Archive for December, 2015

Christmas 2015 Full Moon

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Santa brought Northern California some lovely rain, followed by a beautiful clear Christmas night to enjoy this stunning full moon.

We won't see another Christmas Full Moon until Christmas 2034!

We won’t see another Christmas Full Moon until Christmas 2034!

I’ll post some foodie pictures and perhaps a recipe later, but for now, a quick ride on this ch-ch-chilly day. Making some additional adjustments to the Reve and hope to have her just right very soon!

… and the Klein Collection Grows

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Welcome home!

Yes, another Red Klein. This one is sparkly ... and a road bike!

Yes, another Red Klein. This one is sparkly … and a road bike!

 

This beauty is designed for comfort and performance. The Klein Reve features a lightweight aluminum frame with carbon-fiber wishbone stays and a softtail, rear triangle. I have a feeling this will become my climbing bike.

She needs a few minor adjustments, but on a quick test ride she shows great potential to be a perfect fit!

Thanks, Santa!

Exploring Peanut Brittle …

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Here’s a super easy recipe for a holiday favorite, Peanut Brittle. The online recipe says “Ina Garten style” Peanut Brittle and I have always had great luck with her recipes, so I thought I’d try this. My candy thermometer is in storage, so I used the cold water testing method (see this “stages of sugar” chart). I overcooked the first batch just a little, but the second batch was perfect. I halved the recipe, which was the perfect amount for a half sheet pan lined with a silicone pan  liner. In the second batch I also increased the peanuts from 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups, and I liked that much better, too.

The recipe calls for raw peanuts, but I had roasted salted peanuts. Purists will say that you must use raw peanuts, but I was quite pleased with the results using my extra fancy roasted salted peanuts. In the future, I’ll try raw peanuts, but I have a feeling this is not a recipe I want to make on a regular basis. It would be way too easy to eat too much. Yes, it is that good.

If you have never made candy before, I really recommend using a candy thermometer to judge temperatures. The syrup can go from not there to THERE in a matter of seconds. That’s how I ever so slightly burned the first batch. Luckily I caught it in time so that it’s still palatable and has really nice flavor.

Be sure to have all your ingredients, equipment, and silicone lined pan ready to go before you start cooking your syrup. Once the syrup is cooked and ready to pour, you have to be ready! 

Sorry there are no pictures. You’ll have to believe me when I say the second batch was textbook perfect brittle!

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

This slightly spicy, delightfully sweet, salty, and crunchy caramel popcorn will make a wonderful Christmas gift or snack. I shared a bit yesterday with some friends and colleagues. It was unanimously approved by friends and colleagues alike. It’s based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. I just used mixed nuts instead of peanuts and added just a touch more cayenne. Be sure to watch Martha’s video for the technique.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn with mixed nuts

Spicy, sweet, salty, crunchy … what’s not to love?

Spicy Caramel Popcorn with Mixed Nuts

4 quarts popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped kernels)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon (slightly  heaping) cayenne pepper
1 cup salted mixed nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, … your favorite mix)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pop the popcorn – use your favorite method. Spread out evenly on two half-sheet pans lined with silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until well blended then add the corn syrup and stir to blend well. Cook on medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture turns golden brown. Stir in the salt and cayenne pepper. Add the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Pour this mixture over the popcorn and use a heat proof plastic spatula that’s been sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray to gently toss the popcorn with the syrup mixture.

The caramel mixture will be very hot – please be careful!

Bake for about 30 minutes, carefully turning and mixing with the spatula about halfway through. You want a nice, even coating of caramel on the popcorn and nuts.

Allow to cool, then gently break apart into bite sized pieces.

This recipe has officially become part of my Christmas recipe repertoire. I’ll be making this again … probably at least once before Christmas because I know a few on my gift list will want some of this!

Happy Friday!

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Good Morning and Happy Friday. Are you looking forward to the weekend as much as I am? It’s looking like Saturday in the Davis area will be great for cycling, but Sunday’s weather, not so much. Winds are predicted to be in the 23-mph range. Yikes! No, thank  you. 

I am especially looking forward to cycling this weekend as I have not been on my bike for about 2 weeks and that is simply too long.

Bike ornaments, of course!

Bike ornaments, of course!

How could I resist?

How could I resist?

Here’s wishing you an awesome Friday!

Playing with Biscotti

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Looking for something a little different this year? Try this Savory Biscotti, recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. These will be exquisite with an artisan cheese and meat platter, along with some fresh apples, pears, grapes, fresh or dried figs, nuts, and olives. They have a nice, crumbly texture, not too crunchy like some biscotti. They’re slightly sweet, but the herbs and fennel give the a surprising depth of flavor.

Savory Biscotti

Savory Biscotti … just a hint of lemon zest would be divine in these!

Going by the recipe, these make large biscotti. For an upcoming appetizer party, I think I’ll make these, but split the dough into two loaves and make the individual biscotti more bite-sized.

For a dessert biscotti, try this Peppermint Biscotti recipe. The peppermint flavor is quite subtle, so depending on your tastes, you might want to double the amount of extract.

Holiday Baking

The recipe calls for white chocolate, but I prefer dark chocolate.

 

 

Pacific Rockfish

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Pacific Rockfish has a sweet, delicate flavor. I like to quickly sear it in a little olive oil, then throw in a few sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs, cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow it to steam in the resulting juices. Add a touch of salt and pepper to taste. Serve with brown rice and steamed vegetables for a light, healthy, protein-rich meal.

Rockfish is high in protein, low in saturated fat, a good source of B-vitamins, and delicious. It is a tad high in cholesterol, though, so do enjoy in moderation. For more nutritional information, click here.

It Balances Out

Monday, December 7th, 2015

If you eat like this most of the time …

Fresh Wild Rock Cod with stir-steamed veggies.

Fresh Wild Pacific Rockfish with stir-steamed veggies.

Veggies! Lots and lots of veggies!

… and just a little bit of this … 

Holiday Treats

Holiday Treats – homemade, of course!

Then it all balances out in the end.

Just remember … if you’re going to treat yourself and splurge on goodies, splurge well. Enjoy homemade, real treats. Use real ingredients. And be sure to enjoy every delicious morsel to the fullest. That is how you can splurge and be satisfied with just a bit and survive the holiday season without gaining a bunch of weight.

Oh, and cycling lots helps!

For recipes to these yummy treats, see my previous blog post.

A Little Holiday Baking

Monday, December 7th, 2015

So, these happened today. Let the holiday gift prep begin. Have you been naughty, or nice?

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Spiced Nuts

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Nuts

Peppermint Biscotti

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies & Peppermint Biscotti

Classic Shortbread

Classic Shortbread

For the recipes, see:

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Peppermint Biscotti

Shortbread Cookies

The Butterscotch Chocolate Chip cookie recipe is still in testing and I’m not quite ready to share it.

Chicken Cacciatore Recipe

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

This is a very rustic and comforting meal. It’s pretty easy to cook and makes for a wonderful post-ride recovery dinner in cold weather.

“Cacciatore” means “hunter” in Italian, and is typically made with either chicken or rabbit. You could easily make this vegetarian or vegan by omitting the meat and making some good, hearty mushrooms the star of the dish. There are nearly as many different recipes for Chicken Cacciatore as there are cooks who make it, and some of us have several variations of our own recipes. Here’s one way I make it.

Chicken Cacciatore
serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds of chicken, bone in, skinned
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cubed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (more if you dare!)
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup dry wine (white or red, your preference)
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 large sprigs of fresh thyme
2 large sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)
2 to 6 ounces of tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped thyme & parsley, for garnish

Mis en place:  prepare and assemble all of your ingredients.

Skin the chicken, pat dry with paper towels, season with a little salt and pepper. Be careful to not over season at this stage. Cover and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them.

Remember to always wash your hands, cutting boards all utensils thoroughly with hot soapy water after handling raw chicken. 

Clean and prepare your vegetables, keeping each one separate for now. Cut the fennel into about 1/2-inch cubes. Shred the carrot (or if you prefer, slice into 1/8-inch thick slices). Trim and slice the mushrooms into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Chop your tomatoes.

I have been using a mixture of heirloom cherry tomatoes lately, but you really can use any kind of fresh tomato for this. Keep in mind that some tomatoes have more liquid than others, so this is where the tomato paste comes into play. If your tomatoes are very juicy, you’ll want a little more of the tomato paste than if they’re on the dryer side.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat. Place the chicken in the pan and brown on both sides. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Remember that you’re not cooking the chicken all the way at this step, just beginning to develop some flavors by browning the meat. Remove the chicken, set on a clean plate, cover and set aside while you cook the vegetables.

Using the same pan, if necessary add about half of the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and cook very briefly, being careful to not burn it. Add the fennel and stir to coat with the oil. Caramelize it a bit to bring out the natural sweetness, but be careful to not burn it.

Caramelize the fennel to bring out the natural sweetness.

I love fresh fennel, but if you don’t, feel free to substitute onion.

Add the fennel seeds and chili flakes; stir to combine well. Transfer the fennel to a large bowl and cover to keep warm. Add the carrots to the pan and saute just to lightly brown and soften them a bit. Remove from the pan and add to the cooked fennel. If necessary, add the remaining olive oil to the pan and allow to heat a bit. Now add the mushrooms and cook until browned.

Now return all of the cooked vegetables to the pan, stir to combine well, and add the wine. Raise heat to high and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. This should take at most a minute on high, so watch carefully at this step.

Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, sprigs of thyme and parsley. Stir to combine well. Return all of the vegetables to the pan, stir to combine well. Add the chicken. Bring the entire mixture just to a boil and then reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes. You’ll want to cook this until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender.

Check the consistency of the sauce. If you want it to be a little thicker, then add some tomato paste. Add about 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired thickness. Then, season to taste with salt and pepper.

This is a very rustic and chunky sauce. Feel free to puree it a bit before adding the bay leaf, whole sprigs of herbs, and chicken. It’s entirely up to your preference.

I like to serve this over a good quality whole grain or spinach pasta. It’s great with a crispy, refreshing side salad and crusty Artisan bread.

I prefer chicken legs because they cook up more tender and flavorful than the breasts, but you can use whatever cut of chicken you like. When cooking this dish for a group, I like to use a whole, cut up chicken so everyone has a choice of their favorite. I always skin the chicken, regardless of the cut I use. I just don’t like all that extra fat in the dish.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serve with a whole grain pasta and garnish with a bit of cheese and fresh herbs.

I am sure hoping to get a ride in today, but the weather here is looking very iffy and I am fighting a cold. It might just end up being a Farmers’ Market and make a big batch of soup kind of day.