Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

  Behold, my au gratin potatoes and spinach with gruyere. It tastes even better than it looks, I promise. It was an improvisation; I had intended to serve Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend with steamed tilapia and artichokes for dinner, but LL texted on my way into the store asking for steak fries or hash browns instead. I wasn’t feeling it. But he loves potatoes au gratin. So instead, I bought a bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a bag of frozen spinach, and an 8-oz hunk of gruyere cheese. Back home, I buttered the vintage Blue Cornflower Corningware baking dish my mom gave me ages ago, so old it’s practically new again, and heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. My Kitchen Aid’s slicer/grater attachment made short work of the prep . . . I can’t believe I spent all these years slicing and grating by hand. It was simple to assemble. I layered frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, poured about 1/2 cup of milk around the edges, and finished with grated parmesan cheese, baked it covered for 30 minutes, uncovered it, and let it brown for 10 minutes more. There was enough spinach to really get the flavor and make the dish feel morel like a meal. It was rich, so our portions were small and there were leftovers. I used mini springform pans for the second meal of this au gratin, placing a slice of ham steak on the bottom, the au gratin above, and finished by cracking two eggs on top. I baked this in a 350 degree oven for 15...
Friday night pizza night

Friday night pizza night

I’ve gotten into the habit of saving pizza nights for guests, because once I cure the pizza oven, make the dough, make the sauce, mince the vegetables, and precook whatever chicken or sausage I may feel like, it just seems like a lot of work when there aren’t many people to enjoy it. But that’s just wrong. Why wait for guests or holidays to make a meal an occasion? I had the time and a hankering for pizza so went to the trouble for just LL and Kid Two and I on Friday night. Turns out it was not any more trouble than anything else I do. Kid Two practiced making the same face as the dog: Then we cooked our pizzas and watched Touch of Evil (Kid Two enjoys classic film noir) and I sat there thinking, as I often do, it just doesn’t get any better than this. The pizzas don’t get any better than this, either. LL’s favorite is salami, black olive, and mushrooms with tangy tomato sauce: I like prosciutto, fontina, and thinly sliced tomatos with arugula, but I don’t see the arugula here on this one! Look at this great thin crust, though:   I been thinking about the bacon and jalapeño pizza I used to love from Imo’s; it was my go-to pizza in high school. I made this one for Kid Two in honor of his starting high school. It has a base of homemade provel cheese sprinkled with sriracha, thinly sliced garden tomatoes in lieu of sauce, a sprinkling of crispy bacon, cooked fast, then topped with garden greens. It may be my new favorite. Here’s...
Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

My first homegrown monster Mutsu apples inspired this recipe. Make your slaw in advance; you will have leftovers by design that are wonderful tossed with cashews on a lettuce or tortilla wrap with avocado. The first time I made these these egg rolls with fresh fried calamari rings (the recipe is at the bottom of the post) and miso soup. We are having them again tonight with steamed tilapia and miso soup again. (What can I say, we like miso soup!) First, the slaw recipe. Here’s a tip I just learned: peel fresh ginger by gently scraping off the peel with a spoon. Works like a charm. And for this recipe, make sure your ginger is very finely grated or you’ll get odd gingery chunks. Apple, carrot, and jicama slaw   Save Print This is a crunchy, sweet, and tart slaw that's delicious served with pork loin as an entree or as a sandwich or wrap filling. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: Salad Ingredients 1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned 1 cup tart apple, julienned, and tossed with 2 tbsp lemon juice to keep from browning 1 cup carrot, julienned 1 tbsp grated ginger ¼ cup minced red onion 1 tablespoon sesame oil 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tsp ground black lemon pepper. Instructions In a large bowl, stir together the jicama, apple, carrot, onion, and ginger. Drizzle with olive and sesame oils. Toss well. Add pepper and toss again. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Wordpress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe 3.2.2089   Now make it into an egg roll: Pork loin egg rolls with apple, carrot,...
Thomas’ zesty flavored oyster crackers

Thomas’ zesty flavored oyster crackers

Today I am thrilled to share a blog post from my nine and a half-year old nephew, Thomas. Even though we don’t live nearby, Thomas has spent quite a few vacations with us in Santa Cruz, from a fussy babyhood through a giggling Spongebob Squarepants-dom to the Renaissance child he has grown to be. Thomas loves to read, plays the piano, is working toward black belt, and can sing a mean Lady Gaga cover. Recently he’s started a computer recycling business too, so watch out world! He’s been learning to cook and is here to share a recipe with us. Enjoy! Hi, I’m Thomas, Maggie’s favorite nephew. [Ed. note: nice try, Thomas, but I think your brother and cousins would like to be favorites, too!] I’ve been taking cooking classes. I have delicious recipes for you. Now, oyster crackers may not seem appetizing but they are. I got this recipe from my grandma. If you want to make it make sure to read the recipe because it is not just a oyster on a cracker.   Ingredients: ¾ c. salad oil (olive oil) 1 envelope (1.0 oz.)  Hidden valley ranch original ½ t. dill weed ¼ t. lemon pepper ¼ t. garlic powder 12 – 16 oz. plain oyster crackers Instructions: Whisk together first five ingredients. Mix with crackers. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. The first time I made these my grandma told me to mix the lemon pepper and the garlic power in a separate bowl because the garlic power clumps together. Plus, once you put the garlic powder in the...
Fast, hearty, and delicious chicken, leek, and artichoke penne

Fast, hearty, and delicious chicken, leek, and artichoke penne

Oh. My. Gosh. This improvised dinner that was absolutely, fabulously divine, with a hint of earthiness from the mushrooms, flavor from the leeks, and brightness from the artichoke hearts all coming together to coat the penne with love and delicioiusness. It’s easy to make, with a simple broth of just artichoke water, butter, and olive oil thickened with a bit of flour. Read on!

Bannocks – gluten free, vegetarian oat cakes

Bannocks – gluten free, vegetarian oat cakes

It’s been an oatmeal kind of autumn around here – there’s something about the cooler weather that calls out for the warmth and earthiness of hot oats, don’t you think? Recently I was having a taste flashback to the bannocks we used to eat when I was a kid living in Sitka, and decided to try and make them for the boys – but there were so many recipes out there . . . I didn’t know where to start. I wanted simple and oat-y; I wasn’t interested in adding flour to make them bread-like. I also wanted to capture all the flavors of a bowl of oatmeal in a simple round patty. So I did what I always do – read a handful of recipes and then make up my own. After a few weeks of tweeking, here I present (drum roll, please!) the perfect oatcake! Oats, egg, and banana are really the only ingredients you need; everything else just dresses the oatcakes up a bit. And if you use leftover cooked oatmeal, you can omit the egg and make it vegan. Seriously, don’t these look scrumptious? And did you ever think you’d see the words “scrumptious” and “oatmeal” together???   The boys LOVE these oatcakes – seriously love them, like a kid might love a chocolate chip cookie. Ok, they are way too old for me to worry about making kid-friendly food, but these totally pass the test. Kid One has even memorized the recipe so he’ll be able to recreate them when the day comes he has a kitchen of his own.   I love them...
The edible cell

The edible cell

With only one or two exceptions, I love every single one of the teachers my kids have had. They’ve embraced experiential learning, largely abandoning lectures and rote memorization in favor of group projects, individual presentations, skits, and songs. It works. I have two boys who love to learn and who have excellent communication skills as a result; by junior high, they’d logged more time speaking in front of a group than I had by college. The Edible Cell is my favorite of their hands-on learning projects so far. Why hand a kid a plant cell drawing and ask him to label all the parts for 100 points when you can send him home and ask him to construct a plant cell with edible items from your kitchen? Sending kids home to do kitchen things requires a small budget and a large amount of parental cooperation. Because I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m by default a cooperative parent, so the afternoon of the assignment I shepherded three boys to our corner market, gave them each a couple of dollars, and let them go crazy picking out candy. Sadly no one else was in our aisle to overhear them discussing what would make the best endoplasmic reticulum; I would have loved to see the questioning eyebrows. What I loved even more, though, was watching the kids as they made a big batch of brownies from scratch: reading the recipe, searching for ingredients, carefully (sort of) measuring them out, setting the oven temperature, discussing the different parts of a cell and how best to arrange the candy – observing that process of actively...
Sliced buttered radishes

Sliced buttered radishes

We’ve been on a warm buttered radish kick lately, serving them up every couple of days on top of a slice of fresh baguette and topped with a bit of crunchy green salad. Mmmm. If you’ve never tried these, give it a go. . . it’s the simplest side dish you’ll ever make: Sliced buttered radishes   Save Print Serve these warm, spicy, buttery radishes with a fresh baguette. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: salad, side dish Ingredients 1 bunch fresh radishes 1 tbsp unsalted butter 1 tsp sea salt Instructions Wash and trim the radishes. Slice into thin circles. Arrange on a microwave-safe plate. Top with 1 tbsp butter. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt and serve. Wordpress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe 3.1.09...
Oatmeal muffin magic and recipes for happiness

Oatmeal muffin magic and recipes for happiness

You certainly have a recipe for a perfect roasted chicken or chocolate chip cookies – for some dish that makes you and your family smile – but have you ever considered your recipe for happiness? It’s a little bit harder to describe, hmm? That’s the question the Allrecipes.com team posed to us bloggers at this year’s BlogHer Food ’12 conference, and it’s definitely something to chew over. Food is a way of bringing people together, of showing love, and of sharing a culture – all things that bring happiness. How do you put it all together? I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do just that – to think about my recipe for happiness and share it with Allrecipes’ Fresh Bites blog. Of course, it involves my children, and cooking, and being creative. Click here to read Muffin Magic – One Family’s Recipe for Guaranteed Happiness. And thank you, Allrecipes, for letting me stop by your blog and share a...
Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

We saw Tijuana dogs – aka TJ dogs – all over San Diego last month, from the Marriott’s Tequila Grille to Little Italy’s Craft + Commerce to the food vendors on the walkway next to the otherwise staid USS Midway Museum.   Tijuana dogs are the ultimate street food – basically a bacon-wrapped hot dog with toppings. I’d never heard of them before, and from I could taste was definitely missing out. . . they are much better than you’d think, a perfect bite of salty, savory, tangy, and hot. For all you uninitiated, here’s a great Tijuana Dog graphic from food writer and cartoonist Hawk Krall that explains all the delicious possibilities:   One of the best things about traveling is finding, then trying to copy at home, those wonderful new tastes you discover along the way. TJ dogs were no exception, although I assumed they’d be hard to recreate, and wasn’t fully inspired to try it out until I discovered el Salchichero butcher shop in Santa Cruz, where chorizo bacon and handmade perro calientes spoke to me: We can become the Tijuana dogs of your dreams; our spicy salty goodness bringing back plumeria-scented memories of bike riding on Coronado Island, of gazing in wonder at enormous golden zodiac heads, of strolling through the Gaslight District and Little Italy in the twilight with your family . . . I think that’s what they said, anyway. They were convincing, nevertheless. And it turns out Tijuana dogs are a super-simple thing to make at home. Just start by wrapping a slice of bacon, spiral-style, around a hot dog.   Now put your raw...

How do you manage kids and junk food?

I read this great article on Zite this morning: My Kid Likes Junk Food And That’s Ok by registered dietician, writer, and mom Sally Kuzemchak. She makes the point that, no matter how much a parent wants and tries to keep their child away from junk food, it enters their lives in some way. Yes. A child would have to be kept away from television, from movie previews, out of mainstream grocery stores, birthday parties, would have to ignore snacks other parents take to the park, and would probably have to stop engaging with other kids altogether, especially at lunch time, to remain blissfully unaware of junk food. When Kid One started school, I was truly shocked when I saw what some of the kids brought for lunch. Bologna sandwiches, Lunchables, potato chips and cookies in all sorts of packaged-for-lunch-box shapes and sizes . . . nary a piece of fresh fruit in sight. Trash cans filled with barely-eaten sandwiches and empty foil wrappers. This was Santa Cruz, after all; I honestly went into his kindergarten thinking the kids who brought that stuff would be ridiculed. And it wasn’t just lunchtime – in any class, over half brought in treats to celebrate their birthdays. Not homemade goodies, either, like these oatmeal cookies with Craisins my dad Downtown Tom just whipped up and emailed to me: Instead parents usually brought cupcakes from the Safeway bakery down the street: spongy yellow cakes piled with snow-white super-sweet frosting and season-appropriate sprinkles. Then there were the class parties: the random ice cream parties, pancake parties, the celebrations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter break, Valentine’s Day,...

Taste memory of Loreto: pineapple and jalapeño salsa

“If we’re in Mexico, does the menu really have to say Mexican food?” This from my very astute Kid Two while reading the offerings at Loreto’s La Palapa, a tourist destination-type restaurant conveniently situated between the ocean and the town square. I had a few menu questions of my own, like why are the chicken fajitas and chicken in mole sauce listed under “Fowls” instead of included with the Mexican offerings? And in that spirit, shouldn’t the beef shish kabob have been more properly labeled as “Turkish” instead of under “Meats?” And why didn’t they get someone to spell-check the English translations? – “garlinc” “snaper” and “chesse” all snuck by, preserved forever under laminating paper.   La Palapa was highly recommended by the expat sitting next to me on the plane, a golf-playing blonde of a certain age on her way back from taking care of some business back in Portland. I can picture her there – sunburned nose on a hot summer night, a table with a pitcher of margaritas and her three best friends – a reliable spot to laugh a lot and sing a little, a place to start the night with fresh ceviche and guacamole and end it with a couple of tacos and a plate of fries to soak up the booze. Anyway . . . I’m being a little snarky, but I get why people like the place. It’s got energy – mariachi music, splashed with color, and an awesome kitschy thatched palm roof – and the food was fresh and perfectly fine. It has to be tricky, trying to stay in business by catering to the whims...
Tasty yuzu stir-fry recipe

Tasty yuzu stir-fry recipe

The tube of yuzu paste a friend brought me back from Japan a few months ago had been mocking me from the refrigerator door for several months. It was something I’d never encountered before; it has in intriguing sweetly sour, citrus and chili flavor that seemed would be perfect in something. I just didn’t know what, and because of the small tube size, I didn’t want any to go to waste in failed experiments. But this weekend I needed a fast and simple dinner improvised a stir-fry that goes down as The Best Stir Fry Recipe Ever. All I used was is cooked rice, a bit of olive oil, a shallot, ham, frozen peas – and the yuzu paste, literally the only seasoning. It was perfect – just enough heat to get your attention, and just enough citrus to add a pop. I actually made this twice because everyone liked it so much. To be honest, the only reason I used ham and peas is because that’s what was on hand. Ham steak leftover from Friday night pizza night, and I frozen peas as part of my basic stock – not because I think they are particularly delicious, but because they make good ice packs for cold therapy. Fortunately this was an unused bag. And equally fortunately, it turns out I can easily buy more through Amazon.com. It’s called yuzu kosho, or yuzu and peppers, and the ingredients are yuzu, green chili peppers, and salt. Mmmm. Turns out yuzu paste aficionados have some illustrious company – Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto integrates the ingredient into recipes at his eponymous New York City restaurant....

Ollalie-peary jam

The sweet, juicy ollalieberry – hybridized grandchild of the blackberry, raspberry, and dewberry vines – resembling like a knobby oversized version of its forerunners, growing best in tangled brambles along the foggy California coast. Here in Santa Cruz, ollalieberry muffins and pies abound during the all-too-short six week summer harvesting season. Happily, a local grower – Gizdich Ranch freezes enough 4-pound bags of the succulent fruit to keep aficionados with a taste of summer during these bleaker months. I had planned on making ollalieberry jam for my Christmas goodie bags but wanted to kick it up the proverbial notch from a sweet jelly to something a little more spicy and elegant, and I literally woke up one morning thinking, I know! I’ll add pear! and cardamom! It will be great! I did, and it was. It’s plenty sweet, even with half as much sugar as I found in other recipes, and the fruit pairs really well with cardamom’s heady, spicy-sweet taste. Here it is for you to try, my improvised recipe for ollalieberry-pear jam. Ollalie-peary jam 7 cups frozen ollalieberries, thawed 5 cups peeled, cored, and chopped pears 3 cups water 1 tsp cardamom 1 package pectin While berries are thawing, peel, core, and cube the pears. I made the mistake of simmering them in water thinking they would soften sufficiently; the best thing to do at this step is to puree them if you’d like a smooth jam or chop them into smaller chunks if you’d like your jam a bit chunkier. I opted for smooth jam. Place your berries, pears, and water into a Dutch oven. Bring...