Friday, July 18, 2008


Oh my God I am in love with Fondue!

It couldn't be more perfect a big pot full of melted cheese and white wine, bread, fresh veggies, a table full of friends...heaven.

There is a place in Berkeley that my kids love called "Fondue Fred's" It is in a crooked little building with terrible decor. The people who own it are Persian not Swiss but they are incredibly nice. The service and quality of the food depend on the night you show up. We go twice a year and leave bloated and happy.

Last week Noah and I had a hankerin' for a little fondue but I didn't feel like driving to the city so we dug out an old fondue pot I have had forever but never once used, and decided to make our own pot-O-cheese.

I am sure there are some great recipes out there but we decided to create our own.

We hit the grocery and picked up a few Swiss cheeses.

We bought a good Gruyere, Emmental and Appenzeller. They were a little steep but they each had there own special quality.

We bought two loaves of good sweet french bread, and a ton of veggies. The best fondue veggies are asparagus, red pepper, mushroom, red potato, broccoli, and green beans.

We had a cheap bottle of white wine in the frig. (not sure were it came from but it worked)

You will also need some nutmeg, green onions, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, salt and pepper, a little lemon juice and some flour.

I found out a little late that a good fondue pot is a pot that can hold heat and heat evenly. The crappy tin pot that comes with the fondue kit someone got your for Christmas needs to be tossed. Keep the base. I love fancy shops were they sell incredible kitchen stuff but my budget will not support the price tag so I hit Marshall's, TJ's and Ross. They don't have complete sets but they have bits and pieces at great prices.

I bought a little cast iron enamel pot that fit perfectly. It is french, thick and the perfect size. It was missing a lid (which I did not need) so I got it for a steal 9.oo bucks.

So let's get fun-doing...

Grate your cheese you will need about four cups.

Quarter your potato's and boil (not to soft)

Steam your veggies (just a bit)

Cut up your bread into cubes, let them sit out and get a little air. Don't worry about letting them get dry, they are better when they firm up.

Put all this stuff on a pretty platter and basket.

Get out your fondue pot and add the white wine (about a cup and a half)

Warm it slowly adding a little squeeze of lemon.

You don't want to get anything too hot to fast, this is a nice slow process.

In a small cup dissolve two tablespoons of flour and about a half cup of water.

add that to the wine along with the cheese.

Stir slowly letting it melt.

Add a little salt and pepper and nutmeg (to taste).

You want to get this nice and melty and a little bubbly. You can play with this to get it perfect adding a little more wine to thin it or flour to get the cheese to separate better thicken the sauce.

This is were I like to add some chopped green onions, squished up stewed tomatoes and mushrooms. You don't have to add this stuff the cheese is fine the way it is but I really like the way the flavors work adding these ingredients.

At this point everyone should be seated with little plates, fondue spears and all the yummy things you have prepared. Have someone light the candle or Sterno that is in the fondue base
( you want to keep the cheese hot).

Wearing your crown and apron bring out your pot of yummyness and let everyone go at it.

Double dipping is against the rules and remember this stuff is HOT so go easy.

This meal is meant to last forever and it goes best with great conversation and a bottle of good wine.

For desert you can do a chocolate fondue with fruit but we were way too stuffed to think about anything but laying down and enjoying our cheese buzz.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oh quiche me!

I love breakfast.

Most people are way to busy for this meal and grab a cup of java or eat a quick bowl of cereal. There has to be one day in a week of seven that you can sit down and eat a nice slow breakfast. We do it on Sunday. I call it big breakfast day and I love it best when we have a lot of hungry people over.

There is no meat at my breakfast table but no one seems to notice. I don't have a problem with eggs as long as I don't consider them too long. Don't do it, it will only gross you out. I do buy my eggs organic and from farms that let there chickens have some kind of life outdoors. If they have farm fresh eggs at the farmers market then I stock up.

The best part of this dish is that you can make it today and have it again tomorrow for breakfast or lunch.

I was a little too young to understand what all that real- men-and-quiche thing was about. Is there men food and women food? Last I looked we all had the same digestive parts. I know most men don't store fat like we do but I know plenty of male chocoholics and I have yet to meet a man who would not eat my quiche.

Here we go...

You are going to need basics:

Eggs, we will be making two quiches so you will need nine eggs.

Cheese, this is the heart of the dish and we will be using three different kinds of cheese. You should have a bag of shredded mozzarella in the frig already. Now you need to buy some shredded cheddar and a very small piece of Swiss or you can just buy a few sandwich slices at the deli.

Milk, or if you are feeling a little naughty half and half.

Green chili's, Ortega should send me a birthday card I eat more of their canned green chili's than anyone I know. -Remember not to get jalapenos the cans look very similar.

Onions, if you don't like onions very much you can use green onions which are milder. I use a yellow sweet onion.

Two Marie Calenders pie crusts. I know I should make my own, I know they have whole wheat pie crusts but I swear this pie crusts is like heaven. It is flaky, greasy, and tastes like a heart attack, indulge.

Spinach, you will need a regular size bag. Don't get frozen, get fresh. It is easy to chop and it stays a pretty green in your dish. The frozen is just messy and watery.

Salt and pepper.

350 degree oven pre-heated.

Get all those eggs into a big mixing bowl (no shells, very funny) beat them and add about a third cup milk or half and half.

Chop up all the spinach and the onions and add to the eggs. I use about a half cup of onions because I love onions.

Add a whole can of green chili's (the small can)

Chop or grate your Swiss, about a half cup. A hand full of Cheddar and a hand full of mozzarella all go into the eggy goo. You can add more cheese if you like.

It doesn't look very pretty but it will taste like Easter morning.

Pour half of the "batter" into each pie shell. Marie Calenders crusts are deep so your egg mixture will fill a little more than half the shell.

I like to sprinkle a little more cheese on the top before I throw them in the oven.

Ovens vary so they could be ready as quickly as thirty minutes, it takes my oven about 45 minutes to get the job done. The goal here is to make sure the eggs are firm. I gently touch the middle with my finger to be sure. You don't want to cook them too long and remember they will keep cooking while they cool.

I like to serve quiche with salad if it is brunch or lunch. A salad that goes great is a spinach and strawberry salad.

Raw, washed, whole spinach leaves, sliced strawberries, chopped pecans, thinly slice purple onion and Briana's dressing, the one with the pretty strawberry on the label. It is not a berry dressing it is a slightly sweet balsamic. A little cracked pepper on top is wonderful if you like pepper.

If it is a breakfast meal for my family I will make some roasted potatoes.

I chop up red potatoes and sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch chunks, coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper I will even throw in a handful of whole garlic cloves if I have them. You can also add rosemary, it is so aromatic. You throw all this into a shallow baking dish and into a 400 degree oven until they are nice and brown. Try to avoid turning them more than once or twice.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Chicken" Parm...

I am not even a tiny bit Italian but I love Italian food. As a vegetarian you can still enjoy some of the most wonderful grub inspired by Italy. Here is a dish I have always made for my kids. It is cheesy, yummy and great comfort food.

I am not sure what it is about cheese that makes us so happy. I am a little lactose intolerant but I love, love, love cheese. I have always found the best way to make my kids smile (even the grumpy 22 year old) is to make a warm pasta dish with melted cheese on top. I do my best to buy from companies that are kind to their dairy cows and do not add any hormones or antibiotics to their feed. If the cows are not allowed to roam don't bring the cheese home. That wonderful cow has given it's milk to make this beautiful cheese she should at least be able to walk around, eat grass, and feel the sun on her body.

[First you should make a quick garden salad and throw it in the frig to get cold and crispy. My favorite things to put on a salad are pine nuts, feta cheese, onions peppers, greens, sliced grapes or dried cranberries. I dress it lightly with a little pepper, olive oil and white balsamic.]

You might need to go to the grocery store for a few things but most of this stuff you should have.

Spaghetti the really long spaghetti from Trader Joe's is fun you can also buy linguine or rigatoni.

Olive oil.

Salt and Pepper.

Spaghetti sauce. If you are in a big hurry just get a jar of your favorite stuff but if you have time for a little slow cooking make your own. There is a "recipe" for my favorite sauce here on the TNV blog just go to the archives for Puta what a Nesca.

Mozzarella cheese. I always have a bag of grated in my freezer but you can slice it if you like.

Parmesan cheese, if you buy that green can I will have to come to your house and pull your hair. You can find Parmesan freshly grated in the dairy section at the grocery.

"Chicken" patties. Almost every soy company has their own version and I like them all. They come in a box of four and look like breaded fast food chicken patties. They are fine in this dish but I wouldn't make a sandwich with them.

Lets get started...

First boil a big pot of water for the pasta (remember pasta likes to swim!).

Then unwrap your patties and put them in a 350 degree oven, I use a cast iron pan because I like the extra iron that comes with cooking in one, it can also go in the oven with no hassles. You can also use a casserole dish. Let them get warmed up and a little brown.

Heat sauce if you are using a jar, and re-warm sauce if you did it from scratch.

Pour sauce over patties, top with cheese(s) then put it back in the oven to get nice and melty. I have always added a layer of finely chopped spinach to the top of my patties before I added the sauce, the kids never noticed and I got them to eat spinach.

Cook your pasta until it is tender, strain and add a little olive oil to keep it from sticking. I like to add some crushed garlic but it can be a little stinky for small children or after dinner romance.

I make a nice pile of pasta add a patty with lots of sauce to the pile, sprinkle with some chopped basil or parsly, a little more parm and YUMMY!

Don't forget your salad and a nice warm loaf of bread if you are not worried about carbs.

I wish I had a gondola...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sloppy Josephine's

Did you ever have a day when you wanted something but you didn't know what it was? You make a mental list and sit there silently going, "no, no, no, no..."

Then it hits you, it is something from your childhood, something you haven't had in a long time and there is something about today, this moment, that brought it back, a fuzzy old synapse.

Sloppy Joe's.

I know what you are thinking no meat- no Joe's. Oh I don't think so!

Not only did I have them but I also had homemade fries and Hawaiian punch.

In real life white bread and I don't see that much of each other. I have tasted too many other wonderful breads to appreciate gluey processed white bread. For this dish though I knew there could be no other so I went to the bakery at my local Safeway and bought a bag of those marshmallow soft dinner rolls. They come 900 to a bag and bring back a million Thanksgiving dinners.

Here is what ya gotta have...

The above mentioned Dinner Rolls, we won't eat all of them, just some of them then we will kindly give them to a neighbor, feed ducks, or make bread pudding that we will also give to our neighbors.

That lovely green bag of Morning Star Grounds.

One beautiful yellow onion all chopped up in itty-bitty pieces.

One can of Sloppy Joe sauce. They still make it, I was shocked but happy.

For the home fries you will need:

A couple really gigantic red potato's.

Olive oil.

Salt and pepper.

Pour about two inches of olive oil into a deep skillet. Remember the rules of frying! No kids, never naked. Get it nice and hot while you are rinsing and slicing the potato's. I don't usually peel but we are having white bread might as well peel them.

When the oil is nice and hot slide some taters in nice and easy, be sure the oil covers them. They should cook until they get nice and golden. This is going to take longer than you think.

In another skillet add olive oil and all those onions. Cook them way down until they are all limp and see through. Then add the grounds until it all starts to brown. When it looks and smells yummy add the sauce. I didn't add all of the sauce because I am not seven anymore and I knew that an adult pallet can only handle so much. I did make it nice and saucy though.

The fries should be about ready so get a some paper towels, newspaper or a paper bag to put the fries on so you can drain off some of that oil. Add a little salt and pepper.

I tore the rolls open and let them sit in under the broiler for just a minute to get them a little toasty then spooned on the filling.

This is one of those dishes kids will love. It is easy and nostalgic. It is also one of those things you might not make often but what a treat.

Hawaiian Punch was one of my most favorite drinks as a kid. If I drank it now I would have a sugar headache for a week.

Here is my version:

I can of frozen concentrate fruit punch. I buy the stuff that is actually made with real fruit juice.
In a large pitcher I add the can of concentrate, sparkling water, slices of orange, lemon, lime and some frozen berries. I throw in hand fulls of crushed ice and viola yummieness!

Just so you don't think I am totally disgusting I did make a nice green salad with a light dressing to relieve a little guilt.

Diet shmiet! Have a Mojito!

I am a woman.

There are many rockin' incredible things about being a girl and I enjoy all of them.

Then there is bathing suit season and I turn into a stereotype.

When I was a spring chicken and needed to put rocks in pocket to keep from falling down on a windy day, life was good. I bought my pants in the kids department, size 14 and half the price.
I didn't wear a bra because I didn't have breasts. I wore shorts while I rode my bike,
my swim suit into the grocery store, and ran like a gazelle.

Well it has been a long time and all that praying to the boob fairy paid off, I could breast feed a small country. I have a woman's body now, very curvy, nice and soft, very maternal. I now buy a ladies size 14 pants, I ride my bike in sweats, if I wore my swimsuit into the grocery store I would be arrested for frightening small children. I would probably give myself a black eye if I ran there are too many parts of me that don't need to bounce.

On most days I like myself. When I am standing in a dressing room trying on a new bathing suit and looking like a raw bagel I have mixed feelings about what has happened to my one tiny body.

I like swimming naked. My neighbors would prefer I did not. The next best thing is a bikini and that is just comical. Every summer I swear that next year I will be fit and trim. I will strut into the department store and snatch the cutest bikini of the rack and pay for it with pride, the envy of every soft-in-the-middle-goldfish cracker-eating-house-wife.

Every year I end up head-hung lurking in the back of the swimsuit department looking for a one piece with a foam shells to hold heavy breasts and a floral skirt to hide cheesy hips. I cry because I just can't get myself to buy one. Instead I buy some board shorts and a t-shirt, tell myself I am still cool.

Not this year my friends. This year I bought a red bikini. Don't give me a weight watchers high-five. I don't have a key chain with my goal weight on it. Instead I took back my power.

Go to the department store, there they are and they have been there forever (and they are still there at the end of summer on the clearance rack) "Large" and "Extra Large" bikini's. They are there for a reason, I don't know what it is but this year I decided it was so that I, a full figured woman could enjoy the freedom of swimming without foam boobs and a skirt.

I bought it with pride and a middle finger to impossible size zero women with D-cup breasts stranding in line (I am sorry but those proportions do not happen in nature).

Now I am laying in my little pool on two yellow duckie pool floaties enjoying a tall mojito and the sun on all my delicious body parts.

Mango Mojito's

The first thing you need is a very tall glass. I like to use beer glasses, not the big heavy mugs but the tall thin Pilsner glasses, they go on forever.

Ice, not ice cubes, little ice from the grocery store.

Mint, not the ice cream but the herb, also found at the grocery store in the produce isle. Hell get the ice cream too it's summer.

Mango Juice, Kerns still makes a mango nectar if you can't find it chilled.

Rum, enough said.

Sparkling water, I use Crystal Guiser lime. If you like it a little sweeter you can use 7-up.

These are easy no stress mojito's so relax and find a pitcher.

No measurements.

The mint can be finely chopped on your cutting board (no crushing too much work, you have a cold pool waiting)

Into the pitcher goes a couple hand fulls of ice, two cans of juice, a handful of mint, as much rum as you like, and fill to the top with the fizzy stuff. Stir.

If you don't like mint as much as I do I would suggest a straw or you will be spitting like a left fielder.

Mojito's are best served in a new red bikini with a big bowl of chips and salsa.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Puta what a nesca ?

Putanesca you know that famous Italian dish with all the great stuff in it. The sauce is so good you can eat it with bread and butter no fork.

I was told by a friend who wasn't necessarily Italian but seemed knowledgeable about Pasta kinda things that Putanesca means "Whore's kitchen" . It is what she would make late at night with what ever was available to her (the whore not my friend). Well there is no one more resourceful than a prostitute, my friend is pretty resourceful too.

I had the opportunity to make my version of this dish a couple afternoons ago when my husband pulled a 1950's "Honey I am home and I brought some guys from work with me" I would have had steam coming out of my ears if it wasn't so comical.

You should have seen these engineers on my front lawn putting together some kind of scope or measurement thing, I don't know what it was but it came in two huge boxes and had to be strapped to the roof of an SUV to deliver after they did all the wrenching and putting together.

There they were three men with missing hair and golf shirts scratching their heads and speaking geekanese. The least I could do was put on an apron and find a frying pan, these boys would need to be fed.

I searched the kitchen and found

Sweet red peppers
Yellow onion
Garlic (real garlic not garlic salt)
A half jar of sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
Grated Parmesan
Basil from the garden
Two big cans of stewed tomatoes from Whole Foods, one was fire roasted (yummy)
Extra long spaghetti from Trader Joe's (kids love it, it's so messy)

I put my biggest pot on filled with water to boil. I don't add salt or oil to my water, never have, not sure why you are suppose to.

In that frying pan I found after I strapped on my apron I heated some olive oil and sauteed the onions and peppers. When they were nice and happy I threw in the sun dried tomatoes and the garlic that I peeled and halved. Then I began squeezing the stewed tomatoes, I love the way it feels.

After the tomatoes were all squished up I added the remainder of the sauce left in the can and let it all simmer under a lid. After it starts looking like sauce I add salt, pepper, a teaspoon of brown sugar and all that chopped up basil (the more the better in my opinion) . If you like it a little spicy you can add some red pepper flakes. Now turn it way down low to keep warm while you make a salad, heat some bread in the oven and drop the pasta into the boiling water.

I keep a loaf of really good bread in the house at all times, gotta have it.

When it is fresh you can use it for dinner, next day toast and jam and the next day or two you can make brushetta. If you have any left and we never do you can make croutons for salad.

I love Grace Baking, Semifreddi, and Fornio, they know how to make bread! They are also local so it is always fresh. Where ever you are in the world there has to be a bakery, if there isn't I don't want to live there. I must have good bread. Farmers markets are good way to find out who your local bakeries are.

I turn the oven to about 350, throw in the whole loaf and let it get nice and crispy. I serve it with real butter and/or a dish of olive oil, balsamic and a little pesto if I have it on hand. If you are feeling super creative try making a bread dip with Olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, fresh chopped tomato and basil and lots of garlic.

The salad was one of my favorites:

Weed salad (spring mix)
Fresh tomato
Feta cheese
Kalamata olives
Pine nuts (if you have time roast them in a pan with a tiny bit of oil)
Grapes (cut in half or you can use craisins)

Beets are an issue with some people but it might be something you want to try again. In the summer I roast my own beets, you just peel off the tough skin cut them in half and throw them in the oven with a little olive oil.

The rest of the year I buy them in the produce section of Trader Joe's. They are whole beets, pretty fresh and are shrink wrapped (much better than the can).

Pine nuts store well, or maybe they don't they do not last long around here but they have a very unusual flavor and are wonderful in salads. They might take some getting use to if you have never had them before but you will be addicted soon enough and finding other dishes to use them in.

The dressing is really easy, Olive oil, white balsamic, salt and pepper. I throw it all in the bowl with the salad and give it a toss.

My favorite thing to do is to pre-mix some sauce with the pasta after it is cooked and drained. It keeps it from sticking together and lets the pasta start absorbing flavor. I pile all this pasta on a platter I got at a garage sale a million years ago, it is so ugly alone but married to some pasta it is the most beautiful dish in the world. Before you bring it to the table and get everyone drooling, oohing and ahhing add more sauce and some Parmesan to the top. If you have some fresh basil you can sprinkle that too.

The grown-up nerds were quite happy with lunch, they were looking for the steak , fried chicken breast, or maybe a meatball I was hiding but there was none. It was a very big lunch and it took very little time to prepare. We ate the left overs for dinner that night.

For desert we had waffle-butter cookies and fresh strawberries.

Bliss, bliss, bliss...

God bless Putas.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cinco de Taco's

I thought I would post about Taco's since we made pupusa and we have that giant bag of corn masa sitting in the pantry.

Many of you who still push your cart down the "red" isle looking for the perfect tri-tip or chicken breast value pack may think that giving up the meat means giving up the taco...(I love the sexual undertones) Not true, we must never walk away from the taco, this is a California dietary staple.

There are many soy based protein products out there, and I personally like almost none of them. I didn't give up meat to eat something made in a factory to look and taste like meat. The exception being Morning Star "Grounds" they are in the green bag, and only the ones in the green bag. I get them at Target. I know that sounds gross but they offer a great price and some grocery stores just don't carry them. I swear I don't usually buy my food in a department store but there it is, it makes me feel like Target likes me.

I have made these taco's for all my carnivore friends and family and until this very moment they did not know they were eating a soy product.

I warned you early on that this blog is not about eating particularly healthy I like taco grease dripping down my arm as much as the next person so let's make some taco's.

Trip to the grocery store or maybe just to the frig...

Corn Tortilla's, can be found in the grocery store in yellow or white, they are cheap and store well. I prefer homemade. they don't take long but if you are not in the mood for an extra step go ahead and buy the ones in the bag. At some point you must make your own, It is fun to do with kids or friends and they taste so much better.

Olive oil, because there will some frying, yes frying, yummy.

Bag O' grounds, found where all the veggie stuff is in the frozen isle. Don't defrost them.

Onions, green, white, yellow, purple, it is up to you, buy what you like, hell by them all.

Cheese, Trader Joe's has a great Mexican blend and the price is muy bien. You can buy any kind of cheese that makes you smile. You can buy it grated and save some time or grate it yourself and risk losing the skin off of your knuckles, your choice.

Lettuce, I buy what my kids call "weed salad" they were appalled to discover dandelion leaves one day and thought calling it a "spring mix" was very misleading. The greener it is the more vitamins it has and the less you have to feel guilty about. You can do ice burg if you must or even romaine.

Tomato's, the fruit of the God's. Bless the tomato it sure makes life a whole lot nicer. You can buy any kind you like but there is nothing more heavenly than a vine ripened tomato.

Salsa, fresh is best but if all you have is a jar of the other stuff that is fine.

Cilantro, sour cream, avocado-these are all optional toppings.

I will start with the tortilla's because I am assuming you took my advice and have decided to make them from scratch. If not then tear open your bag and fry your tortilla's in a skillet with about a half inch of oil. Be careful this is hot stuff, no kids aloud, and never fry naked.

If you do not have a bag of instant masa then you need to pick one up when you are at the grocery store. Most major food chains have it in the Hispanic food isle.

There are directions on the back but it is mostly an add water thing. You squish it up and let it sit while you fire up a skillet and some olive oil.

I roll mine out between two sheets of plastic wrap but you can buy a tortilla tool anywhere that mashes them into perfect circles for you, it make it go a whole lot faster. I owned one once but it is now living where all my missing socks are.

I quick fry mine in olive oil (the tortilla not the socks) maybe a minute on each side you do not want them to get stiff-crispy, they should stay soft. I set them on paper towels or a paper bag after they are cooked. Make a pile of these they will be gobbled up fast I promise.

In another skillet heat some olive oil, chopped onions and the grounds. When they all get nice and brown add some salsa and a a couple squirts of ketchup. I am not sure why I add the ketchup I just do. I think the sugar in the ketchup helps everything brown and adds something tasty to the filling. You don't have to add this if it feels too much like adding potato chips to a casserole but I think you will like it.

You simply add the filling to the soft fried taco shell, more salsa, cheese, lettuce, tomato, maybe more onions, cilantro and sour cream. You can add what you like most.

I set everything out in little bowls and stack the tortilla's on a pretty plate and let everyone assemble as they wish, if you don't like eating with your hands or family style then this is not a dish for you.

I serve taco's alone or with rice and beans, maybe roasted corn on the cob if it is in season.

A corona or a nice big jug of lime-aid is perfect with this meal.

When you are done eating go outside and lay in the hammock for a nice siesta.