Monday, November 28, 2011

The Cheese Cave in Claremont

One of my best foodie discoveries in Claremont has been the Cheese Cave.  The staff helped me put together a dessert cheese course on two occasions and it turned out great!  I also stop in there for lunch sometimes.  If you come visit me, I'll take you there!

Here are some of the reasons I like it (in no particular order):
   a)  Samples.  lots of samples.
   b)  Knowledgable staff & great suggestions
   c)  Free temporary tattoos by the register
   d)  They keep a record of what you've bought so if you forget what it was called and want to buy it again, you can.
   e)  Delicious artisanal cheese and a fantastic selection 
   f)  Crazy good french baguettes
   g)  Samples.
   h)  Fresh sandwiches to go (different selection every day)

325 Yale Avenue / Closed Mondays

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bec's Turkey & Chile Chili

First, a few photos of the girls.  It's been really fun to watch their relationship develop.  Little is always in Big's shadows (literally like the first picture shows) but she manages to squeeze out a space for herself.  She can't wait for Big to come home from Pre-K and whenever she sees Big for the first time in the morning, she's just tall enough to give her a huge hug around the neck.  Big, to her credit, is doing pretty great with sharing, watching out for Little, interpreting her babbling, and constantly telling us that Little is "the cutest baby EVER.  And I mean it.  Have you ever seen a cuter baby?"

Trying so hard to help out

Finally manages to squeeze next to big and add a spoonful of something by herself.  By herself is a very important concept these days, much to my frustration at times.

Best buddies

Okay.  Now, onto the food:  after playing around with a few different recipes I've made in the past and wanting to turn up the heat a bit, this chili was the result.  We all liked it and you can make it more spicy by increasing the amount of pasilla chile, adding diced jalapenos, or adding red pepper flakes (which we did at the table).  You can make it less spicy by using regular diced tomatoes without the green chiles.

I've got a busy but fun week leading up to Thanksgiving so I'm not sure if I'll be posting.  If not, may your turkey be juicy, your half of the wishbone be longer, and your heart be thankful.  If you're reading this, I'm thankful for you!

Turkey & Chile Chili (4 servings)

3/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 pasilla chile (or poblano), diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (15oz) can cannellini beans (or pinto)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 T chile powder
1 T tomato paste
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice

Put the turkey, onion, bell pepper, pasilla chile and garlic into a pot and saute until the turkey is no longer pink and the onion is soft.  Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and seasonings.  Let it come to a boil.  Reduce heat to and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

National Bundt Cake Day

I love this blog The Food Librarian and she makes a bundt cake every day for 30 days leading up to National Bundt Cake Day (11-15 . . . today!).  Crazy, right?  I'm very impressed by a commitment to do anything for 30 days straight.  She inspired me to make a new bundt recipe for some company we had this past weekend.  I served it with pumpkin ice cream (unfortunately not homemade) and I thought the cake was perfect!  Nice crumb and not too dense, moist, great flavor . . . I'll be making this one again.

I didn't change the recipe (from Fine Cooking) except to check the cake sooner than the baking time listed because my oven seems to cook faster than most and to omit the crystallized ginger because Trader Joe's was out of it (of course!!).

Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Icing (serves 10-12)
from Fine Cooking

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
1 T white vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
3/4 c. butttermilk
2 1/4 c. peeled and grated butternut squash

2 c. confectioners' sugar
3 T buttermilk (more as needed)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 325 and prepare your Bundt pan (grease and flour or use the Baking Pam like I do).  In a large bowl with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute.  Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds.  Add the eggs one at a time in low speed.  Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined.

Add one half of the flour, the baking soda, the ginger, the nutmeg, the salt and mix on low speed until just combined.  Add half the buttermilk and mix until just combined.  Repeat with the other half of the flour and buttermilk.  Stir the squash into the batter and pour batter into bundt pan.  Smooth with a spatula.  Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour (mine took 50  minutes).  Cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack then carefully remove the pan and cool the cake on a wire rack before transferring to a serving dish.

To make the icing:  In a medium bowl, whisk everything except the chopped crystallized ginger.  Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until pourable but still quite thick.  Pour it in thick ribbons over the cake.  Sprinkle the ginger on top.  Let the icing set at room temperature (about 45 mins) before serving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


You know those Yahoo headlines?  I'm not much of a sucker for them.  I know that the corresponding story is going to be a) something I already know or  b) different from what the headline promises or  c) a waste of time.  But, now and then the nutrition / health ones do draw me in.  I liked the one I read recently - it's about how people who are lean abide by certain "rules" to stay that way.

None of these things were news to me . . . I've dieted, exercised, and read enough health, diet & exercise magazines and books over the years to have found out about these "rules." But, it was a good reality check about whether or not I follow these on a regular basis.

A certain number on a scale isn't my goal and I believe that being healthy requires a lifestyle commitment to eating nutritious food and exercising regularly.  Even though I know that intellectually, I still struggle with my serious sweet tooth (next post:  cake) and have recently had to cut down on the number of workouts I'm able to do per week.  One of the areas I've noticed that I do poorly in (not in the article) is the amount of liquid calories that I consume.  So, I'll be honest and give you the rules from the article with my personal evaluation of how I'm doing:

#1 - Lean people don't diet - Truthfully, I probably would diet if I thought it would work or if I had more self discipline.  But, I don't.  Now and then, I do a fast from all sugar and white flour and it makes a huge difference but other than that, I eat what I think is healthy, fresh, and try to choose proteins over carbs (more on #5).

#2 -  Lean people don't go fat-free - I buy non-fat dairy products for myself and my husband (whole for the kiddos) and watch my saturated fat, but I don't buy "fat-free" things because of that label.  I'm more interested in finding foods with no added sugar than I am snacks with no fat (example:  KIND bars, trail mix, etc. - high in "good" fats but no added sugar).

#3 - Lean people sit down to eat - Does eating in the car count?  I usually stand to eat breakfast while I'm making my kids' breakfasts, feeding them, and on school days, making my daughter's lunch.  My biggest downfall is lunch and sometimes I drive through fast food if I'm out and in a hurry (usually BRC burritos at El Pollo Loco or coffee and a bistro box at Starbucks).  We always sit at the table for dinner.

#4 - Lean people know what they're going to eat next - I think about food all day.  Honestly.  I'll lay in bed at night thinking about what I'm going to eat for breakfast in the morning.  I'll be working out and thinking about what snack I'm going to have afterward.  I plan our dinners and know what I'm eating for dinner for a week.  But, I do snack on things that I don't intend to eat.  Like the open box of cookies or my daughter's candy or the pb&j crust I cut off her sandwich or random leftovers.

#5 - Lean people eat protein - Learning the effect of high protein diet in achieving a low-risk, healthy pregnancy drastically changed how I ate.  I learned approximately how many grams of protein certain foods have and take that into consideration at meals.  I've also noticed how my hunger, moods, and fatigue are affected when I don't eat enough protein.  I'm not doing as well on this as I have in the past and need to actively increase my protein intake.

#6 - Lean people move around - Does chasing your kids count?  Does moving around in your SUV count?  No, really, I do exercise.  Right now, it's gone from 5-6 days/week to 3-4 days/week but it's a commitment I've made to myself to stay active and I really work on being as consistent as I can.

#7 - Lean people watch less TV - I record probably 3 or 4 shows a week on our DVR that I like to watch.  Now that Project Runway is over and since 30 Rock hasn't been back this fall, it's more like 2 o4 3.  I don't have a lot of time to just sit on the couch and watch TV, and I don't like background noise from the TV, but if I had more time, I probably would watch more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Overnight Baked Chicken

Ok, so you don't bake it overnight but you make it the night before, let it marinate until dinner time the next day, and toss it in the oven.  Perfect!  The curry isn't overpowering, the chicken ended up tender and moist, and it was the easiest thing ever.

And yes, that's rice-a-roni . . . don't judge me . . . you know you like it!

Overnight Baked Chicken (4 servings)
Original recipe from Baked Bree

1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
4 T soy sauce
1 T curry powder
4 chicken breasts

Mix together the honey, mustard, soy sauce and curry powder.  Place in a ziplock bag or a glass baking dish with the chicken breasts.  Marinate in the refrigerator over night.  The next night, dump the chicken and the marinade into a glass baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  Uncover and baste; bake another 15 minutes.  Slice and serve!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Pies

Two pies in three weeks . . . I'm on a roll!  I usually don't make pies but I've felt like it lately and I thought I'd share these with you as we head into the holiday season.  What's your favorite pie or pie memory?

First up, sour cream apple pie:  Two apple pie lovers had birthdays in October - my uncle Joe and my husband.  I made my first apple pie in a long, long time for the two of them.  I have this thing where I don't like making pies with a top crust so this recipe with the streusel topping was perfect.  My streusel topping didn't turn out too pretty but I thought the sour cream apple filling was delicious.  

Sour Cream Apple Pie (8 servings)

1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 T flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
3 c. peeled, sliced tart apples (about 1.25lbs)
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell, chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes (or frozen)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, room temperature 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the topping ingredients until they resemble coarse crumbs.  Chill until needed in the recipe.

Beat together the sour cream, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and egg (by hand or with a mixer).  Add apples, mixing carefully to coat well.

Put filling into pie shell and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Bake for 20 more minutes.

Let cool and hour before serving.

Next, a free form (galette?) persimmon apple pear pie:  I was on my way back from a Sunday run and had to stop at farmer's market when I saw beautiful Fuyu persimmons.  I looked at a bunch of recipes and couldn't decide what to make, so I made up my own with some fall fruit, spices, and ended up with a rustic pie / tart of sorts.  No photo, sadly, but it turned out pretty good.  I think it would be even better with the homemade cinnamon ice cream my mom made yesterday.  And, some toasted nuts or dried fruit (currants or raisins or cranberries?) would be a nice addition to the filling.  My husband suggested a caramel drizzle on top.

Persimmon Pear Apple Pie (6 servings)

1 pie crust, unbaked
3 fuyu persimmons, cut into 1/2 in chunks
1 pear, cut into 1/2 in chunks
1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 tsp flour
1 T orange zest
scant 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves

Optional:  Beaten egg and sugar 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Roll out your pie crust and place on parchment paper or silpat on a baking sheet.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.  Heap in the center of the pie crust.  Spread it out a little bit, leaving an edge of pie crust about two inches all around.  Fold the pie crust up over the filling, pleating as necessary, leaving the filling exposed in the middle (does this make sense?  I wish I had taken a photo . . . check out this - looks similar to the shape etc. of my pie )  

If you want to, brush the crust with your egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about a hour - until crust is nicely browned and fruit is soft and bubbly.  Let the pie sit for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Butter Lettuce Salad with Haricots Verts and Feta

I don't often follow recipes or post recipes for salad . . . I throw together whatever vegetables, lettuce, and dressing I have on hand.  But, I made this one from a recent issue of Food & Wine and it was fantastic.  I used the extra dressing on a bunch of different types of salad for the next week or so.  Great salad course option and I'll be using this salad dressing often.

Goddess Salad with Haricots Verts and Feta (serves 6)
from Food & Wine

1/2 pound haricots verts
1 T minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 T cider vinegar
3 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 c. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (I used about 3/4 tsp dried)
freshly ground pepper
2 heads of Bibb or butter lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled
1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
3 large hard cooked eggs, quartered.

In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water and pat dry.  Set aside.

In a blender or mini processor, combined the shallot, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice until smooth.  Add the canola oil and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine the torn lettuce, half of the feta, the cucumber and haricots verts.  Add about half to 3/4 of the dressing.  Plate the salads, garnish with the hard cooked eggs, more of the feta, drizzle with a little more dressing, and grind some fresh pepper over the top.  Serve.