Sunday, February 26, 2012


This is week 4 of the The Food Matters Project. Our host is Marcia  and she chose Mark Bittmans recipe for Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese.

I thought this combination sounded amazing. BUT...when I ran the recipe by some trusted foodies and my husband there was a major lack of enthusiasm.  It may have been the blue cheese with pasta that was the deterrent, or maybe just a crazy (interesting) combination of ingredients.

Hubby (Ron) mentioned that he liked bacon with his Brussels sprouts and no blue cheese please. So I did what any good wife would do....I made HERS...


For my dish I browned some bacon and set it aside. Then I chopped some Brussels Sprouts and browned them in some of the bacon fat. After cooking the rigatoni I combined it with the sprouts, bacon, dried cranberries and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.  Before baking it I mixed in some olive oil and a little pasta water. For "his" version, I left out the cranberries and Gorgonzola and mixed in grated Gruyere cheese. Baked it for a short time and then right before serving I topped it with chopped Marcona almonds.

The Verdict ?????

While "HIS" version looks more ooey-gooey-cheesy and decadent, "HERS" won!!!!  :) :) :)

We both loved the Gorgonzola-Cranberry-Bacon combination. And the chopped Marcona almonds on top were awesome. Marcona almonds used to be hard to find but I found some recently at Trader Joe's.

To see what everyone else working on this project made click here .


2 TBSP. olive oil
8 oz. rigatoni pasta
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, chopped
4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup dried cranberries
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Marcona almonds, chopped

Heat oven to 400~. Grease a 9 x 13 " baking pan with olive oil. Cook bacon until crispy and set aside, reserving the grease in the pan. Crumble the bacon.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it until al dente. Drain (reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water) and set aside.

Coarsely chop the Brussels sprouts and cook in the bacon grease until tender. In a large bowl combine the cooked sprouts, bacon, pasta, cranberries, and Gorgonzola cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the greased pan and add some of the pasta water (2 TBSP.), a little drizzle of olive oil, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Plate on serving dish and garnish with chopped Marcona almonds

Recipe adapted from The Food Matters Cook Book.

Original recipe can be found on  Twenty by Sixty Blog, our host Marcia.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I wandered around the Farmer's Market on Saturday looking for inspiration for dinner. The ridgeback shrimp stand was there. Ridgeback shrimp are really prawns and they taste better than any shrimp I have had in a long time. They are tender and juicy and melt in your mouth. You can buy them fresh off the boat for about 5.00 per pound. They don't keep long so I use them right away.

I brought home 2 lbs. of them. I was thinking about how I would cook them and then I found the pasta lady. They make fresh pasta early in the morning before the market opens so it is REALLY fresh.

I decided on  fresh angel hair pasta.

 I took the heads off the shrimp (throw them in a bag and then in the freezer. Save them for your favorite fisherman to use as bait). Then I peeled the shells off and deveined them. This took a while but it was well worth the effort. Sometimes I just steam them whole and serve them as a peel and eat like I did here.

The pasta only takes about 2 minutes to cook so I put some water on the stove and then sauteed some chopped shallots in olive oil and butter. Added some garlic for just a minute and then tossed in the ridgeback tails.

The tails cook in just a minute so I drained the pasta and tossed the pasta with the tails. 

Top the pasta with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh dill, salt and pepper. This was so good. If you can find fresh ridgebacks give this a try. They are harvested right here in the Santa Barbara Channel and are in season October through May or June.


1 Shallot, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP. butter
2 TBSP. olive oil
1 lb. shrimp or 2 lbs. whole ridgeback shrimp

1 lb. angel hair pasta 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh dill, chopped
Lemon slices

Cook pasta according to directions on package or boil for 2 minutes if using fresh pasta.

In a large saute pan melt butter and oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes and then add the shrimp tails. Cook for two minutes or until the shrimp changes color. Drain pasta and add to the pan. Toss for just a minute or so and then turn into a serving dish. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped dill. Add a splash or two of olive on top before serving.

Serve with a lemon slice.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Red Bell Pepper Pesto Pizza Bites....FUN* FUN* FUN!

Our next recipe in the Food Matters Project was Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut "Pesto". My first idea was to put in on pasta. I ran some ideas by Hubby and when I said pizza he said "YES!".

I made pizza dough from scratch maybe....30 years ago :(   and I still remember how much work it was for a "pizza". Pizza was what you ordered when you didn't feel like cooking. I never did that again.

When we decided that we would make pizza dough from scratch I remembered that I had a pizza stone somewhere. HUH???? I think it must have been for take and bake pizzas or to reheat cold pizza (although I usually eat the leftovers in the middle of the night...cold. Doesn't everyone??).

First I made this beautiful bowl of Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto.

I roasted my red peppers on the gas cook top.

Turning them until they had a nice char.

 I put them in a bowl and covered the bowl with plastic wrap. When they were cool, I removed the charred skin. I started out by using a paper towel to help remove the skin and save the flavor but I got impatient and ended up running  them under cold water. The next step was to remove the seeds and stems.

I pulsed the garlic in the food processor and then the walnuts. When it was roughly chopped I added the red bell peppers, basil, and some olive oil.

That's it, with the addition of some salt and pepper it was ready to go.

Enter the pizza crust.

The pizza dough was a bit of a challenge for us virgin pizza makers and I didn't even make it from scratch as  planned. The already made whole wheat dough at Trader Joe's was just too hard to resist. This was where the fun began. I heard Ron laughing. "Is this a trick?" I looked over and started laughing too. Every time he would roll it out into a nice circle, as soon as he stopped rolling it would bounce back to it's original size. Hmm...I suggested we try pulling it by hand or even throw it up in the air like they do at the Pizza Palace. That was comical :) Well, we need to work on our dough skills but we did end up with this.

We spread it with the Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto.

Mark Bittman suggested adding goat cheese as an option in the pesto.We thought it sounded like a good combo so we put some rounds on one half of the pizza and mozzarella on the other side. After 15 minutes in the oven we added some fresh basil.

Success! The pesto was wonderful as a base and the goat cheese rocked. We liked the fact that it did not melt completely. It made the most delicious bites. We cut it into squares so we could showcase the goat cheese. Oh...the mozzarella, it was a little boring...needs the goat cheese.

This was really fun to make. I can't wait to use the leftover pesto in other ways. You can find all kinds of creative ideas on how to use this pesto over on the The Food Matters Project. The Pesto recipe is on Heather's Blog who was our host for the week.

Thank you Sarah and Kate for starting this project.

Monday, February 13, 2012


While browsing the internet I found a group of bloggers and cooks who are cooking together from Mark Bittman's cookbook The Food Matters Cookbook. 
The Food Matters Project is about a group of people who are looking to incorporate the philosophy of eating more plants and fewer animal products and processed foods into their diets and lifestyles.

Sarah from and Kate from founded this group. 

Each week a recipe is chosen, cooked, and then blogged about. The recipe for this week was Seasoned Popcorn. The recipe is basic popped popcorn but you decide on the seasonings.

 I decided to melt some butter and garlic together and then after straining out the garlic I poured it on the popcorn and sprinkled Smoked Paprika Salt on top. It was such a nice change from my usual store bought-microwaved variety.

You can follow our progress as we cook our way through the cookbook over at

The host for this weeks recipe is Kate and you can find the recipe on her blog

Sunday, February 12, 2012


This pork was SO GOOD. I bought a beautiful hunk of pork shoulder from Whole Foods. I'm not eating meat as often as I used to so I made a decision that when I do eat it I will buy the best. This piece was really well marbled and had great flavor, something that seems to have disappeared from regular grocery store meat. The gravy for this was ridiculously easy and really tasty. When the meat has finished cooking you put the onions and apples (that had cooked with the meat) in the blender with some water and 1/2 tsp. of Dijon mustard and give it a whirl. That's it! The recipe calls for pressing the gravy through a sieve for a silky smooth texture but I liked it more rustic and skipped that step.

You need to start this a day or two ahead. The pork is rubbed with a mixture of toasted fennel seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, and fresh herbs.

Then it is sealed in plastic wrap and marinated in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. You roast it on top of sliced apples and onions, on high for 30 minutes to brown and then covered and cooked for about 3 hours until the meat is falling apart.


The pork shoulder should be marinated in the rub overnight or up to two days.

  • 4-5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg) boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp packed, fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (can sub water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle. Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

2. Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).

3. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut each onion half into about 12 thin wedges. Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl and toss to mix.

4. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

5. Toss the apples and onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place the apples and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Place the marinated pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions.

6. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the oven heat down to 325°F and add the wine. Cover the roasting pan and slow roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.

7. Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/2 cup water and the mustard and puree. Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.

Yield: Serves 4-6 with leftovers.

Recipe from Simply Recipes

Saturday, February 11, 2012


This dip brings back fond memories of my Grandmother. She passed away at 99 years young. She was a Pioneer. I didn't realize that until I was older. In the 1950's she built a home with an island in the center. There was a sink in the island..nobody did that then. She recycled. She composted. She conserved water (just because). She always had a big garden and ate organic. She loved to cook and entertain and she would TAKE PICTURES OF HER FOOD!!!!

One thing you could count on when you went to her house for dinner was this cute little appetizer she would serve during cocktail hour. It was mayonnaise, chopped onion, and Parmesan cheese, mixed together and spread on white bread with the crusts cut off. She would broil it until brown and then serve it on a pretty plate.

This dip has most of the same ingredients but less labor intensive. I like to serve it with bruschetta or warm bread. Cracker and hearty chips work well too. I served it with celery during Super Bowl but uh.....trying to make this healthy is a waste. It just doesn't taste very good.


One baguette, sliced into 1/4" pieces
Olive oil
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 TBSP. black pepper, freshly ground

Heat oven to 350~. Brush slices of baguette with olive oil (both sides). Set the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Beat the softened cream cheese with mixer until smooth. Stir in sweet onion, mayonnaise, Parmesan and black pepper. Mix well. Pour the dip into a baking dish or baking dishes (ramekins). Make sure not to over fill above the rim. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the tops are brown and bubbly. Remove from heat.

Serve warm or hot.

I like to use Trader Joe's par baked baguette and serve it warm.

Recipe from www.whiteonricecouple

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I was perusing the Asian stand at the Farmer's Market looking for some baby bok choy when I spotted this interesting and beautiful looking plant. I asked the man behind the table what is was and with a grin from ear to ear he said "tatsoi". I asked him how you cook it and he answered "tatsoi". I asked him if I could cook it like bok choy and he said " tatsoi"..... He looked so proud, and his smile said it all. In a foodie world sometimes that's all you  need.

I came home with a bag full.

After a quick google search  I learned that tatsoi is a member of the brassica family that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, and kale. Tatsoi is also called spinach mustard, spoon mustard or rosette bok choy. Apparently it is most often eaten in salads, and often added to soups. I decided to treat it like spinach and gave it 2 minutes in boiling salted water and then a quick saute in melted butter. We added some fresh peas from the garden to the saute and it was wonderful.

Next time you see tatsoi give it a try.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Yes...there's a party going on in this bowl.

Delicate Alaskan halibut is braised in a broth of  leeks, lemons, garlic, and thyme. Manila clams gently steam in the broth. The halibut is placed in the center of the bowl, the clams around it, the flavored broth is poured on top and the whole dish is garnished with cooked pancetta and chopped parsley.

My kind of party.


3 TBSP. butter
1 large leek, white and green part thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups chicken broth
4 oz. thinly sliced pancetta
6 springs fresh thyme
6 thin slices lemon
lemon zest
1 pound fresh halibut (skin removed)
1 pound Manila clams
1 TBSP. freshly chopped parsley
sea salt and pepper

Cook pancetta in skillet until brown and crispy. Remove, crumble into large pieces and set aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large straight-sided saute skillet with a lid. Add the leeks and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes and then add the broth, thyme, and lemon slices. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Bring broth to a boil on medium high heat. 

Season the halibut with salt and pepper and put in the center of the pan with the broth. Cover, return to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and cook halibut for 5 minutes. Add the clams around the outside of the pan, cover and cook for 5 more minutes or until clams are open and halibut is cooked through.

Discard any clams that have not opened.

Put a serving of halibut in a bowl, surround it with some clams and pour broth over. Sprinkle with lemon zest, pancetta, and chopped parsley.

Serve with garlic bread.

Recipe inspired by and Tyler Florence

Friday, February 3, 2012


I found a way to eat Steel-Cut Oats every day for breakfast. When I'm up early for our morning walk I don't have much time to cook breakfast. Steel-cut oats take 30 to 40 minutes to cook, but this recipe is awesome. Just put a few ingredients in the crock pot and walk away. Five hours later your daily breakfast is ready! Once a week I cook a batch and put it in the fridge. Every morning I scoop out a cup of oats, add some non-fat milk and microwave it for about 45 seconds. Give it a good stir to beak it up and then add a handful of blueberries, half a banana, and some agave nectar. A great nutritional breakfast in only one minute.


1 cup steel-cut oatmeal
1-1/2 cups fat-free milk
1-1/2 cups water

2 tsp. ground flax seed (optional)

Spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray. Add all ingredients and stir.

Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours depending on your crock pot.

Add any garnish that you like; chopped nuts, brown sugar, raisins, additional milk or butter.
I add blueberries, banana, and agave syrup.