Welcome to my BlogSpot. I have created this blog in hopes of inspiring everyone to cook. I have found my inspiration from living in both Southern and Northern California. My influences in flavors have come from family recipes and meals with emphasis on healthy foods, marrying into an Italian family and the ethnic flavors throughout California. There are so many wonderful memories connected to our family dishes as well as new memories in the dishes that have been recently created. My husband, Randy who is recently retired, has been my biggest supporter and inspiration in our kitchen. He is my taster, my sous chef, and has created some really great dishes himself, which will be added to this blog. It is my hope that you too will be inspired to cook and create your own dishes for your loved ones and enjoy the craft of cooking.

One thing I ask of you is if you print out, email and pass out my recipes, please include my name and link.

Be sure to check out my Sweaty Equities blog about the ups and downs of crafty projects and our DIY remodels.
You can find it at http://sweatyequities.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 29, 2014

Surf and Turf Bloody Mary

Have you ever noticed how Bloody Marys are recently resembling a small meal? We have all seen those photos on Facebook or Pinterest that get our taste buds craving the likes of a Bloody Mary with a slider burger and onion rings on one skewer, and a pickle next to the predictable celery stick.—a beautiful work of food art with the benefits of filling up the tummy. I have to say that I have obsessed over these wonderful libations/meals. I have never had one at a bar, but I needed to create on myself.
During this hot summer while we have been slaving away in the backyard covering dirt with concrete, I have been doing a lot of bulk smoking. It’s an easy way to have something on hand to make a quick meal since we have been so busy. Usually by the time the day is finished, we are hot and tired and not a huge appetite. One day I was smoking shrimp. Super easy. –Just toss the shrimp in olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and chopped garlic and let it smoke until they turn pink. It’s that fast.

I also like to keep on hand (since we host out of town family members for days) pre-cooked bacon. Kirkland has the best.
So let me get to my point. Hot, sweaty, tired and just a little bit hungry made me think of making a Surf and Turf Style Bloody Mary. Shrimps already done.
I have some bacon that I can dip in some pure maple syrup and cook it off just a bit longer in the oven until the maple is thick and caramelized on the bacon.

We have plenty of olives, pickles, artichoke hearts and celery. And I surely have all the necessary ingredients for a Bloody Mary. Let’s do this!
Everyone has their own way of making their perfect Bloody Mary so I will just make suggestions and you can adjust to your liking. I use V-8. It just feels healthier. HA!
For 2 people I use one 12 oz can of V-8 and 4 shots of vodka, a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, about 3 shakes of Tabasco Sauce , the juice of half a lemon, a sprinkle of celery salt, a little pepper, and if you like…. some horseradish. –I never get to do the horseradish because hubby doesn’t like it. Mix up these ingredients and poor over ice in 2 glasses. Add a shake of Creole seasoning over the top of the glasses then add your skewers, bacon folded like an accordion pleat through one skewer and the Smoked Shrimp, with the baby pickles, olives and artichoke hearts on the other skewer. Garnish with a leafy celery stalk and there you have it. Surf and Turf Bloody Mary.


Crock-Pot Tomato Vodka Marinara


Our family is blessed with an abundance of tomatoes in the garden. I feel like I need to pick every one of them and not let any go to waste and I also feel that I am becoming a slave to the garden. I like to make everything from scratch and I love the process of canning tomatoes, but not every day! I have blogged about my homemade Vodka Marinara Sauce and everyone really enjoys it. Well, honestly I cannot go through that process every day, because I want to enjoy my summer days and play a little too. The last time I gathered up a bunch of tomatoes it was dusk and I thought to myself, “Why not combine the ingredients in the crock pot and let it cook down overnight”. “I could tip the lid and let the moisture escape and then blend the ingredients in the morning.” I did just that and it came out great. I did this for 3 nights in a row, refrigerating the marinara then after the 3rd cooking, I started the canning process the next morning. It made 9 quart size jars. Tonight I am going to start the process again, only I think I will do 4 batches before canning, as my canner holds 7 jars at a time. Now keep in mind that I have a Vitamix so I don’t need to peel and de-seed each tomato. The Vitamix pulverizes the seeds and peel to a beautiful silky texture. –Reason number 8,432 of why you should own a Vitamix. J
Here’s how I did it:
Crock-Pot Tomato Vodka Marinara.
Pick enough tomatoes to fill the crock pot.
I have learned with time that I can get more tomatoes in the
crock-pot by chopping them up in the food processor prior
to putting them in the crock-pot.

Add in 2 diced white or yellow onions,
3/4 cups Vodka
1/4  Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper –depending on how spicy you like it
2 teaspoons Salt
 1/2 teaspoons Pepper
1-1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Basil
3 teaspoons Chopped Garlic
1 Teaspoon Fennel seed
1 Teaspoon Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon Granulated Onion
Some Fresh Basil for the Blending

Clean and chop the tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients into the crock pot and cook overnight with the lid tipped, for steam to escape, on high for 12 hours or until almost all of the liquid is cooked down. (If your tomatoes are super juicy, they require even more cooking time with the lid tipped to cook down). My last batch took more like 15 hours.

This is what is looks like after hours of being cooked down. My camera exposure was not set properly so it looks a little pink here, as opposed to the vibrant red and yellow it really was.
Blend the ingredients, adding about 10 Basil leaves and possibly some sugar to balance out the acidity. (taste the sauce first to see if it even needs sugar) I almost always add sugar.

Voila! you have yummy sauce.

Now if you like a chunkier marinara, you can peel and de-seed the tomatoes and cook down the marinara the same way and just use an emersion blender mildly on the marinara to your liking of how chunky you like it.
And there you have it. Wonderful marinara to enjoy with so many things. At this point you can choose to can it, freeze it, or enjoy with the evenings dinner.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Golden Beet Salad with Thai Green Curry Dressing

Have you ever been inspired by a type of food used in an unconventional way? I have. A few months back my friend Theresa posted Zucchini Spaghetti. How did she get the Zucchini into those long noodles. She told me she got one of those spiralizers. I looked it up and saw all kinds of brands and knew I had to have one. Last week I bought a Spirooli. We had company in from out of town and Ed, the brother-in-law, was supposed to be on a strict vegan diet. I decided to make zucchini spaghetti, with my homemade marinara and it was a big hit.
Fast forward to today. I was at the grocery store in the produce section and the golden beets looked wonderful. “I am going to make a salad with it.” The wheels got to spinning and this is what I came up with.

Golden Beet Salad with Thai Green Curry Dressing
3 Large Golden Beets
2/3 cup Pecans
½ cup Dried Cherries
For the dressing (Combine the below ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth)
½ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1-1/2 Teaspoons Grated Ginger
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Whole Grain Mustard
1 tablespoon Thai Green Curry Paste
3 teaspoons White spice Rub (click for recipe)
½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Medium Shallot
Clean and peel the outer layer of the beets. Spiralize the beets into a pile on a cutting board. 

With a large knife, cut an X across the pile. This will help in not having such long pieces for the salad. Combine the beets, pecans and dried cherries and toss with the dressing. Let it chill for 2 hours before serving.