Pasta with Goat Cheese and Two Types of Greens

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I can see how some people might not find liking brussels sprouts easy. And I'm glad these people exist. More brussels sprouts for me! I can't get enough of them. I like vegetables that are either very neutral in taste, and will absorb lots of flavors, or, vegetables that are robust and complex like brussels sprout or beets. I also love buying these sprouts on the vine, because they just look so pretty.

One of my favorite ways to cook brussels sprouts is with peppered Hungarian bacon. There's not much to this recipe, bacon, olive oil (or butter), salt and the sprouts (washed, trimmed and cut in half). This makes for a great Fall side dish. And even though it's still 90 degrees outside, I keep thinking if I cook enough Fall dishes, maybe it will get colder.
I first cook the bacon half way through, then add more oil and the sprouts. Cook sprouts for 10-15 minutes with the bacon, until they are nice and brown. Season and serve.
These meal also included green beans (they needed to be used). I quickly trimmed these and dropped them in boiling water for about 6 minutes, then I topped them with thinly sliced shallots and a homemade mustard vinaigrette. They turned out to be nice and crunchy.

And the simplest part of the dinner was the angel hair pasta with goat cheese. I had a little log of herbed goat cheese, which I sliced up and put in a large bowl. To the bowl I added the steaming pasta, some pasta water and salt and pepper and tossed it really well. The pasta dish is subtle in flavor, but that's what I like about this quick sauce.

Next on my to-do list? Convince my mother-in-law that her pink dishes must go. They just don't photograph well.


Veggie Quesadillas

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Could you consider a quesadilla a sandwich? I think so. And I'm categorizing it that way. But that's not what this post is about. Let's talk about how easy and satisfying quesadillas are. Lets.

My father-in-law asked me after dinner if this was from some recipe. The husband and I chuckled. Do you really need a recipe for this? You can put anything in your quesadilla. You should of course use common sense. You should also select cheeses that melt. Also, don't overstuff them. Or, make your filling too liquidy. Hmm, I guess there are a lot of rules. Maybe a recipe wouldn't be a bad idea. But there's not one here.

I can however tell you what I used for my filling. Black beans. Roasted pasilla peppers. Green onions. Salsa. Salt and pepper. Monterey Jack cheese and a Mexican string cheese. After seeing an episode on quesadillas on America's Test Kitchen, I have also learned about toasting  tortillas twice. It's a good idea, and they get nice and crunchy. So toast each side lightly once, then fill and toast again.
These are delicious. Especially considering how simple they are. No meat, yet they make a satisfying dinner. Enjoy this non-recipe recipe.


One Hot Breakfast Feast

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It's been hot in Southern California. Very hot. It seems we are being punished for our mild summer with horrible heat in the fall. I don't like it one bit. It makes me lazy. It makes me want to nap. And I did just that on Sunday. I napped for 3 hours, but only after getting up late and helping to make breakfast.

The husband and my brother-in-law had planned for sourdough pancakes (if you'd like the recipe, follow this). I had leeks left over and decided to make country-style potatoes. There was also bacon and eggs. The pictures tell the story. I tried to get a couple of action shots that morning, but my brother-in-law made fun of me and told me get out of the way, reminding me I had a food blog and not a combat blog.

Despite not getting all the shots I wanted and the heat, breakfast proved to be delicious, with everyone pitching in, everyone except our friend, who showed up five minutes before we sat down to eat, and took my second slice of bacon.


Soba Leftovers

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As soon as we moved in with the in-laws, the husband took off. I'm not kidding. He went on a week-long camping trip with his friend. One where there was conveniently no cell phone reception. At first I thought I would miss him horribly, but it turned out I only missed him a bit. Our new room is fairly small, so it was nice not to have to share it with him and his clothes, books, tea cups and chapsticks. And I slept so well in the center of our bed. Ahh, the center.

Anyway, while he was gone we had some nice dinners. One night my mother-in-law made steaks and lobster tails. My contribution was soba noodles in peanut sauce. I made a lot of noodles, and only used about half. Then I forgot about them. Then I remembered and used the leftovers for a healthy vegetable stir fry that I took to work for lunch.

Here's why I love about soba noodles -- they are tasty, they cook quickly, they are great hot or cold, and they are cheap. With my noodles, I used bell peppers and green beans, lots of oyster sauce, some soy sauce, peanut oil, and that was pretty much it. For a little kick, I drizzled Sriracha sauce on top.


Pea and Ham Soup

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I'm not going to lie to you. I was worried about moving in with the in-laws. Sharing a bathroom for the first time in over 5 years did not appeal to me. I didn't want to live in Whittier. I didn't want to live with a dog. I didn't want to be without my kitchen. But, it hasn't been so bad. Besides the long drive, I've enjoyed having cable and watching HGTV with my mother-in-law and drinking beers and lounging with the father-in-law. The dog is so scared of me, he hardly comes within 10 feet, and I've even been re-watching episodes of the The Wire.

Now my blog posting has obviously suffered, and will continue to do so during this transition. I am without my own space, driving too damn much, and the camera does not like the lighting in the kitchen. But I did manage to make a pea and ham soup during my first few days that's worth mentioning. The temperature dropped to 70 degrees after Labor Day so I decided it was cold enough for soup. I made lots of soup. We ate it for days, and even ended up freezing some.
You can also make this without ham, but I bet it won't taste as good. I've also made this with bacon, pureeing the soup and adding crunchy bits at the end. 

Pea and Ham Soup
Serves many

1 lb of peas, yellow or green
1 small white onion, chopped fine
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large slice of ham, chopped
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
chicken broth, several cans to cover the peas

1) Sauté onion in onion. Add carrots and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. 
2) Add ham, garlic and celery. Sauté for 5 or so minutes. Add peas and chicken broth and bring to a boil. 
3) Turn down the heat, season, and cook for an hour or so, until peas are very tender. 
4) Taste, adjust seasoning and serve. 

This is even better the next day. 


My Taco

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Our friend, who moved away to Texas, has many shortcomings. I mean she willingly moved to Texas. But sometimes she comes through. In a big way. And you realize, ahh, this is why we are friends. When we bought our condo years ago and had no money to spend on art, she made art for us, painting mustard and lemonade ads grudgingly. On both of my wedding days, she stepped up and made sure things went smoothly (hence there were no car accidents or fights with the bitchy bridesmaids). But her most significant contribution to our friendship has been introducing me to My Taco in Highland Park.

My Taco serves slow cooked lamb in form of tacos, burritos, and my favorite, nachos. They of course have all kinds of other stuff too, but I go for the lamb. Its so tender, and tasty. And although it's not close to my house, it is close to my work. Last week I decided it was time for nachos in the park during lunch. I picked up a gigantic order of lamb nachos, an even bigger agua de fresa, salsas, and stopped at the very suspicious San Pasqual Park for a noon picnic.
Luckily it was just me, a squirrel, and fishy characters who parked, looked around and took off without getting out of their cars. Although I couldn't comfortably nap without looking over my shoulder, I was able to eat my lunch outdoors, with grass under my toes. 

We finished the rest of the nachos for dinner, thinking fondly of our friend, who foolishly moved away from this awesome restaurant. I, on the other hand, am wisely searching for houses within 10 miles of My Taco. Wish me luck.


Tortellini with Sausage and Peas (or Pantry/Freezer Emptying Pasta)

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There's been a lot of eating out. It's hard to cook and pack. We have two bowls, two plates, two forks, a small pot and a pan left. Everything else is in boxes, most have been moved to storage. But, eating out gets old really fast. And I have missed cooking, being in the kitchen, planning a meal on my drive home. Also, I still have a semi-full freezer, and a semi-empty pantry.

On my drive home a few nights ago, I decided tonight I will cook! I will make a pasta dish with my freezer supplies; not knowing what I would find. I did find edamame and corn, and pretty old chicken breasts. Then I came across bratwursts and peas, and the meal took shape in my mind.
The husband and I made these brats a few months ago. They ended up on the lean side. Great for weight watchers. Not so great if you're looking for a juicy, dripping sausage. But the seasoning in these was perfect, so I knew they would work well in a sauce.

I sauteed the sausage first. Then added garlic and tomato paste, browning the meat some more. Next went in tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and my own dried purple basil. I love purple basil. I'm even taking it with me to the in-laws, because it made me sad to think of it packed away in some box, sitting in a dark storage room.
Toward the end, I added the frozen peas.

Meanwhile, my tortellini boiled away. I made sure not to overcook it, so I could finish it in the sauce.
We had packed away our grater, so I had to shave the Parmesan with a little knife. But the dish came together and even tasted fancy! We opened a bottle of wine, and dinned among the boxes.