Archive for January, 2012

Comfort Food with a Healthy Twist

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

What comes to mind when you think of comfort food? Mashed potatoes? Macaroni and cheese? Warm, creamy, hearty foods? Chicken soup? Ice cream? Sweets? Salty? Meatloaf? Fried chicken? What is it that makes “comfort food” comfort food? These foods make us comfortable. They remind us of a safe, happy time in life that was free from heartbreak, fear, and doubts. They fill us with a sense of nostalgia, security, and warmth.

For me, comfort food is healthy food because it makes me feel better now and I know I’ll feel better later. I don’t feel so good after eating fried chicken, or macaroni and cheese.

Tonight, I am in serious need of some good, healthy comfort food.

Trader Joe’s has a mix of southern greens that really fit the bill tonight. Mustard, turnip, collards, and spinach. This recipe if an adaptation of one of the recipes on the bag.

 

I started with just one thick slice of bacon. I don’t eat just any bacon; I do not care for the nitrites, nitrates, and preservatives that most bacons are loaded with. Trader Joe’s to the rescue again with an uncured bacon that’s also a good deal. This pound of uncured bacon ends and pieces, which is perfect for a dish like this, is only $2.99.

 

 

Depending on how you feel about bacon fat, you can trim away much of the fat and just cook the meaty part of the bacon. Most of the pieces in this package tend to be thick, and that is perfect for this. For my vegan friends, you can either omit the bacon or substitute a vegan bacon or sausage product. Or, you can simply omit it and just go straight for the red onion and saute that in some good olive oil.

Saute the 1 or 2 pieces of bacon or a sausage. A spicy Andouille  sausage is good.

          

Chop a red onion into bite-sized chunks. On medium heat, saute with the bacon until lightly browned and softened. Place the greens on top, and give a generous grind of Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour over some chicken stock; I like the Costco brand. Again, vegan and vegetarian friends – use vegetable stock.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to gently cook until the greens are tender. I don’t like the greens cooked too much. They can get bitter.

This is a very versatile dish. It makes a hearty side dish or entree, and can easily be made as a soup. For an entree, I serve the greens over short grain or sweet brown rice. Oh, so healthy and comforting. For an easy soup, just add lots of stock and serve it in a bowl. Add a little hot sauce, if you want to heat it up.

 

Voila! Comfort is served. Grilled chicken breast, purple and red potatoes, and Southern greens.

 

Got lemons? Make curd!

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Traditional lemon curd his loaded with fat from butter & egg yolks. This version is just as delicious, but far lighter. Tart and refreshing, it is lovely on its own, with fresh berries, or in a tart.

Low Fat Lemon Curd

2 eggs
2 lemons
½ cup sugar

  1. Zest the lemons, then juice them.
  2. Whisk the eggs with the lemon zest.
  3. Place the juice in a sauce pan and whisk in the sugar. Place on medium heat and stir frequently until the sugar dissolves. Do not boil. However, if it boils, let it cool a bit before introducing into the eggs.
  4. Temper the eggs and lemon syrup—slowly whisk in some of the hot syrup into the eggs.
  5. Once all syrup is incorporated into the eggs, then return to a low heat and cook gently, stirring or whisking constantly until thickened.

 

If you want a smoother curd, simply press it through a fine strainer to remove the lemon zest.

 

Jonathan’s Mandarins

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Sweet, juicy, fresh-picked Placer County Mandarins …

My friend, Jonathan Ashmore, owner of Les Vignobles Gourmet Specialties, gave me some amazing mandarins this past weekend. Rumor has it that Jonathan has some special treats in mind for these mandarins. I can’t wait to try them!

Are you salivating yet?

Below The Bridge on Putah Creek

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

New Year’s Day, 2012

We ventured out to explore under the bridge in Winters. It was a lovely afternoon for a leisurely stroll.

   

 

They’ve done some beautiful work, though it is hard to see from these photos. Click on the photo to see a larger view.

 

    

The water is absolutely beautiful, still very clear.

    

Here are a few views of the cycling bridge from below. I’ve never seen it from this angle before … please bear with me; for some reason this is absolutely fascinating to me.

   

… and the road bridge …    

 

 

 

 

… and some just random rambling photos …

      

They’ve planted lots and lots of trees – each one marked by a blue flag, which you can see in the center picture just above.

Here’s a photo of the other side of the island I mentioned in my previous post …

We strolled. We stopped to talk to a UCD grad student, who is doing her research. She and her research assistant (her husband) are monitoring how the creek changes over time. We learned that what we thought were just markers sticking out of the ground were actually tree cuttings that will eventually grow into a type of willow tree. You can see some in photo above with all of the blue flags – there are no flags, just a post-like stick poking out of the ground. They’re right on the edge of the creek, which at first seemed a little odd to us, but it makes sense if the goal is to return the creek to its natural state. As we walked further, we got away from the construction area to the “wild” area that hasn’t been worked on too much (yet?) and we saw grown trees along the water’s edge.

It was getting close to sunset and we were getting hungry, so we decided to stop for a bite in Downtown Winters. We strolled up and down and settled on the Buckhorn Steakhouse (http://buckhornsteakhouse.com/).  I have been a fan for years, having first discovered the Buckhorn at the Metreon in San Francisco years ago, and having dined at their Napa restaurant, also. I just recently learned that the restaurant in Winters is the original one, and that they also own the Putah Creek Cafe, another favorite.

We started with a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, which was a great deal at only $2.

We shared a Calamari Diavolo ($12.99), without any peppers. We were surprised at the generous size of the portion, but not at the quality. It was cooked perfectly. My only comment is that there was oil on the bottom, which at first we thought was from the cooking and that it had not been drained properly. But then I remembered that the menu said it was tossed with olive oil, garlic, peppers, and lemon. We could also tell that it was fresh oil, not oil that had been used for cooking.

      

Then we shared my all-time favorite menu item at the Buckhorn: The Roadhouse Salad ($13.99). Seasonal greens,  green beans, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, Roadhouse onions, and crumbled bleu cheese with a honey-basil vinaigrette … you can get it with beef, chicken, or salmon ($18.99 for the salmon). I always get the beef, because, it is a steakhouse and they know beef!

This salad is fantastic; very much like a salad I would make at home, except I always forget to say “no Roadhouse Onions,” because I don’t typically eat much fried food. But, I guess it’s OK now and then, and perhaps it’s a bit of a “Freudian slip” that I forget?

We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at the Buckhorn in Winters last night. The service was friendly and efficient, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was very pleasant.