Do not puree.) Remove to a medium bowl, and stir in lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper. Cover and let stand for 2-3 hours before serving to allow the flavors to mature. This sauce will keep for up to 2 days (covered and refrigerated).