Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dec 31: Heading back North

Time to head back to Washington. I'm trying to time the travel so we're in between storms.

Despite my planning... I think I got food poisoning. Fever, nausea, malaise, loss of appetite... and more.

The upside: S is driving up with me, but looks like she's going to get stuck with all the driving.

Besides myself, the pups were happy too!

Being in California, I saw this strange glowing orb in the sky that turned the sky blue. The orb was warming, but hurts my eyes when I look around.

Also, when I go walk, there's this dark shape that follows me around. I think I heard people call it a shade-oh... or is that shadow. I forget what that is. :-)

A picturesque tree lined street where I walk the pups. It's a chance for me to hide from that glowing orb that hurts my eyes.

Mt Shasta with a height of 4,322 m (14,179 ft). There's something magical about seeing a snow capped mountain from the freeway.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dec 29: Trip to Bakersfield

It's hard to imagine Bakersfield as a foodie destination, but it is for us. The draw is the family style Basque restaurants.

Originally, the restaurants were the dining halls in hotels that housed the immigrant basque population that worked the ranches and oil fields. The food is delicious home style family cooking.

The meal starts out with a simple, but very flavorful cabbage soup, beans, bread butter and salsa.

I don't know if this is traditional, but I'm told to add the beans and salsa to the cabbage soup. The salsa was spicy and the beans adds a little extra heartiness to the soup.

Salad and cottage cheese is served. I believe the cottage cheese has additions, such as, garlic. Another local Basque restaurant serves blue cheese instead of cottage cheese.

The special of the day... I got the fried chicken while S got the pork chops which we shared. We requested the garlic-parsley topping which was similar to an Italian Gremolata. Very nice and garlicky. Definitely not for the garlic shy. The potatoes was topped with a milk based gravy. All very delicious. :-)

Next stop was Dewar's... the local candy shop. On the shopping list is their peanut butter chews.

Another item on our shopping list is Smith's Bakery for Smiley face cookies.

All of this driving around makes us thirsty. Vanilla Cokes (actually Pepsi) served with chipped iced. There's something refreshing about chipped ice.

Before we head out of town, we stop for some fries. Crinkle-cut fries that are crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy in the center.

On the drive home just outside of Bakersfield, oil derricks that seem to stretch for miles.

After a day in Bakersfield, we're heading home and following the sunset.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dec 27: Daring Bakers - French Yule Log (Entremets)

I skipped this month's Daring Baker's challenge.

The travel, Christmas shopping and just the logistics of doing the challenge just didn't fall in place. I guess I was overly optimistic at getting it done on the road.

However, feel free to view the results on the Daring Baker Blogroll and on the hostesses' blog.
The incredible hostesses for this challenge:
Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and
Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux

Daring Baker's Blogroll:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec 25: Merry Christmas!

Christmas has many connotations. Some people view it as a religious event and a time to reaffirm their faith. I view it as a time for family and it's about the children. I'm fortunate to share my Christmas holiday with three families!

Dinner was rather straight forward...


Poached Chicken, Roasted Pork and Tofu with a mushroom sauce (actually canned cream of mushroom soup)

Cauliflower with mushroom and canned cream of mushroom soup... I think my dad had a theme going with the cream of mushroom soup. lol! It must have been on-sale at the local supermarket.

As I mentioned, it's all about the children. My nephew, CT, who just turned 1.
He's at the age were fancy electronic toys are amusing, but there's nothing better than two plastic balls he can smack together. It was funny to see his eyes light up when he saw the balls.
Good times!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dec 21: Mexican Food in CA

Now that I'm rested from drive down to California. I have to have get my Mexican food fix.

This place came highly recommended for their carnitas. Carnitas is essentially twice-cooked pork. Pork is slowly braised until falling apart tender and just before serving the pork is fried to form a crispy outer layer.

What neat about this mom and pop supermarket is that the taqueria/deli is adjacent to the meat counter. To me, this implies all their food is fresh.

S had the carnitas taco.

I had the carnitas burrito. A burrito filled with carnitas, rice, refried beans and salsa.

The carnitas was delicious. A mild onion, garlic flavor without being overpowered by chiles.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dec 20: Driving to California!

The Traveling Trio will be hitting the road... laying down some rubber and making tracks to visit family throughout California. (As Governator Arnie would say, "Cauli-foh-nyah")

Snow brings out the festive mood in people. The white stuff covers the flaws in the streets, brings a hush to the air by damping sounds and reminds people that Christmas is around the corner! Hurray!

Work even looks like a fun winter wonderland! lol!

Then you have have to drive in the stuff!

That's when the crazy stuff happens, tempers flare and people (me, myself and I) cuss like sailors.

Ice is interesting stuff to drive on...

1) Leaving work a car stops at a light. Of course, knowing conditions are poor I slow to a stop with plenty of room. I notice the car in front of me is starting to slide sideways. It must be ice. Wow! My car is starting to slide sideways too. I apply a little gas to get the tires to engage and straighten out the car, but why is that guy still on the brakes? Fortunately, for him the light changes and he's able to go... or I would have gone around him.

2) I'm walking the pups before my road trip and a car is trying to drive up a hill... The driver takes a running start at the hill where the car slows to a stop midway up. He guns the engine and the tires spin. He stops and guns the engine again... gets two feet and the tires are spinning out to the point they're smoking. Is he trying to melt the ice an inch at a time? He finally gives up. Reverses, Y-turns and goes back down the hill.

The lesson with these two cases has to do with physics and friction. Static friction gives you the greatest force while dynamic friction results in less force. Tires rolling on the ground is due to static friction. Tires sliding or spinning out is dynamic friction (a lower force to keep you in place or propel you forward). The key is to keep the tires rolling without spinning out.

Anyway, back to my road trip... It's time to leave while the leaving good - between storms.
First day was slow and hellish. Turned out to be a 10 or 11 hour trip, including pit stops at rest areas to walk the pups. I lost track. People driving on clear highways with chains should have their licenses revoked. Traffic is trying to go by at 50 to 60 mph and these folks are going 25mph.

After sleeping in the car, the pups went to straight to sleep.

Day 2 in Oregon, about 30 miles from CA, but still a long trip ahead. Another 10 hour day. Of course, I run into a massive traffic jam in the SF-Sacramento Area.

Good thing I have a desk job and sitting around doing nothing is easy for me... lol!

The final peak/mountain pass before California!

Typical road food... caffeine, high calories sustenance and a snack to keep me awake.

The food has to be high calories since I don't like stopping for lunch. Also, the trick is to slowly eat the sandwich of the next few hours so you don't have a lead weight in your stomach at the beginning of the trip. :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dec 17: Playing in the Snow

A couple snapshots of the 6 year old pup playing in the snow.

Somehow he knew his squeak toy was buried in the snow at that very spot. Who said that animals don't remember beyond 1 minute.

Eating snow... quite funny to see him snapping at snowflakes. Maybe his tongue froze up for a second.

The old dude (a 10 year old dog) stayed in the doorway nice and dry... apprehensive about that cold stuff. I bet if he could speak... he'd be complaining about bursitis and his trick knee. You young whipper-snapper.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec 14: Onion-Ricotta Phyllo Pie

Currently, this evening the outside temperature is hovering around 30F.

I might as well heat my house by using the oven and gain something useful at the same time.

This recipe is based upon a fellow Daring Baker's recipe, Audax Artifex:
Spinach, onions and phyllo dough made for a very nice savory pie that I had to try.

I thought I had new package of spinach in the freezer, but I scrounged only a 1/2C. As a result, I ended up with more of a onion and cheese pie. :-)

Onion and Cheese Phyllo Pie with some Spinach
Pre-heat oven to 350F

1/4 Shallots, Chopped
1 1/2 C Onion, Chopped
1/2 C Spinach, Frozen Chopped Spinach - defrosted and squeezed dry. My pref is to use 1C.
2 C Ricotta Cheese, I used whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
Phyllo Dough
Melted Butter for brushing the phyllo.

Saute the onions and shallots until soft... Add the spinach. Allow the mixture to cool.

Add the veggie mixture to the ricotta, eggs, salt and black pepper.

Phyllo dough, available in the freezer section of the Supermarket, is a tissue thin dough.

The phyllo is brushed with melted butter. This helps crisp the phyllo while baking and prevents drying.

Brushing a layer with butter... place another layer on top and brush the new layer with butter. I stacked about 6 sheets together. Cut into 4" x 4" squares, but save the ends.

Instead of making one large pie, I used a muffin tin. The a 4" x 4" squares were placed into the tin. About 2 or 3 T of filling was added. Fold the edges over the top and use the odds and ends to cap the mini-pie.

The filling was enough for 12 mini-pies.

Bake 350F for about 30 minutes or until nicely brown.

An close look at the pies. The filling and phyllo seemed to puff up with the cooking.

Two on a plate.

The inside of a very nice tasting pie - mild onion and shallots.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dec 13: Garlicy Spam Fried Rice

The snow veered North so we got the reprive for the day. Tonight, is the night for snow.

Well... after the Spam Musubi attempt, I had rice, Spam and egg leftover.
Sounds like the perfect ingredients for fried rice, fried rice, like corned beef hash, is a dish originated from using leftovers.

Garlicky Spam Fried Rice
Green Onions
Bell Peppers
Oyster Sauce
Soy Sauce
Seasame Oil

Sliced egg and Spam

Veggies - amount to your licking and type to your liking.

Forgot the garlic for a moment, but added a clove to the oil, before adding rice.

I like frying and seasoning the rice first. After a few minutes, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil is added. Mix and cover for about 2 minutes. Remove rice to a dish.

Next, the vegetables are lightly sauteed... covered with a lid and allowed to steam about 5 minutes.

The last step is to add all the ingredients, mix and cover for a couple minutes to steam and warm all the ingredients.

The finished dish... A better way to use brown rice and Spam.

The snow has arrived this evening. :-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dec 12: Mainland Spam Musubi

Weather forecast to day is for snow and cold temperatures (mid-20's) for the weekend lasting throughout the rest of next week. For some reason, spam popped into my mind. In particular, spam musubi. Spam musubi is a Hawaiian snack that has it's origin in Japanese and the popularity of spam on the Islands.

Spam musubi is just spam and rice wrapped in seaweed.

A typical recipe is found on allrecipes:

For me spam is a once every two years type food. :-)

My version is a West Coast/Mainland version of Spam musubi... I'm using brown rice instead of white rice.

Spam Musubi (Mainland Style)
1 Can of Spam sliced 1/4 slices
1 T Oyster Sauce
1 T Soy Sauce
1/2 t Sugar
Brown Rice (2 Cups cooked in 3 Cups broth)

Sliced Spam

Marinade half the Spam while the other half was fried. I was worried that the marinade would over salt the already salty spam.

Pan Fry Spam

Four slices of marinaded Spam (on the left) and plain pan-fried Spam (on the right).

There are special musubi presses that can be purchased, but since this is just a trial I made my own with the Spam can, cardboard and foil. I lined the can with cling wrap to simplify the rice/spam extraction. [Note: A finished Spam Musubi in the background.]

1/4 cup of rice, is pressed in as the first layer.

A slice of Spam is added, topped with another 1/4 C o f rice and pressed again.

The naked musubi... The brown rice is not holding together as short grain white rice.
Nori is wrapped around the rice packet... Sealed with a little water on the edge.

After resting about 5 minutes... the packets are cut in half.
Some of the musubi contained a thin egg omelet... gotta have eggs with Spam. :-)

Surprisingly, the marinade added a lot more flavor to the Spam without creating a salt lick. It helps that the rice is only lightly seasoned. However, the rice was too "crumbly" to make a proper musubi, but did hit the spot. After making about 4 bundles, I gave up and packed it into the fridge.