gazpacho trio!

A few weeks ago, I made this beautiful gazpacho for a picnic before a play at the Calshakes theatre:

image  Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs, it’s the recipe for July 25th in Williams Sonoma® Recipe of the Day.  It’s flavors really melded with time and tasted even better the next day.  As a chilled soup, it was a fantastic choice for a warm summer evening.

Perusing the rest of the summer recipes in Recipe of the Day, I decided to make this trio of gazpachos for a Labor Day BBQ today:


On the left, is a sweet and savory watermelon gazpacho (recipe for August 2).  The sweetness of the watermelon balanced against the savory tomatoes and onions, it was my godson’s favorite.  On top, a yellow gazpacho with yellow peppers and tomatoes (recipe for August 13).  I couldn’t find yellow tomatoes, so I used regular red tomatoes and ended up with a more orange hue.  This was alright.  Has less tomato and herbs than the classic gazpacho, so it was overall less successful.  On the right is green grapes and cucumber gazpacho with ground almonds and bread crumbs (recipe for July 9).  This, like the watermelon gazpacho, had a great balance of sweet and savory but the almonds added a great amount of protein for a satisfying and filling bite.  It was my favorite!

Served up against a platter of grilled meats and veggies, these gazpachos were a hit!  Happy Labor Day everyone1

Fish Stew for dinner

In honor of the Olympics this past week, I made a Brazilian Fish Stew with a recipe from Williams Sonoma® Soup of the Day for July 23rd:

image  This recipe was very similar to other ones I found online and made a big pot to cheer on Team USA.  The fish is first marinated with lime, tomatoes, garlic, and onions before cooking it with chicken broth, coconut milk and clam juice.  This was so yummy.  I thought it would be super fishy with the clam juice but it wasn’t.  The fish had great flavor from the marinade and the coconut milk added just enough richness to each bite.  Loved it.

And how is this different from a Mediterranean Fish Stew?  The mediterranean version which is the July 4th recipe in Soup of the Day:


This had no cream or milk – just a clear broth packed full of flavor from all of it’s ingredients.  I think it should be more correctly named as a “seafood”stew because there are shrimp, clams, muscles along with the fish.  The broth is flavored with anchovies, thyme, rosemary and garlic – all flavors of the Mediterranean.  This stew had more vegetables in it, with the trinity of carrots, celery, and onions, making each bite full of texture as well as flavor.

Both were great summer meals and get a gold medal for keeping our bellies full and energizing us to cheer on the athletes!

Mia’s Kitchen in my kitchen

What I like most about shopping at Safeway® supermarkets is their sourcing of local goods.  Their display of Mia’s Kitchen pasta sauce caught my eye last week and so I grabbed a couple of bottles for my dinner this week.  They boast that they are chunkier and all natural.  I chose to try out their tomato basil and portobello flavors to compare to other brands that usually grace the shelves:


I used the tomato basil sauce with ready made raviolis:

image  And this was SALTY!!  Chunky it was, but not so natural with all the salt and made me really thirsty.

The portobello definitely had chunks of tomatoes throughout:


And I used it to make a sauce with sauteed brussel sprouts, sausage, and baby portobellos.  I put part of it onto a whole wheat crust from Trader Joe’s®:

image  Yummy.

And over some whole wheat pasta.


The portobello was not as salty as the tomato basil but I honestly could not tell the difference between Mia’s and Prego’s® or Classico®.  But Mia’s is from Sonoma County, our neighbor to the north, and it’s always good to shop local!



Last night, I caught a production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at the Calshakes Theatre in Orinda, California.  It is a play about the life of an African American family in the late 1950’s – Troy, the father, trying to make ends meet and provide for his family as a garbage collector after failed dreams as a pro-baseball player;  Rose, the mother, trying to keep the peace and protect her family; Lyon, the eldest son of Troy and stepson to Rose, trying to survive as a musician and comes often for monetary support from his father; Cory, the younger son, trying to win praise from his father and reach goals that seem impossibly out of reach; Uncle Gabe, the schizophrenic brother of Troy and retired vet, who spent time in out of hospitals and his delusions; and Bono, Troy’s best friend, who is considered part of the family.

This was fantastic production and the talent was outstanding.  Aldo Billingslea plays Troy, an ass of a man, but was portrayed so well, I had chills down my spine.  Rose was played by Margo Hall and she nailed that too (someone needs to give her an award!!).  The subject matter was quite deep and dark – more than I would bargain for on a Saturday night – but I enjoyed every minute.  Bravo!

If you have read my other posts from my experiences at Calshakes, you know we always get there early for a picnic dinner before the show.  Last night, I made some spiced rubbed fish sandwiches from a recipe I found in the Life and Home section of Instyle® Magazine’s August 2016 issue.

image  I took whole tilapia fillets and used a BBQ spice rub I had in the cupboard (after all, it contained the same spices as listed in the spice rub for the recipe).  I then baked them instead of grilling because that was much easier for me.  The slaw on top is an interesting mix of red cabbage fennel, red onion, mint, pumpkin seeds and green apple – loved the flavor and textures.  The best part was the yogurt tartar sauce, made with a cup of greek style yogurt, dijon mustard, gherkins, capers, and herbs.  Altogether with a fresh roll from the bakery, this was super duper yummy!

For dessert, I made the pear ginger and thyme tarte tartin that was found in the same issue of Instyle®.  I was trying to save time by not carmelizing the sugar but it made for a blander tart:

image  And hard to share at a picnic!  So used the same recipe and made some turnovers, since the crust was just puff pastry:

image  And added some caramel on top!

Cooking Instyle – July!

In the “Life and Home” section of the July 2016 issue of Instyle® Magazine, there were two recipes that drew my attention.

First, their recipe for “Supercharged Spinach Soup”:

image  This is not only super healthy but delicious.  It uses coconut milk and cannellini beans as thickener with asian inspired spices mixed in.  It’s got scallions instead of onion with ginger, tumeric, and tamari (which you can find at your local asian grocery market).  This soup is super easy to make and the recipe indeed serves 4 as advertised.

In the same issue, there was a recipe for spicy miso salmon with cauliflower rice.  To make this, I picked up a beautiful piece of salmon from my local grocery store.  It was so beautiful that I didn’t want to cover it with a sauce but rather have it stand on it’s own freshness.  Instead, I took the flavors the miso sauce (miso, lemon, tamari, and brown sugar instead of maple syrup) and added it to the cauliflower as it cooked.

image  To finish things off, I sprinkled some nori seasoning on top!  Bon Appetit!  So yummy, you won’t miss that there is no real rice!

Soup Book

Soups are one of my favorite foods.  They are a great way to keep trim but yet feel satisfied with each meal.  I have tried many recipes in my kitchen and was excited to pick up Williams-Sonoma®’s Soup of the Day book at my local Costco®.

I don’t like creams in my soup, so I appreciated how these recipes held their own without the cream or with a potato substituted in instead.  For instance, this is their sweet corn chowder with bacon:

image  With the bacon, it was heavy enough on it’s own and totally did not need the 1.5-2 cups of milk suggested.

This beet soup is thickened with a potato:

image  I used red instead of golden beets because that is all I could find at the grocery store and omitted the goat cheese recommended.  This was light and refreshing and delicious.

The cucumber dill soup went well with these frozen samosas from Trader Joe’s®:


And this summer squash soup went well with some homemade bread.


So far, I’ve tried several of their variations on your basic tomato soup and loved each one.  Since there are 365 recipes to try, I’m excited to have this in my library!

asian food via crockpot

Still playing around with my new-ish crockpot, I tried three of the Asian inspired recipes from the Crockpot® slow cooker recipe book this past month.  First up was their recipe for Asian Beef with Mandarin Oranges on page 246.

image  I cooked it on high for 5 hours (they recommended 5-6 hours) but the beef still came out way too tough.  Flavor was somewhere been bland and weird.  I served it over brown rice but was less than impressed.

Next, I tried the Asian Short Rib recipe on page 225:

image  I served this over pan fried polenta and stir fried bok choy.  This was really yummy – not sure if it was because of the beef fat or because it was slow cooked on low over 8 hours, but the beef was so tender that it fell off the bone.  Flavors were great – loved how the honey offered just enough sweetness to balance the soy sauce and beef broth.  I would totally make this again.

Last was the Asian Noodles with Pork and vegetables on page 222.

image  This was also terrible.  I cooked it on high for about 6 hours to even get the pork tender enough to come off the bone.  But as the meat rested, it got really tough.  The sauce was very salty and was absorbed by the 2 16 oz bags of frozen asian vegetables added at the end of the roast.  I hadn’t realized you can buy bags of “frozen asian vegetables” but I found them at Safeway®- it’s broccoli, chestnuts, snappeas and carrots.  I added some leftover frozen edamame for good measure.  The recipe calls for it be served with soba noodles, which I did.  The veggies with the noodles wasn’t so bad.

Maybe the moral of these experiments is to always cook slow and low in the crockpot?  Not sure.  Going to take a break from the crockpot for a while.

pasta in the crockpot

Continuing on from my last post of cooking with my crockpot, I decided to venture into cooking pasta with the crocopot.

I first tried this recipe for “Ziti Ratatouille” from the Crockpot Slow Cooker Recipes Cookbook:img_9172  This was not so bad.  You put the pasta in at the very end to the cooked veggies and it was quite tasty.  The texture of the pasta tasted a little like that in Chef Boy-ar-dee® meals, but fresher with all the veggies in the sauce.

I then went onto try a few more of the pasta recipes from the book.  For the “Beefy Tortillini” recipe, I used ziti instead of tortillini and whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta.  This was an epic fail:

image  The sauce was not bad – with browned ground beef and mushrooms, it was hardy and largely edible.  I think, however, that the flavor was mostly saved because a jar of sauce served as the base.

Determined to make it work, I tried the “Broccoli and Beef Pasta”:

image  This time, I cooked the pasta first and then added it to the sauce for 10 minutes before turning off the crockpot.  This was a little better than the beefy one above but pretty bland.  There is an entire onion cut up raw and put into the pot – while it was cooked in the end, it was not very good to eat.

So, for the last recipe of this experiment, I cooked the sauce only in the crockpot first and then added it to cooked pasta.  This is the “Penne pasta with sundried tomatoes and olives”:

image  With flavors again drawing largely from a jar of premade sauce, this was alright.

I don’t think that pasta is mean to be cooked in a crockpot – let’s go back to the stove!

crockpot meals

My friend got me a crockpot for Christmas and I decided to inaugurate it with these two meals:

Chicken chili –

img_8027  In addition to the requisite meat, beans, and tomatos, there is sweet potato.  I thought it was odd when I first read that in the recipe but this turned out to be delicious!  I added some avocado and corn chips and YUMMY – best dinner I have made for myself in a while!

Then, I tried to go healthy and tried out one of the barley risotto recipes – or specifically, their mushroom barley risotto:


They have you carmelize the onions first and cook down the veggies before putting it into the crockpot – that made it cook a whole lot faster than the chili did!  This was ok.  Definitely on the low fat and low salt side but a good healthy dinner for the week!