Chicken. Roasted.

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We are often out and about on the weekends. You know, living our wild and crazy child-less lives (if you click that link, the article is really great. just sayin’). Or maybe just playing board games at someone’s house, if you really want to know. We like to think we’re simple and low-key, but our budget tells us we spend a shit-ton of $$ on food and alcohol. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s just the fact of the matter at hand. Anybody singing a rap song after reading that sentence? nevermind.

A few months ago, I realized I’d made reservations for us to eat at Zuni Cafe. It’s one of those places that, if you want to eat at a reasonable time on a Saturday  night, requires reservations a bit in advance. So I picked a rando Saturday, and before I knew it, it was time to go. If you know anything about popular dining spots in SF, you for sure know that Zuni is an institution, maybe for their Bloody Marys (which I hear are magnificent), but probably for their roasted chicken.

So we went, and Chris was given the freedom to choose appetizers, wine, and dessert for us, but I said we HAD to share the chicken. He happens to like roasted chicken, so I was in luck. In my opinion, the chicken was everything it was cracked up to be – tender, juicy, nestled perfectly in a simply dressed salad, complete with haphazardly-torn croutons that were perfect for dipping in to soak up the chicken juice-laced dressing. J’adore.

Coincidentally enough, Food & Wine had recently published a version of said chicken in a roasted chicken feature they did recently and I just never got it together to start the recipe the night before, and I didn’t dare skip that part. So finally, a few weekends ago, I picked up a chicken on way home on Friday. On Saturday, after a good 20 minutes of dealing with a crazy city smoke detector (I hate them), we were well on our way to a magical dinner.

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We were not disappointed. As if I needed further confirmation of this chicken being amazing, I kept saying, amidst a mouth-full of crusty bread and chicken, arugula lodging itself in my teeth, “damn, this is good. isn’t it? isn’t it?”. Fortunately, Chris talks with his mouth full too, and he agreed until I finally shut up.

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And then we did it all over again the next day, as a roasted chicken salad also makes a great picnic lunch. Just so you know.

Zuni Cafe’s ‘Roasted Chicken with Warm Bread Salad’
adapted from Food & Wine, March 2013; serves 4

time commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes (+24 hours seasoning for chicken)

ingredients
roasted chicken
One free-range, organic chicken
4 thyme sprigs
4 small garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
2 t fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

bread salad
1 T dried currants
1 T warm water
1 t red wine vinegar
2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 c plus 2 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound stale Italian-style bread, cut into large chunks
1 T pine nuts
4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 c lightly packed small arugula leaves, or other greens (I used arugula, but when I had the chicken at Zuni they used a mix. i like it either way)

instructions
Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs. Stuff the thyme and garlic under the skin and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500 (and hope your smoke detector doesn’t go nuts like mine…). Preheat a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side down and roast for about 15 minutes longer, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a board and let rest for 10 minutes; carve and hang on to those chicken juices! (You can also use another oven-safe container, but you might have to turn the heat down and roast longer.)

Meanwhile, prepare the bread salad ingredients.

In a small-ish bowl, soak the currants in the water and red wine vinegar until plumped, 10 minutes. Drain and put into a large bowl for mixing the salad.

While currants are plumping up, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Bake for about 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool, then tear the bread into bite-size pieces and add to the large bowl.

In the now-empty small bowl, combine the white white vinegar with the 1/2 cup of olive oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper. Add three-quarters of the dressing to the cooled bread and currants and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slightly toast the pine nuts in a skillet for about 2 minutes. Add to large bowl.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add the scallions and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 2 minutes; transfer to a large bowl. Add the currants, bread, pine nuts and the remaining vinaigrette and toss.

Spoon the bread salad into a shallow 1-quart baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 15 minutes, until heated through. Uncover and bake for a few minutes longer to dry out the top and brown the bottom. Transfer the bread salad to a platter and toss with arugula.

Skim the fat from the juices in the skillet. Place chicken pieces atop bread salad and drizzle any juices atop. EN-JOY!

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Life. 365-Style. (7/2-7/29)

Man, ya’ll. We had a *heat wave* this month! And in SF, that means it hits 80 a few times. It was magnificent, and so odd for summertime.

Oh, and since it’s well into the second half of 2013, I thought I’d take this chance to update my progress in my “goals” from the first post of 2013:

  1. Run 500 miles this year. That’s roughly 10/week, so as of today I should be at 300 miles. Here’s reality: 309.33. BOOM.
  2. Finish the Stairway Walks: we’ve walked 20/29. I’m betting it won’t be a problem to get those last 9 finished this year. BOOM again.
  3. Take a picture every day: this is the hardest of them all, honestly. I won’t be doing this in 2014, but so far, I’ve managed to pull something out every day. BOOM BOOM BOOM.
  4. Go somewhere awesome: this was the easiest. Peru was awesome. Other small trips were awesome. And in late August, we’re heading to Chicago, which is awesome again. Quadruple BOOM.

And now, the pictures:

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183 – one of our commuter systems, BART, went on strike recently. the gates were shut to get through to the BART side and a whole bunch of folk were p-o’d.

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184 – gotta love an impromptu happy hour with coworkers! it was much more fun than running ;).

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185 – we found a perfect spot to watch SF’s fireworks from Bernal Heights. it was so clear that night it was insane. the fog has usually taken over that part of town by then!

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186 – Chris made me watch Sinister. it was uber creepy. and Ethan Hawke looked funny in a man-sweater.

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187 – Chris, Judy, Jared and I headed out really early to Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. we rummaged through the strawberry fields. well, some of us stared off into the open air…

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188 – my loot! i ended up making jam (strawberry-lime and strawberry-balsamic), strawberry-buttermilk sherbet, and then we ate a lot of them too.

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189 – I hope he wore these kicks last week! he was in the front car of the Caltrain watching the track. super cute.

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190 – afternoon sun.

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191 – i want to make this dish. it’s called a “veggie ceviche”.

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192 – Frannie’s delicious cocktail stories made me wanna try a recipe i found. this is st. germain, tequila, lemon, and thyme simple syrup. it wasn’t bad. not at all.

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193 – I had a Friday off (crazy!) and went back for my favorite breakfast at Craftman & Wolves (the toasted chocolate bread). then i went and sweated it off at yoga.

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194 – this cat gets herself into the damndest places. she keeps thinking she’s gonna jump on top of the hutch. i don’t think she knows my wrath yet.

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195 – we did a stairway walk out in St Francis Wood, a ritsy neighborhood. that house is for 1 family! in our neighborhood, that would be 12 units. ha!

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196 – i looked outside this morning and this bird was staring in. totes eerie.

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197 – Chris was in Austin for a few days, so I wandered down to Philz after work for some qualitee people-watching. never disappointed.

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198 – pineapple close-up!

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199 – blue house, blue sky. but much chillier than it looks!

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200 – grilled chicken on a Friday night indoors. i think i fell asleep at 10 PM. i know how to live!

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201 – we actually went out to Speakeasy Brewery this afternoon, but happened upon a wine tasting when we decided to stop by Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous for ice cream. talk about a perfect day!

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202 – We spent the day being So. Classy. by first going to a free concert from the SF Symphony in Dolores Park, then dinner at my chef crush, Michael Chiarello’s, new restuarant, Coqueta. We ate a bunch of small plates and, while we didn’t plan to on a “school night”, we ended up with a couple of cocktails apiece. This is the “Revolution”, my favorite drink of the night. Food-wise, I could eat a whole plate of the “tattas bravas”, and the duck meatballs weren’t bad at all. Chris could have easily filled up on the cheese plates, his favorite food group.

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203 – Steven’s Creek Trail in Mountain View. a nice break from my typical Mission or Stanford campus runs.

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204 – I had leftover frozen “mornay” (cheese sauce) from a mac n’ cheese dish I made a while back. I wasn’t sure how the frozen cheese sauce would be once thawed, but as it turns out, it’s just dandy. I also mixed in a couple of frozen cubes of pesto sauce. Not bad for a last-minute dinner ;).

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205 – another day of construction in the building of a new hospital.

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206 – An impromptu dinner/beer night at Pi Bar just *had* to end with a stop across the street for a cookie. Right?

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207 – Where’s Sasha? And how did she get there?

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208 – A night out in Berkeley at the Greek Theatre to see The Postal Service. The show itself wasn’t that great, really, but we still had a great time!

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209 – The weather was a little foggy this weekend (a true “summer” in SF, not this heat wave stuff!) and it was the perfect setting for a nice big bowl o’ ramen. One of our favorites, Halu, is closed on Sunday, so we went to an easy standby, Tanpopo, in Japantown. it hit the spot.

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210 – Even though I’ve lived in CA for 2 1/2 years now, the palm trees still make me smile :).

Spring. Pasta.

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I know. I know! FOOD! How freaking crazy is that? On a FOOD blog?

Alright. I’ll stop being dramatic. I just realized that, if I didn’t post something soon, May would go by with not one single post. And I know that, even though it’s only May 15th, because we’re about to get up out of this country for nearly 2 weeks, and I definitely won’t be posting then (since, you know, I barely post now..).

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Also, Spring won’t be around forever, will it? Although I hear it still feels like Winter in the Midwest, it does actually feel very springlike here in San Francisco, and even down in Palo Alto where I work it isn’t blistering hot yet. That said, I figure I should share this spring-like recipe while I still can, because it’s definitely something you should consider making.

I made this pasta recipe a month or so ago, and it is chock-full of spring veggies – broccoli, asparagus, even little cherry tomatoes. You could practically toss in whatever you like – possibly green beans, some roughly chopped kale or chard, whatever. The sauce that results from the pasta liquid, tomato juice, and melted cheese is really light, so light that you have to take care not to make any more pasta than the recipe dictates, or else it will be really dry. If you want a richer pasta, you could probably add a little white wine, or a tablespoon of butter to the pot at the same time you add the pasta water. For me though, I wanted to really focus on the veggies, and that’s the intention here: simplicity, good produce at its Springtime best.

I hope everyone has/has had a lovely Spring. I also hope you’ve enjoyed the rando pics I’ve posted. It’s my little way of barely hanging on to this blog and not totally saying goodbye. It’s nice to still have things to share, and despite having limited time, the picture-sharing is a great way to keep up. Hopefully, more recipes will come, but we’ll see how things go. I can’t remember the last time I took a photo while cooking – probably this one!

So, until next time, stay warm/cool/whatever ;).

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Spring Pasta with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Food&Wine, April 2013; serves 6

time commitment: ~1 hour

printable version

ingredients

2 bunches of broccolini or broccoli (about 1 1/4 pounds), thick stems halved lengthwise

1 garlic clove, sliced

5 T evoo, divided

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds red cherry tomatoes

6 scallions, white and tender green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1 pound tagliatelle

2 T unsalted butter

Large pinch of crushed red pepper

1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley

About 1/2 c shaved ricotta salata cheese, for garnish

instructions

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the broccolini and garlic with 3 T of the olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper; spread on a rimmed baking sheet. In another bowl, toss the tomatoes with the remaining 2 T of olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes, until the broccolini is tender and charred in spots and the tomatoes are very juicy but not broken down.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the scallions until just softened, 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the scallions to a bowl. Add the asparagus to the pot and cook until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the bowl.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot. Add the roasted broccolini, scallions, asparagus, butter, crushed red pepper and half of the parsley. Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Gently fold in the roasted tomatoes and any juices and season with sea salt and pepper. Garnish with the shaved cheese and the remaining parsley and serve right away.

Pork Sandwich.

pork sandwich

Anybody out there watch the Walking Dead? Well, we are pretty hooked on the show, honest to goodness. Chris has read the comics since Issue 1, so he was stoked when they announced a TV adaptation. Me? I tend to watch the zombie movies/shows/etc just to make him happy. Me not whining seems to make him not whine, which in general is a pretty good thing. So when I can, I just keep my mouth shut.

If you know me, you might have chuckled a bit there. I am rarely silent.

pork!

Anyhow, maybe you can sense where I’m going here. I decided to watch the show with him, way back when. One episode in, and I was hooked. So dang glad I kept my mouth shut that time for a change. So somehow, we roped a few friends into coming over and watching some episodes with us. We called it a “shredded meat party”. Ha!! They got hooked too. And we got to eat a lot of pulled pork.

The second half of season 3 started a few weeks ago, and we set up the same system. Another party of shredded meat. We are such cheeseheads. But this time, the crazy sickness took a ton of our group, and by mid-afternoon it was determined that it would be the two of us, the show, and a bowl o’ pork. We even grabbed some “SF Beer Week” beverages while we waited.

As it turned out, we managed to eat this dish that week and into the following week. I froze a little and ate that a week or so later. It was interesting: I was glad to have it between just the two of us, but at the same time, man, this was an amazing dish. It would have been a great one to share. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll make it again. Zombie or no zombie.

aleppo pepper pork sandwich

Aleppo Pepper Pork & Fennel Sandwiches
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; serves 6

time commitment: 3 1/2 hours the day of (30 minutes active), plus overnight marinating

printable version

ingredients

Pork

3 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder

1 T fine sea salt

3 T minced garlic

1/4 c plus 1 T Aleppo pepper

1/4 c white wine vinegar

sandwiches

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

3 T fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced

4 cups (packed) arugula

6 toasted rolls, split, for serving

instructions

Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.

Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Shred the meat into large pieces and toss with the pan juices and reserved juices. Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.

Empanada.

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As you may have read, I didn’t make any crazy New Year’s resolutions. I’ve found that, despite my best efforts, any resolution is well-intentioned in January and February, but come March, they sorta become forgotten. So because of that, I’m just going to resolve to make more reasonable goals throughout the year. It’s just more manageable that way.

That said, I’m sure you also indulged a little more than usual in December, right? We always go back East, to North Carolina, over the holidays to visit family and friends and as much as I like to feel in control, I really can’t be bothered to think too hard about all that I’m eating, and of course, all that I’m not (like salads and veggies). Bless their hearts, my family loves to eat. We had a pig pickin’, and if that wasn’t enough, we also had chicken pastry and fried chicken “on the side”. hahahaha.

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The week after Christmas should have been a week to clear out all the badness, but we were still in NC, and even though Chris’ side of the family follows a more balanced eating lifestyle, there are still sweets galore, and man I do love the sweets. So when it came time to finish off the year, I really didn’t see a need to start all healthy and fresh right away. We figured we’d go ahead and load up on a little more meat, and like everyone else, take it a little easier after midnight. Okay, who am I kidding, not after midnight, but when we woke up the next morning. There are still treats to have after midnight.

So I made an Argentinian feast for six (that probably would have fed 12). MEAT!! We started out with a lighter ceviche (they do eat fish down in South America, by the way), then went straight into the meat with these tasty empanadas. Crunchy, flaky, and filled with beef, I could have eaten more than 2 but I stopped because I knew the third course was ready to be grilled and served. And that, my friends, was a huge plate of lamb spare ribs with chimichurri.  Very tasty.

As for dessert, I have a lovely Argentinian cookie recipe to share, but that will be later. If you like chocolate and caramel, stay tuned!

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Flaky Beef Empanadas with Cilantro-Lime Crema
adapted from Food & Wine, January 2013; makes at least 16

other than the fact that these are awesome, the other best part is that you can easily make these in advance, refrigerate them, and reheat them in a 350 F oven for a little bit. you can also freeze them, unbaked and cook them straight from the freezer (obviously, you have to add more time). you can use whatever sauce you like, but I made another batch of crema from the tamale recipe.

time commitment: about 1.5 hours of active time, but include up to 8 hours total for refrigeration, baking, etc.

printable version

ingredients
filling
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 c plus 2 T lard
1 1/4 lb beef chuck, cut into 1/4-inch dice
kosher salt and black pepper
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3/4 c finely chopped scallions
2 t ground cumin
2 t crushed red pepper

dough
1 c water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T kosher salt
3 1/4 c all-purpose flour
Oil, for greasing

crema
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T no-salt-added chicken stock
1 T lime juice
1/4 t salt
1 (8-ounce) container light sour cream
1 large garlic clove, minced

instructions
make the filling: In a very large skillet, melt 4 T of the butter in 1/4 cup of the lard. Add the diced beef, season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and any liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, pouring any fat in the skillet over the beef.

In the same skillet, melt the remaining 2 T of butter in the remaining 2 T of lard. Add the onion, bay leaves and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is soft and golden, 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Scrape the onion and any fat over the meat and let cool slightly. Stir in the scallions, cumin and red pepper; season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate overnight or at least for a few hours to let the flavors meld.

make the dough: In a small saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer. When the butter is melted, pour the mixture into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough until almost smooth but still slightly tacky with some streaks of butter. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare crema by combining all crema ingredients; chill.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and oil/spray 2 large baking sheets. Work with 1 piece of dough at a time: On a generously floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 5-inch round plate or cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds of dough. Moisten the edge of the dough rounds with water. Mound 1 1/2 packed T of the beef filling on one half of each round and fold the dough over to form half moons; press the edges to seal. Pinch the edges at intervals to make pleats or crimp with the tines of a fork. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough to form 8 more empanadas.

Place the empanadas on the baking sheets and bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 35 minutes, shifting the pans once halfway through, until browned. Serve the empanadas warm or at room temperature.

Super powers.

My in-laws are in California for an extended vacation, and last weekend we followed them to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. They, of course, have the luxury of being on permanent vacation, so they’re there for the rest of the week, at which point they’ll make their way back to San Francisco for their final weekend with us.

That said, Tahoe was pretty awesome. Despite living 4-5 hours away from the area, we hadn’t been out that way yet, so we were looking forward to our trip not only for spending time with the family, but also to check out a new area that we are sure to revisit.

We did a couple of hikes while we were there (one through Big Meadow and another along Echo Lake, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail), and these bars would have been perfect to have with us, but sadly I didn’t make them until this week. I’m sure they’ll be put to good use this weekend when we’re out wandering around the city, so we’ll see how filling they are.

Regardless, I like the name of them, “super-power bars”, aptly named because of all the super-nutritous ingredients. Speaking of which, I should warn you that they are loaded with all sorts of weird stuff that you likely don’t have on hand (at least I didn’t). Quinoa flakes, Incan berries, wheat germ, and chia seeds are all a little hard to find depending on where you live, but I was able to locate them all in one place (for the SF-ers, that was Rainbow). I’d suggest buying enough of the ingredients for multiple batches, so these ingredients don’t go to waste.

Incan Super-Power Bars
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; makes 2 dozen bars

time commitment: ~1 hour, 15 minutes (including lots of down time)

printable version

ingredients
2 c quinoa flakes (7 ounces)
1 c sliced almonds (3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c raw roasted sunflower seeds (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ (2 ounces)
2 T chia seeds
3/4 c golden berries, also known as Incan berries and dried cape gooseberries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 c raisins
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c plus 2 T light brown sugar
1/2 c plus 2 T agave syrup
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, toss the quinoa with the almonds and toast for 15 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, golden berries and raisins.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray (or butter). Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a 7-by-12-inch rectangle, pressing lightly to compact it; use a straight edge to evenly press the sides. Bake the bar for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
Invert the bar onto a work surface and peel off the paper. Cut the bar into twelve 1-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip in half to form twenty-four 1-by-3 1/2-inch bars.

Special, For Sure

So, I have a confession. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not something I’d want people to remember me by. But it’s something that you should know about me, regardless.

I sort of have a sort-of addiction to reality TV. But I’ve come a long way, really I have.

I used to watch The Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, Real World,  The Amazing Race, Chopped, The Next Food Network Star, and pretty much anything on MTV and Food Network. Oh yeah, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Thanks for reminding me of that one, Caroline!

Now, I only watch Survivor and Top Chef. Well, and The Next Iron Chef. Duh. Yes, just three! Somehow, my ultra-long list of guilty pleasures was whittled down to just three lil’ ol’ shows. I consider myself fortunate, because I never got into the Real Housewives of Blank or the Extreme Makeovers or the Biggest Losers or the Kardashians or whoever the famous rich people shows are about these days. Heck, I only watched 1 little season of American Idol. And I could care less about The Voice because I don’t like any of the hosts. So….. maybe I’m not that addicted, after all?

Frankly, I could cut out Survivor, but Chris would just die. We’ve watched it for. so. long. that we just can’t stop now!, he says. And truthfully, there is always someone to laugh at, although this season I’m almost embarrassed to be a girl since these chicks can’t seem to get it together. But whatever.

But I can’t not watch Top Chef. Yes, sometimes it’s a train wreck. Yes, sometimes I wonder how certain people even make it to being on the show. And yes, I’d just love to see what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling on those judges because I swear they are three sheets to the wind every night. But I do look forward to it every week, and sadly the last season just wrapped up, so I’m Top Chef-less for a bit.

Ed Lee was one of my favorites this season. I think he made it to the final 5 before he got the boot, although I’d expected him to be in the top 3. I do think the final 2 were the ones who deserved to be there, but even so, Ed was always a favorite of mine and for good reason – he effortlessly combined Asian and Southern comfort food – my favorite cuisines. What’s not to love?

Anyway, Ed already gets plenty of media attention, because he’s awesome, so I’m sure that not winning Top Chef won’t hold him back in the slightest. A while back, he was featured in Food & Wine, and he shared a recipe for these corn griddle cakes that I could not stop thinking about. And since we aren’t usually up and cooking breakfast on the weekends, I didn’t want to wait until we had company to try them, so instead we just had them for dinner one night, and I froze the rest so I could have them on a special morning when we’re out of cereal and oatmeal.

The griddle cakes are so freakin’ tasty that I could probably eat them straight outta the freezer (well, with a little zapping…), but the orange-honey butter adds a perfect element of sweetness, reminding you that these aren’t just everyday breakfast cakes. They’re special, for sure.

Other cornmeal-containing lovelies:

Zucchini Cornbread (aka why my butt’s so big. go ahead, read the story..)
Hushpuppies (these didn’t help, either)
Cornmeal-Blueberry Cookies
Rhubarb-Cornmeal Tarts
Andouille & Sweet Potato Pie

Corn Griddle Cakes with Sausage and Orange-Honey Butter
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012; serves 8

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
orange-honey butter
6 T unsalted butter
1/2 c honey
1 1/2 T finely grated orange zest
salt and pepper

corn cakes
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cooking spray, or olive/grapeseed oil
3/4 c(about 7 ounces) breakfast sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 c fresh (or frozen, thawed) corn kernels
1 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 T sugar
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly cracked black peppercorns
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/4 c buttermilk
2 large eggs
6 scallions, chopped

instructions
orange-honey butter
Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in honey and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

corn cakes
Cook sausage in a 10-12″ cast-iron skillet or other large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a small bowl. Add corn to same skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned, 5–6 minutes. Transfer corn to bowl with sausage and let cool.

Whisk cornmeal and next 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl; add dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Fold in sausage, corn, and scallions.

Heat 1 T butter (or oil or spray) in skillet; working in batches and adding butter as needed between batches, add batter to pan by tablespoonfuls. Cook until cakes are crisp and golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Turn cakes over and cook until browned, 1–2 minutes longer. Transfer cakes to paper towels to drain. Serve warm drizzled with orange-honey butter.