Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Balsamic Blueberries #NationalBlueberryMonth


Today we're celebrating National Blueberry Month. Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm asked us to join her in posting a new blueberry recipe and celebrating these lovelies. Done.


A few years ago, the boys and I went to High Ground Organics' Harkins Slough Farm to pick blueberries. We didn't make it back there this year, but we still talk about that experience.


Bushels of Blueberry Goodness

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta 
with Balsamic Blueberries

I find myself making panna cotta frequently. Probably because it's flexible. I've made Espresso Panna CottaCardamom Panna CottaSalted Juniper-Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta, and Matcha Panna Cotta. It's so easy to get creative. So, I figured it would be a good starting point for a blueberry dessert. When I brainstormed with my Kitchen Elves, they came up with goat cheese and blueberries. Yep, I agree. They might have been joking, but I wasn't.

Ingredients

Panna Cotta

  • 2 packets (2 1/4 teaspoons, each) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 C cold water
  • 3 C organic half-n-half
  • 2/3 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C soft goat cheese, softened (I used a honey chevre)
  • 1/2 t vanilla paste
  • 1/2 t lemon extract

Balsamic Blueberries

  • 1 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1 C organic blueberries

Procedure

Panna Cotta
In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Heat half-n-half and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture just begins to steam. Remove from heat and whisk in goat cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in softened gelatin and vanilla paste until completely incorporated. Stir in lemon extract.

Divide into your individual containers, cover, and refrigerate until set - at least 4 hours. I usually leave mine overnight.

Balsamic Blueberries
Stir balsamic vinegar and honey together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, approximately 10 minutes. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool.

To Serve
Stir blueberries into balsamic reduction until nicely coated. Spoon balsamic blueberries over panna cotta and serve immediately.

Tasting Notes: Le Mistral


There are several things I consider musts on camping trips: my stovetop espresso maker, my little butane burner, a corkscrew, good wine, and a hammock. What I don't bring: wineglasses. Sorry. You'll just have to deal with my stainless vessels.


Well, this was our first year with a hammock and I cannot imagine why I've never brought one before! I'll never leave home without one now.


I brought along a bottle of Joseph's Blend Le Mistral. I uncorked it with a plate of polenta and fresh corn topped with an egg simmered in tomato sauce. Delicious camping dinner!


The name, Le Mistral, comes from the name for the winds of the Rhône Valley in France. Similar winds here cool the vineyards, producing grapes similar to the Syrahs and Grenaches of the Rhône.

This wine was beautifully complex. With a lively palate, I got bright evergreen notes softened with smoky, sensuous vanilla. It finishes with smooth cocoa notes. I can imagine this with a grilled steak or lamb lollipops. I'll have try that out soon.

The Trinity, a S'mores Variation


There are certain thing we always have when we're camping. S'mores are one of those. A few years ago, I even served S'mores for Breakfast


This year, on the last day of the trip, we had to use all the firewood...and eat all the s'mores ingredients. "Mom, we have to make all the s'mores. You never let us have s'mores at home." True.


The boys decided to try a variation that their friend Trinity had made during one of our Halloween camping trips: marshmallows (roasted or not), dipped in melted chocolate, and rolled in crushed graham crackers. So, they called it 'The Trinity' - named for their friend...and because it's the holy trinity of camping foods.


They fashioned a double boiler and melted the chocolate! This isn't so much a precise recipe as a process.


Ingredients
  • marshmallows
  • chocolate, broken into chunks
  • graham crackers, crushed
  • Also needed: roasting sticks, double boiler



Procedure
Place crushed graham crackers in a shallow bowl for easy rolling. Melt chocolate in the double boiler. Keep warm. 



Toast marshmallows - or not. Roll marshmallows in chocolate. Dip in graham crackers. Eat immediately!


You can see our variations. I dipped one side only; D dipped both ends; and R covered every bit of the marshmallow. Jake just waited by the fire to "test" all of our creations. What fun!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tasting Notes: Kobza Rosé


When I was looking for a good Rosé to take camping, I stumbled across Mourtaou Cienega Valley Rosé Blend 2015 by Kobza Wines, at Whole Foods, and picked up a few bottles for the trip. Yum! No wine pairing, just the wine, a book, and a great view of Lake Tahoe. Cheers.


I spoke to Ryan Kobza years ago. Then, he wasn't making his own wines. So, I was doubly excited to give these a try. Ryan has a thing for ancient vines, as in more than a century old. Additionally, this wine is made from an obscure French grape called "Mourtaou." Old and obscure...that's my kinda wine.


My first rule for a Rosé is that it must be charming, but charming in the je ne sais quoi way - the sly, sideways glance kinda charming - not the Disney Prince kinda charming. This one hits charming out the park.

It has an impressive earthiness with a subtle acidity. The notes of tart grapefruit and honeyed peach shockingly do not compete; instead they meld seamlessly for a complex flavor profile that pleases from beginning to the end. It's curvy, fresh, and quickly cemented itself as one of my favorite summer sips.

Chimichurri Pinto Beans & Roots Soft Tacos #MyBestwithBushBeans #sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bush's Best Beans in conjunction with The Women Bloggers, LLC
Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.

When I was in college, beans and rice were a pantry staple. Together they were a complete protein. But, most importantly for a student budget, they were affordable, filling, and tasty.


When my eldest son was a toddler, he would often turn his little nose away from something he had devoured the day before; but I could always count on him to eat rice and beans. To this day, when he sees a dish with beans in them, he does a happy dance and always asks for seconds...and sometimes thirds.

So, when the opportunity arose for me to create a recipe using Bush's Best Beans, I was excited. Not only are beans a family favorite, I love that they are high in fiber and protein. And with all the varieties of beans, they are incredibly versatile. 

While I often cook dry beans from scratch all day in a Dutch oven, that's not always convenient - especially if I forgot to soak them the night before. So, I stock canned beans in the pantry, too. Canned beans are great to have on-hand for quick, easy meals. And, even better: canned beans are not a specialty item. They are readily available in every grocery store and most convenience stories. Use their product locator to find whatever Bush's Beans you need: here. I love that Walmart carries them, too!


I picked up multiple cans of Bush's Black Beans, Pinto Beans, and Garbanzo Beans and even taste-tested the difference between the Reduced Sodium and the regular versions of those as well. Then I set to work developing different recipes with beans.


But, hands down, the recipe my family voted for me to share - Chimichurri Pinto Beans & Roots Soft Tacos. It's a great meatless Monday option and something that we've made several times in recent weeks. You can make all of the components ahead of time and just heat what you need for a speedy dinner.


By 'roots', in this instance, I used carrots, potatoes, and onions. But, in other versions, I've tried this same recipe with beets and celery root. It's a flexible process that's easily adaptable for whatever you might have on-hand. Get creative!


For me, it's the chimichurri that makes these soft tacos unique. If you're unfamiliar, chimichurri is an essential part of Argentinean cuisine; it's not an exaggeration to say that there's probably a bowl of chimichurri to be found on every Argentinian dinner table. It's delicious and incredibly easy to make.


Chimichurri is typically served with steak, but it's also great on other proteins. And with the addition of lots of fresh herbs, the flavor is incredible. Chimichurri kicks up beans more than a few notches.

Ingredients

Chimichurri
  • 1/4 C parsley
  • 3 T vinegar (I prefer sherry vinegar)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 2 T oregano leaves
  • 1 t thyme leaves
  • 2 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper, as needed
  • freshly ground salt, as needed
Tacos
  • 2 C carrots, diced
  • 2 C potatoes, cubed
  • 1 C onions, cubed
  • olive oil
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
For Serving
  • corn tortillas (here's a recipe for Homemade Tortillas, if you're feeling ambitious)
  • 1 C queso fresco, crumbled
  • a variety of salsas
Procedure
Chimichurri
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth, drizzling in the oil until desired texture; season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and let stand for, at least 30 minutes. If you are making this ahead of time, place in a lidded jar and keep in the refrigerator. 


Before serving, add the beans to the chimichurri and stir until well-combined.

Tacos
Pre-heat oven to 400˚F. Place the carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, and spices in a large mixing bowl. Toss to coat with olive oil and spread into a single layer on a parchment-lined or silicone sheet-lined tray. Roast until tender and browned, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

For Serving
Heat the tortillas quickly over an open flame or in a pan.


Assemble the tacos with a layer of roasted roots bean mixture. Top with the chimichurri beans. Add some crumbled cheese - and extra chimichurri as desired.

We like a variety of salsas. I usually offer a salsa fresca, a roasted salsa, and - sometimes - pickled red onions.

Do you have a favorite way to use beans? And, do you have a great meatless taco idea? I'd love to hear it!


You may find Bush Beans...
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*Disclosure: I received compensation for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Women Bloggers, LLC, or the manufacturer of this product.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Black Bean Chilaquiles #FoodieReads


When we weren't hiking, kayaking, or playing poker during our 10-day camping trip last week, I found myself in the hammock, enjoying my books. It was the perfect opportunity to get through more books for my Foodie Reads Challenge. I finished four books and started a fifth. It was a good vacation!

Today, I'm sharing Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale* which is not a foodie book per se. But it was a book that I read long into the evening by flashlight after everyone else had snuggled into sleeping bags. And, since the main character is a baker and owns a café, I'm counting it!


On the Page
Right there, on the first page, I was riveted. Aimee is in a church on her wedding day. Except, instead of wearing her wedding dress and marrying her childhood sweetheart, she's clad in black and there for her fiancé's funeral.

Everything We Keep is rife with plot twists and turns as well as love, pain, and healing. I rarely chatter about the books I'm reading with my family, but I rattled on and on about this book during breakfast on the eastern side of the Sierras. 

Jake said, "Didn't you just start that book yesterday?" 

Yep, and I finished it last night.

 "That good, huh?" 

Yes!

After a year, Aimee is pushed by her friends to at least start working on a life without James. She opens a specialty café with awesome coffee and gourmet baked goods. But, convinced that James might still be alive, she takes off for Mexico.

I'm not going to give away anything else. Just know that this was an excellent novel that kept me up to find out how it ends. And I have the sequel on my nightstand, too. Will report back on that soon.


On the Plate
There several things I considered making for this book: lemonade (they met as children when James stopped a bully from ruining her lemonade stand); coffee drinks (Ian, the new man, is an extraordinary photographer and barista extraordinaire); and various baked goods (Aimee has been baking for as long as she can remember).

But, in the end, I was inspired to make chilaquiles. I imagine this could easily have been part of a comforting breakfast in Mexico when all came tumbling down around her.

It's funny for me to think that before Fathers' Day - just last month - I had never heard of chilaquiles. Jake mentioned it as something one of his co-workers loved to make; and our friend Mike was over for dinner. "Oh, we used to make chilaquiles all the time." Then he described how his grandmother and mother used to make them. Now, I probably make them once a week. We always seem to have leftover corn tortillas and it's a quick meal. I don't always make the eggs like this; sometimes I pour in beaten eggs and it's more like a cheesy tortilla scramble.

Derived from the Nahuatl word chīlāquilitl, this traditional Mexican dish is an easy and filling way to start the day. As with many Mexican dishes, regional and family variations are common. I never make them the same way twice. But that's the beauty of them. This is a use-what-you-have kinda dish.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 to 6 leftover corn tortillas (depending on how many you have!)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4 to 6 eggs (depending on appetites)
  • 1/4 C shredded cheese
  • 1/2 C cooked black beans
  • homemade salsa for serving (for this, I used my watermelon pico de gallo)

Procedure
In a large skillet with a lid, melt the butter in olive oil. Cut the corn tortillas into eighths and brown them in the butter-olive oil until they are browned and crisped. Spoon the beans over the crisped tortillas and top with cheese. Break the eggs over the top and cover with a lid. Cook until desired doneness. We like the whites firm but the yolks still runny. Let diners serve themselves and add salsa to taste.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


 

Here's what everyone else read in July 2017: here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bánh mì #BacktoSchool


This week Cynthia of Feeding Big asked us share some back-to-school recipes. Since my kids aren't sandwich lovers, I try to get creative.

Love these Other Ideas

Our Kinda Sandwich
Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread, derived from bánh (bread) and mì (wheat). But, more often than not, it refers to the baguette which was introduced by the French during its colonial period. But when we say it, we're usually referring to the Vietnamese sandwiches that my boys adore. These sandwiches combine French ingredients such as baguettes, pâté, and mayonnaise with native Vietnamese ingredients such as cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots, and daikon.


Though my boys are decidedly not sandwich kinda kids, they do love themselves some bánh mì. So, these make it into lunch boxes every couple of weeks. And whenever R sees one on a menu, he orders it...just to see if there's something new we need to add to ours. This summer he tried the version at the Eatery in Mammoth Lakes. He did like the brioche bun and housemade pickles, but he assented that mine was still better. Awesome!

There are many variations, but I discovered that the Bánh Mì Xíu Mai is a baguette with pork meatballs. It was exactly what they love. And I love that I just pack up all the components and they assemble them at school. Easy peasy! This recipe is enough for us to have them for dinner one night and lunches for two more days. 

Ingredients 
makes 15 sandwiches with 5 meatballs each

Meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 2 T chopped basil
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1 t minced lemongrass
  • 3 to 4 scallions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 T fish sauce
  • 1 to 2 T gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 T Sriracha or other hot sauce
Sauce
  • 1 to 2 T fish sauce
  • 2 to 3 T gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 T Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 1 T organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C water


Pickled Carrots and Daikon
  • 4 to 5 medium carrots, julienned (I used orange, yellow, and purple carrots)
  • 1 daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer)
  • 4 T organic granulated sugar
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1/2 C rice wine vinegar
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 t minced cilantro
Spicy Mayo
  • 1/2 C organic mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 T Sriracha or other hot sauce
To Assemble
  • 4 baguettes, cut into 4 equal pieces and lightly toasted 
  • pâté
  • fresh cilantro
Procedure

Pickled Carrots and Daikon
(This can be done the night before, but should be done at least six hours before serving.)


Place julienned carrots and sliced daikon in separate bowls. Bring the sugar, vinegar, and fish sauce to a simmer. Stir till the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the sesame oil and cilantro. Divide the hot liquid in half and pour half over the carrots and half over the daikon. Make sure the vegetables are as submerged as possible. Set aside until ready to serve.

Spicy Mayo
(This can be done the night before, but can also be done at the last minute.)
Place ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir together until well combined. Set aside.


Meatballs
(This can be done the night before, then you heat the meatballs in the sauce just before serving.)
In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients until well-combined. Roll walnut-sized balls and place them on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes until well-browned.

Meatball Sauce
Place all ingredients in a large, flat bottom pan that can hold all of the meatballs. Bring to a simmer and swirl pan until sugar is dissolved. Lay the meatballs in the pan and stir to coat. Simmer until heated through.

To Assemble
Open up each piece of bread. Spread the Sriracha mayonnaise on one side. Smear pâté on the other side. Place the meatballs on the bread. Top with picked carrots, pickled daikon, and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

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