Monday, August 18, 2008

Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spinach and Mushrooms

We are back from a week in Southern California. We spent a couple of days at Disneyland and a couple of days in La Jolla. The weather was perfect, the crowds not so bad and we even had really good food! At Disneyland we opted to eat in Downtown Disney which has much better (in my opinion) offerings than within the park. At Tortilla Jo's they even have their gluten free items marked. My favorite meal was at Uva Bar where they had a tapas menu - everything we had was delicious but my favorite was a compressed salad with manchego, arugula, apples, walnut and dates. I ordered a second one ;-) Sadly I didn't get any pictures because the plates were beautiful - but we were starving.

I've been slowly getting back into the kitchen and last night I made Smoked Gouda Risotto with Spinach and Mushrooms from Cooking Light. This was a delicious mix of flavors with the smoky cheese (I used smoked mozzarella because I had some on hand) and the mushrooms. I will definitely make this again but I think next time I will buy presliced cremini mushrooms rather than using the mix of four different mushrooms - it was a lot of cleaning and slicing. For company I'd do that again but for us - I'll go for convenience next time!

School started back up for Ana yesterday and Hallie starts next week - even hubby is taking a night class (Italian - heaven help me). I think this school year will pose the biggest challenge to our family dinners - it's hard to do when no one is home!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Farm Sanctuary

On Saturday, my daughter, her boyfriend and I took the long drive up to Orland to visit Farm Sanctuary. We've been wanting to go for a long time and with his impending departure for college we were running out of time. So we left a little after noon for a 2.5 hour drive knowing the last tour was at 3. Anyone who has ever driven in the Bay Area knows that this could be a dicey proposition. I kept picturing us arriving there with no one around to give us a tour. Luck and the traffic gods were on our side and we arrived around 2:20 and they took us on a tour right then. There isn't much to say that the pictures can't tell on their own so I'll let them tell the story.

You can donate to Farm Sanctuary here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

On Saturday we had a large "catch up" family birthday party. We typically try to get together for everyone's birthday on hubby's side of the family - which means January - August . It's been a busy year for everyone and we were way behind - so Saturday we celebrated birthdays going back to April. So that was six family members plus our exchange student whose birthday is in three days. It looked like Christmas!

Because the weather has been so hot I knew I wanted to serve a dinner that was ready to go and wouldn't require anyone (read - me) being in the kitchen at the last minute. We decided we would do some grilling but that is something the guys always take over which works well for me!

On the menu was the following:

Red Quinoa Salad

1 box red quinoa, cooked according to package instructions
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice (I used at least 3 lemons)
salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Eggplant in Saffron Yogurt Sauce

This really didn't photograph well (I was in a bit of a hurry!) but tasted delicious. It was simply japanese eggplant cut in half and grilled until well browned and soft (this was done early in the day) and topped with a simple sauce of plain fat free yogurt combined with saffron infused hot water, cayenne and salt. It was topped with smoked paprika.

We also had dolmeh (store bought) that was dipped in the extra yogurt sauce, grilled corn, portobello mushrooms and red peppers. That afternoon I made a batch of gluten free bread and it was very popular with everyone.

One last popular item of the afternoon was a large pitcher of sangria. I've been making this recipe for several years and it really is the closest thing to what we had in Spain.

I had an extremely painful reminder to wear gloves when handling peppers. I bought both red bell peppers and some poblano peppers for the barbecue. I've never had a hot poblano so I didn't bother to wear gloves. Well whatever it was I cut up it was HOT and burned my hand. I think my skin was already irritated from the acid in the tomatoes and lemons I cut and when the pepper oil sunk in my hand felt like it was burning in hot acid. It was VERY painful and made it really difficult to get anything done! I looked online for remedies (typing with one hand) and tried the following; soaking my hand in yogurt, soaking it in ice cold vodka, rubbing it with a cut onion and so on. I finally popped some ibuprofen and between that and all the other things the burning eventually died down. We didn't end up grilling those peppers because I was afraid we would asphyxiate the neighborhood! Definitely a lesson learned.