I have much to be thankful for.
We moved into our new home two days before Thanksgiving. As much as I had hoped to cook Thanksgiving dinner here it was not to be. And even I had to accept that, try as I might to figure a way to do it.
We just cut it a bit too close. The days before the move we spent moving out of the rental apartment, and the day of the move was a very long day, to say the least.
And Wednesday we began unpacking the first of the 300 boxes that made the trip from Maryland the end of June, and were finally released from the confines of the warehouse where they have been stored these past five months.
The important thing is our children were with us, and we had a wonderful dinner at an excellent restaurant located at a beach resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean . We ate on the lovely patio and watched the sunset from our table.
Dining in this astonishingly beautiful setting and looking into the faces of our sons sitting across from us both my husband and I realized the journey we began a couple of years ago which has had more than a few twists in the road was complete.
And we couldn’t be happier.
After many years of being on two different coasts we are now within several hours of each other.
We are in a brand spanking new (as my son says) home, in a storybook town, and we are very eager to make it ours.
As you probably may have heard, this year Hanukkah began the evening before Thanksgiving so for the first time in very many years we lit the menorah with our children. On Friday morning I decided to make potato latkes for breakfast with homemade applesauce. I had made the applesauce at the apartment the night before we moved.
It was my first time cooking on the new gas range and I had two skillets going. It felt great!
And while I was busy with that both of my sons and my younger son’s girlfriend were helping us with the monumental unpacking. In fact I couldn’t mix the latkes until my younger son finally located the box with the mixing bowls. Miracle of miracles!
We spent several hours in the afternoon at one of the the local vineyards (10 miles from our door) , and again I felt like I had to keep pinching myself as we shared a wine tasting together overlooking the vineyards.
So in the next weeks we will be continuing to unpack, and I will be learning my way around this new kitchen. Can’t wait to share some new recipes with you very soon!
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah !
It is everywhere here in San Luis Obispo - numerous stands at the weekly Thursday night farmer’s market serve it up grilled in a sandwich, complementary platters of grilled tri tip are served to all season ticket holders at the Cal Poly Football games, and it has a prominent place in the meat department of all the food markets and groceries here. You’ve heard of steak and eggs…in SLO it is not unusual to see tri tip and eggs on the breakfast menus.
I don’t have access to a grill in the apartment so I roasted the tri tip we had for dinner the other evening.
It was super delicious, and I think the key was marinating it overnight and not overcooking it.
Here’s the marinade I used:
For a 2 and 1/2 to 3 # tri tip mix together:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup canola oil
2 T sugar
2 T soy sauce
1 T freshly ground black pepper
2 T garlic salt
2T chopped fresh garlic
Place the tri tip in a plastic bag and pour the marinade over.
Place the sealed bag on a large plate and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
When ready to cook, remove from plastic bag, and wipe off excess marinade and discard the marinade from the bag.
Season with some coarse kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.
Roast in a preheated 450 degree oven. Turn when brown, and continue roasting until thermometer registers medium rare, anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of your roast.
Allow to sit covered loosely with foil for 10 to15 minutes.
Serve with sautéed mushrooms.
Here are some facts about tri tip…
For years the beef tri-tip found itself being ground into hamburger or cut into cubes and sold as soup meat. The reason for this is that there is only one per side of beef and in the days when butchers carved their own meat it was considered a waste of display space to sell the tri-tip by itself. Now that the carving is done by packers you are much more likely to find the tri-tip at your local butcher. If you don’t see it, ask for it. This often overlooked piece of meat is not only relatively inexpensive, but also very flavorful and has become a favorite amongst those in the know.
The tri-tip roast or steak (also called a triangle roast) is the 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds of meat that sits at the bottom of the sirloin. Not only does it have a rich flavor, but also tends to be lower in fat than most other cuts. Of course, this means that it can dry out faster, but with a good marinade you really can’t go wrong with this cut. Good seasonings and marinades for tri-tip are those inspired by Southwestern or Asian flavors.
The versatility of tri-tips is another factor that makes them great. Uncut, it’s a fantastic roast that should be grilled indirectly for 30 to 40 minutes. You can also cut the tri-tip into 1-inch steaks, that grill up in about 8 minutes over a low to medium direct heat. As always, let your steak (or roast) sit for 5 to 10 minutes before you carve or serve it. This allows the juices redistribute and evens out the heat.
Because tri-tip is lean, be careful not to over cook it, particularly when preparing the full roast. Medium is as far as you should go with this cut. Use a meat thermometer to make sure you get it right where you want it. If you are used to grilling other cuts, this one can throw some grillers off by appearing underdone when it is ready to serve.
The calendar reads November, daylight savings time has ended, and there is an appropriate chill in the air, all facts confirming we have entered the pre-holiday season.
First up will be Thanksgiving which will arrive this year just a week from this Thursday!
And if that is not enough, this year Hanukkah arrives especially early, with the lighting of the first candle on the menorah taking place the evening before Thanksgiving.
Normally, by now I would have been happily immersed in holiday planning, but this year that planning was to occur in my new home, the cooking in my new kitchen, and the dining around our new dining table.
Now I’m not saying it won’t happen, I’m just saying…we are not there yet.
So we are anxiously awaiting our final walk through, or should I say run through, so we can get the keys, arrange the move in date, unpack the kitchen (kinda) and sit down to Thanksgiving Dinner with our children in our new home here in downtown San Luis Obispo!
Keep your fingers crossed. You will know almost as soon as I do !
In the meantime we are still enjoying life in our studio apartment, and I have managed to continue to prepare meals for us most of the time.
Here are a few of the dinners I have made lately.
While my current kitchen is well equipped with the basics it is compact and lends itself to simpler meals.
Many of them are dishes from my blog which I made in my east coast kitchen, with one big difference…there I could spread out, here, not so much.
So, as with life we make adjustments. And I have.
There are the Pan Fried Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples…
Season the chops generously with kosher salt, pepper, and some minced fresh rosemary. Bring the chops to room temperature before browning both sides in a pan on the stovetop in a small amount of olive oil and a bit of butter.
To the same pan I add thick slices of peeled apples (which have macerated a bit in a little sugar and lemon juice).
Continue to cook them in the pan with the chops on moderate heat, and they will soak up the yummy juices. Continue cooking til they begin to caramelize, but are not mushy, and they will be a stellar accompaniment to the pork chops.
With just 3 russet potatoes I made a quick rendition of mashed potatoes, substituting some of the pan juices from the pork and apples for gravy.
Then there was the Chicken Tenders Parmesan…
…using chicken tenders instead of boneless breasts the breading process was quicker and took up less room.
I made a quick tomato sauce with some good quality canned tomatoes. I simply mashed them with a fork and potato masher since there is no food processor or blender here.
I added the tomatoes to some sauteed onions, garlic, and oregano, added a splash of white wine, and cooked slowly til thickened.
For the breading:
1st…dredge lightly in flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2nd..dip in lightly beaten egg
3rd…dip in Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) to which you have added grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese. Press gently so crumbs adhere.
Note: For more detailed directions on breading and frying see blog post on Chicken Milanese.
When ready to serve, spoon some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan, as well as on top of each piece of chicken, and sprinkle with some shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle some extra Pecorino on top. Return to oven and remove when cheese is melted and the chicken is heated through.
Serve with pasta and some extra sauce.
I also made the Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes…
This is a one pan dish if you have prepared the roasted tomatoes in advance. There will be enough roasted tomatoes left to use for some other meals… as a sauce for pizza, bruschetta, or pasta.
I’ve previously posted the recipe for it here.
Leftovers from these roasted potatoes, fennel, carrots and onions became hash browns for brunch on Sunday.
Just added some green onions and red pepper and browned in butter!
Served with sunny side up eggs and fresh Valencia orange juice squeezed by hand (literally, no juicer of any kind here) by my husband!
Bought the Valencia’s at the farmers market. Hand picked the day before…love it !!!
The past couple of weeks I have been fighting a cold/ allergies (still not certain which), and consequently it has been quiet in the kitchen except for the pot of chicken soup which has seen me through these past days. There is definitely something magical about that homey brew which seems to be the sole source of comfort sometimes when I am sick.
So one evening last week I mustered the energy to attempt to make a dinner with what remained in the fridge. You can always find something to stir-fry , and I did with a package of frozen chicken breast tenders in the freezer, and an assortment of fresh vegetables in the crisper.
With only some soy sauce in the pantry, and some fresh garlic and ginger, that with a bit of my homemade chicken broth would provide the flavoring.
One of the things I do to ensure a velvety texture to the diced chicken pieces is to marinate it with a little cornstarch, and in this case soy sauce. When I have it I use some Mirin or even white wine or dry sherry as a substitute. Add a little salt and pepper if you like.
In a tablespoon of canola oil (in this case), I sautéed some slices of ginger and garlic til fragrant. Then I added the chicken pieces stirring til no longer pink, but not overdone, and set them aside on a plate.
To the hot pan add another bit of oil if necessary, and stir fry all the cut up veggies with a bit of salt and pepper.
When still crisp and brightly colored add back the chicken and combine.
Mix 1 tablespoon corn starch with a little water. Add this to some chicken broth (1/4- 1/3 c) and 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce.
On high heat add the chicken broth mixture to the veggies and chicken and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, and the veggies and chicken are heated through. Do not overcook. Crisp, bright veggies are what you want.
At this point I like to remove everything to the serving dish but the sauce. Continue cooking the sauce til it reduces, thickens more, and almost forms a glaze. Pour over the stir fry, serve with some brown rice and enjoy!
But, as we are still awaiting word of our walk through date for our new home (we are getting closer …so please stay tuned), several weeks ago I began the search for our next rental.
When I noticed some pretty spectacular photos of a studio apartment with availability on one of the vacation rental sites I immediately contacted the owner who arranged for us to see it ASAP. We were totally sold that this was the place for us as we wind down the “home” stretch!
The owner not only offered us the apartment, but graciously is allowing us to stay as long as we need it! We have found the folks here in SLO are as friendly as all the hype promises!
This may be a studio, but it is pretty incredible. It has a state of the art kitchen, complete with granite countertops, fantastic cabinets, high end appliances, and an array of professional cookware and cutlery. It is truly an unexpected delight, especially if one loves to cook!
When my husband questioned not having a separate bedroom I quickly responded, “Look at this kitchen!”
There is also a very comfortable queen plus sofa bed, a leather chair, built in tv and fireplace, beautiful bathroom, a high bistro table for 2, as well as a breakfast bar for 2. And there is a large deck with a lovely view that overlooks the San Luis Obispo Creek!
If we must finish out our days before moving into our home in a studio apartment, I am definitely not complaining!
So after moving in one week ago I found myself in the market the next day shopping to fill the fridge!
Spatchcocking is simply removing the backbone of a whole chicken before marinating and grilling or roasting it. By doing this the chicken cooks much quicker, and is quite crispy and juicy.
I have to admit I was short on the marinating time cause the hour was getting late, but if you have the time to plan ahead I suggest you do it the day before and forget about it til you are ready to cook it.
Nigella Lawson has a simple recipe for a spatchcocked chicken with rosemary and lemon. Here it is, from her book, Forever Summer… It is delicious!
The next morning I awoke early, letting my husband sleep, and went into the kitchen with one thing in mind…pancakes! The last time I made pancakes was months ago sometime before our move.
A couple nights ago was Yom Kippur Eve on the Jewish calendar.
Yom Kippur literally means “Day of Atonement.” It is traditionally a day devoted to repenting and reflecting on one’s sins committed in the past year.
Yom Kippur marks the end of the 10 day period that begins with the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of introspection and a day of fasting.
As a result the dinner the evening before has special significance and the meal usually consists of traditional holiday foods.
We were on the east coast this year during Rosh Hashanah so we were fortunate to have a holiday dinner with our aunt whose home we stayed at that evening before leaving for the wedding a few days later.
It was a lovely dinner and while we were happy and grateful to be among family, the holiday seems very different to us this year.
Having moved to the west coast, but still not settled in our home, and having been back on the east coast again, but not in the home we celebrated the holidays in for the past 25 years, was especially bittersweet.
For me, shopping and cooking for the Jewish holidays has always been an important part of the New Year.
The smells, sights and sounds that occur within those hallowed walls of the kitchen are part of me…from growing up watching my dear mother in her kitchen (my mom is always so close to my heart, but even more so at this time of the year), and then from a lifetime of preparing meals for the holidays in my own kitchen in our various homes.
So now that we were back in SLO for Yom Kippur, and challenging as my current kitchen is for preparing a holiday meal, I couldn’t wait to begin.
It was just a Yom Kippur Eve Dinner for Two, but as I was cooking that afternoon, all the holiday smells, sights and sounds that I remember were in full force, and as I prepared recipes from my mother, and my husband’s grandmother I felt the warmth and love that is tradition.
With the limited kitchen equipment in mind I chose the following menu:
Bottle of Chardonnay (complements of the owner of our rental, which we found in our fridge upon our return from our trip)
Freshly baked challah (not by me, and thanks to my husband for finding one) drizzled with honey symbolic of our wish for a sweet year ahead
Store-bought gefilte fish with crudités
(Memories of my grandmother’s homemade gefilte fish… watching her chop the fish in her wooden bowl)
Roast turkey breast for me (leftovers for sandwiches for the week) and 2 turkey drumsticks for my husband
Mom’s Apple Noodle Kugel (instead of the regular egg noodles I substituted a package of TJ’s pappardelle egg noodles that I already had, and they worked perfectly)
Baby Carrots in a Buttery Brown Sugar Glaze
Mom Min’s Farfel with Mushrooms and Onions (recipe below)
Jelled Cranberry Sauce
And for dessert…
A variation of my Mom’s Passover Lemon Sponge Cake served with nectarine slices
Mom Min’s Farfel with Mushrooms and Onions (my version of what we remember)
One 12 ounce package of Manischewitz Barley Shaped Egg Noodles
8 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, chopped
Half of a large sweet onion, diced
2- 3 tablespoons salted butter
About 2 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Cook Farfel according to package directions, not more than 8 minutes.
In a medium skillet sauté diced onions in the butter till translucent.
Add the chopped mushrooms, and cook til browned a bit.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add chicken broth and stir well.
Add the mushroom and onion mixture to the drained Farfel.
Cover and keep warm on top of the stove or put in a buttered covered casserole in a 325 degree oven to keep warm.
When ready to serve add some gravy and stir to combine.
A few notes about the Lemon Sponge Cake…
Since I didn’t have a tube pan here, but did have a layer cake pan that is what I used.
I also used flour instead of the potato starch I prefer.
Both of those changes produced a more dense cake than the lighter version baked in a 10 inch tube pan, but truly delicious nonetheless.
Without an electric mixer here I had to whip the egg whites, which are the only leavening agent in this batter,with a wire whisk.
When I first came home from shopping I had to look around to see if there even was a whisk here. There was, but far from a professional one so I knew I would have to be careful not to break it.
With all the desserts I have made over the years I had never whisked egg whites by hand… with the Kitchen Aid within easy reach, why would I?
All I can say is I have a new respect for chefs who seemingly can easily whip that gelatinous mixture into stiff peaks before your very eyes.
Those who know me know I will persevere when the going gets tough, and though my arms were telling me to stop I refused to quit until those snow white peaks surfaced.
And finally they did! And I was never so proud! And I did it with the handicap of a flimsy whisk and a plastic bowl!
So I pulled together a wonderful holiday meal for us, and at the same time was able to master a new culinary skill!
Happy and Healthy New Year to all!
Right now, we’re back east to attend my cousin’s son’s wedding in Pennsylvania.
Incredibly, we have been in San Luis Obispo for just about 2 months now. We have gone from living a month in the hotel to a month in the apartment we are now renting. The owner of our rental has graciously given us the option of storing our extra stuff for the week we will be gone, allowing him to rent it out, and saving us the week’s rental fee.
You may be wondering WHEN we will be moving into our house. So. Are. We. Although it is progressing every day, and looking more each day like the beautiful home we had envisioned, much remains to be done before we will be closing and moving in. Will keep you posted on that one.
Each time we go to check it out (about once a week) we get more and more excited as we watch what was once blueprints, photos and computer generated videos come to life. Most recently my kitchen pendant lights were hung over the island! We agonized over that decision, but, they look as great as I had hoped and imagined, bringing my new kitchen one step closer to a reality.
In the meantime we had to exit the apartment which means not only packing up and storing our belongings, packing what we need for the trip, but also cleaning out the fridge and pantry. Totally.
With this in mind, I have ceased shopping this past week and began the process of trying to make meals out of what is still here. Which wasn’t that much.
This no small fete led to a meal of my favorite Stuffed Peppers the other evening.
With a can of tomatoes, two green peppers, some snack packs of raisins, one lemon, half an onion, some ground chuck, and one bag of brown rice in the larder this wintry dish made perfect sense to me, even if it was a fairly warm day in August!
Feeling like a contestant on “Chopped” I decided to throw in the remainder of a bag of dried apples to sweeten the sauce. Turns out we really liked the additional sweetness they provided. Who knew?
In the last couple of days with what remained in the pantry and fridge I made some pizzas, using up leftover crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper to make the sauce.
A couple of almost stale whole wheat pitas toasted up nicely in the oven, and topped with that quick sauce and a meager bit of mozzarella cheese hanging around…pizza!
My husband couldn’t have been happier when he saw me coming out of the kitchen with a tray of pizzas to snack on! Oh, and mine even had calamata olives on it!
So for dinner the other night I was really getting down to the bottom of the barrel.
Here’s a riddle for you…what can you make with some lettuce, 2 very ripe tomatoes, a can of tuna, 3 leftover roasted small potatoes, a couple of pieces of green pepper, 3 green onions, a bit of celery, hard boiled eggs, a few calamata olives and some home made vinaigrette dressing?
Why, a salade nicoise, of course! Bon Appetite!
It has been a couple of weeks now that I have had a kitchen in which to putter around.
With so many wonderful restaurants and cafes nearby we definitely still do our share of eating out, but it is nice to be able to eat in when we want to.
Although the kitchenette is tiny and equipped with the very basics it is still possible to produce delicious meals using a few simple ingredients and techniques.
It always amazes me how much we can do without when necessary.
It is a challenge I have been up to!
At the same time I’ve struggled to keep my shopping to a minimum buying ingredients that will lend themselves to several different dishes.
So here are several meals we have enjoyed recently…
Roasted chicken with carrots, celery, and onions like my grandmother made..
Spaghetti with Shrimp Scampi
Pan seared Alaskan salmon with orzo cooked risotto style with onions, thyme, and chicken broth
Grilled Chicken and roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, broccolini, and salad
Egg Salad Lunch
Sauteed chicken with garlic, rosemary, thyme, and lemon with brown rice and fresh green beans with olive oil and lemon zest