Monday, February 28, 2011

Pea Tendrils... Have you Tried Them?

Have you ever tried a pea tendril?  Until just this weekend, I had never tried one, and I would venture a guess that I am not alone.  Even if you have never even heard of a pea tendril, feel no shame.  When I was quickly browsing the farmer's market, dodging renegade rain droplets, I spotted these and I had to ask the grower, "Hey what are these???"

So what exactly are pea tendrils? 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blood Orange and Pomegranate Cupcakes

Life has been busy these days.  Between getting sick, entertaining visiting friends, and working long hours to prepare for a big presentation at work, I feel like February has flown by.  Winter is quickly coming to a close and spring is right around the corner.  But, winter isn't over yet, and that means that here in San Diego, beautiful citrus is still plentiful.   

At the markets, local farmers are still sharing sweet Cara Cara oranges, large Ruby Red and Oro Blanco grapefruits, and popular Meyer Lemons.   But it's the tart Blood Oranges that I really can't resist.  

From the outside, blood oranges look just like any other orange.  You might be lucky enough to spy an blood orange by a slight blush on the rind, but not always.  Usually the dimpled skin the color of late-afternoon sun belies the crimson flesh that is characteristic of this citrus.  I am powerless to resist the hidden beauty of the blood orange, so when I decided to create a cupcake for the POM Wonderful cupcake contest, there was no question that I wanted to work blood oranges into  my recipe.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart

Valentine's Day is right around the corner.  Whether you are trying to forget the holiday or you are pumping up your romance muscles, you cannot possibly ignore the mounds of boxed candies at the grocery store, the cheesy Hallmark cards, and the increased frequency of the Kay Jewelers commercials.  

I think most people take issue with Valentine's Day because it is a specific day artificially designated to show your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/secret lover (ha!) just how much you care by showering them with expensive gifts or fancy dinners. Frankly, most people don't like to be told what or when to do something, and they also don't feel like they need to go to extreme measures to share their affection. Fair enough.  If you are one of these people, then honestly, don't do it.  Seriously. 

But if you do your best to shun the commercialized products and get over your issues with the big V Day, you just might be able to get to the core of a holiday that is supposed to be only about love.  And no matter how big of a scrooge you are, don't try to tell me that spreading a little bit of extra L.O.V.E. around is a bad thing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Mom's Easiest Chicken Barley Chili

So I know it might appear as though I am posting this chili recipe because the Superbowl is upon us.  But lets be honest, if I actually wanted you to make this chili for the big game day, I probably should have posted this days ago so that you could get prepared, buy the necessary ingredients, and plan ahead how much time you would need for prep and cooking.  Right?  

Wrong.  Because this chili requires virtually no prep time, most of the ingredients are canned (gasp!  Yes, I said canned!), and the whole thing is done in 45 minutes total, you could decide to make this chili on a whim any day... including Superbowl Sunday.  

Growing up, I remember my mom used to make a traditional chili several weekends a month during football season; when I say traditional chili, I mean the hearty, meaty, deep-red stuff that is best enjoyed alongside a cold beer, a bowl of chips, and a healthy serving of masculinity.  It was the stuff that real men enjoy, and my dad loved it.  That chili had beef, lots of it, and sometimes beans (although chili purists think beans are the devil) and it was always spicy and rich.  However, about 5 years ago my mom started making this Chicken Barley Chili recipe, and she has never looked back.  This chili is a little bit different...ok, it is a lot different.

For starters, this chili is healthy.  It has chicken instead of beef, which automatically reduces the artery-clogging properties of traditional chili.  It has several forms of protein: chicken, black beans, and barley; the barley is also a whole grain and a good source of fiber.  Add in the antioxidants from the tomatoes and a vegetable source from the corn, and you have a shockingly healthy meal.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Whole Grain Animal Crackers

Please tell me that at one point or another in your life, you have eaten an animal cracker.  Seriously, it is an experience you must have, and not because it is a once-in-a-lifetime gourmet treat, but because it is just fun.     

Thinking back to my childhood, I distinctly remember how excited I would get by such a simple, colorful cardboard box; the cartoon animals on the front only represented a meager sampling of the menagerie that could be found inside.  After folding back the end of the box, I would root around in there with my short little fingers trying to find the best animal.  At a young age, my fingers weren't quite long enough to reach the very bottom of the box, and of course, that is where I was sure the best animal was hiding.   

Now keep in mind, whether the animal cracker was shaped like a tiger, a bear, or a monkey, they all tasted exactly the same - slightly sweet, a little buttery, and with a mildly chalky texture.  Yet, as I pulled out animals one by one, if it was not a camel I would toss it back in frustration.  Now lets be honest, camels aren't really the coolest kids on the block, so I can't quite figure out what the allure was for me.  Maybe it was biting off the extended head, followed shortly by chewing off the hump?  And then of course, you have to bite off the legs one by one...  I know, it sound vicious, but I am pretty sure every child relishes in biting body parts off of animal crackers.   

Actually, every child just loves eating animal crackers period, and I think that's because it doesn't seem like a cracker at all; animal 'crackers' taste so much more like cookies because they are sweet rather than savory.  (And to a child, sweet > savory.)   

But here's the best part: if you buy your own animal shaped cookie cutters you can make these cuties at home as treats for your children (or yourself).  I got these adorable cookie cutters as a gift from my sister, and she bought them a few years ago at Williams-Sonoma.  When I opened her gift and saw the box (decorated appropriately like the Nabisco Barnum's Animal Cracker box) I squealed with glee and was quickly transported back in time.  Sadly, I sort of forgot about these cookie cutters until the perfect opportunity came up....