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Beet Down – A New Way to do Beets

4 May

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I’ve moved a lot, both growing up and now in my adult years.  More than occasionally I get the, “How do you do that?” round of questioning, mostly from people that consider a significant move an over-filled pick-up truck unloading across town.  Now, don’t get me wrong, a move is a move.  But some are more uprooting then others.

We’ve been in Jacksonville for about 3 years now, and I’m starting to get a tad bit antsy about where we’ll go next.  At night, Rob and I lie in bed perusing Zillow, dreaming of a possible destination for our next Coast Guard-led adventure.  Port Angeles, Detroit, Boston, not much is out of the running except for land locked areas, most of which we wouldn’t want to live in anyway (sorry, Oklahoma.  Been there, done that).  Of course we look at houses that are waaaaay beyond our means – with kitchens that just might make me famous – but it’s just a fun torturous game we play.  Like window shopping at Gucci.

Everywhere we go we try to squeeze everything we can out of the location, and we have only a year left in north Florida.  We’ve done a lot here, but definitely have a lot more to go, do, and see.  Though altogether we’ve found things we love (paddle boarding, the bird life, dolphins, good shopping), and really don’t love (the bugs, the heat, the bugs, the heat, oh and snakes.  Well, I don’t mind the snakes, but Rob runs away like a little girl).

In terms of one of the more important things in life – food – we’ve also found our regional likes and dislikes.  Sorry, Southern folk, we haven’t taken to the oddly-hairy-yet-slimy-at-the-same-time-omg-who-created-this-thing called okra, nor have some traditions (potato salad at Thanksgiving?) found a settled place in our hearts.  BBQ, however, that’s a love story.  So are the sweet onions.  Also, honey.  And so are the beets.

I’ve never actually documented the epic argument Rob and I had over beets.  Maybe one day.  But, beets!  Really?  Aren’t there better things to argue about, like sponges or spoons?

Well, we’ve grown in our relationship since arguing about beets (thank goodness) and now we can’t go a week without them.  Luckily, farms in Florida grow beets almost year round, and the months they don’t, the red roots keep for a long while in a crisper – if they last that long.  Thankfully, our CSA provides us with bunches regularly.  We eat them straight from the oven, or cold with a bit of vinegar and honey.  I’ve chopped them up into fancy tapenades and relishes, used their juice to dye Easter eggs, and have even infused vodka to make a fancy beet cocktail.  Beet options are endless.

So then why are restaurants only serving beets with the standard goat cheese and arugula?  I mean, some have pecans, some do a balsamic reduction drizzle, but really they are all the same.  It’s so sad!  Culinary monotony at its best.

So let’s turn the tables, shall we, and shake up the beet world.

With these: Beet Tacos.

Vegetarians, unite!  Meat Eaters, indulge!  Paleo folk, take a shower from your last CrossFit workout and pick up one of these tacos (sans cheese and crema)!

These are simple enough for a weeknight, but impressive enough for easy entertaining.  Having spent enough time in Mesa, Arizona, I prefer the small corn tacos to flour, and I feel their earthy flavor compliments the sweet beets wonderfully.  Chipotle crema is nothing more than 1 c Mexican cream (found now at most grocery stores), 3 chopped up chipotle peppers, lime zest and 1 tsp of agave Every Mex dish needs some beans, which are super simple to prepare.  Heat some canned black beans (drained and rinsed) in a pot over medium heat with ½ c water, 1 glove of garlic, and a sprig of mint.  Once boiling, remove from the heat, discard the herb and garlic, season the beans with s&p, and smash them with a fork.  For the star of the show: In a foil-lined baking dish, roast 4 peeled beets at 400 degrees with a dash of s&p, a drizzle of canola oil, 1 tsp cumin, and a whole jalapeno (sliced down the middle) until beets are tender, about an hour and a halfThe fresh topping of crisp cilantro (tear off stem) and soft shredded romaine (roll 2-4 leaves like a cigar then chop into thin strips) top off the bite with herby freshness For an optional creamy, salty indulgence, crumbled Queso Fresco tops the taco with ease.  Oh, and don’t forget the squeeze of that lime you zested earlier (it’s not just a margarita garnish, you know).

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When Rob and I were dating, tacos were our go-to dinner date.  Here in Jacksonville, we haven’t been able to find quite the same ole(!) experience as I we had in the South West.  Remembering those fresh flavors, I decided to create my own using one of Jacksonville’s finest produce, the bodacious beet.  Yes, bodacious.

With Cinco De Mayo coming up, enjoy these tacos with friends and maybe a marg or two.  You’ll get the best of two worlds, or at least the best of two regions of the U.S. (speaking from lots of moving – and eating – experience here, folks).

CinEnjoy!

Beet Tacos
(serves 4)
*ingredients and instructions above. 

To assemble:
Put the corn tortilla on a plate.  Spread some of the smashed black beans on the tortilla.  Top the beans with some roughly chopped beets.  Then Top the beets with the lettuce, cilantro, queso fresco, and a drizzle or two of the crema.  Squeeze the juice of a lime slice over the top, and you’ve got seriously one of the best tacos you’ll ever eat.

Enjoy!

An Aftertaste
If you like beets, check out these and these.  

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Vitamin D and Civilization

20 Jul

It’s amazing what Vitamin D and civilization will do for a girl.  While there are many things I love about Coos Bay, the Southern California sun and, yes, a Starbucks on every corner, does add to an already wonderful vacation.

We started off with a night camping in Napa.  It was a beautiful campsite with a view of Clear Lake and vineyards off in the distance.  Sig showed his guard-dog nature lowly growling at the nearby treacherous wildlife (most likely a squirrel, chipmunk, or maybe a frog).  Dinner consisted of a rack of lamb, quinoa, and sautéed kale with fennel and scallions all cooked over a Coleman stove.

Overboard, yes.  Ridiculous, slightly, but – and here comes the whiney voice – I kind of had a high bar to meet hearing my Eagle Scout husband’s campfire cooking stories of bacon-wrapped game hens and baked beans cooked in a hollowed out pineapple.  To quote my mom, “Where were the hotdogs?!”

After a grueling 111-degree drive through the central valley I-5 corridor, we arrived at my parents’ house for a long, and well-needed vacation.

We partook in a fabulous birthday jaunt to Hollywood to celebrate in style, including personalized fusion drinks at the Library Bar, and antique bowling next to Zach Braff and Donald Faison (yes, I just name-dropped).  I ate lamb belly for the first time; it had the soft, buttery texture of braised pork belly with the lamb grassiness that is so unique yet specific.  It was fantastic paired with couscous, but was certainly trumped by chatting with Zach Braff (yep, did it again).  The next day we drove through Rodeo Drive, but for Rob’s fear of immediate bankruptcy, we didn’t stop, and then spent the rest of the day lazily lying around from having stayed up late partying with Zach Braff (third time’s the charm).  The weekend ended with homemade birthday rib-eye steaks, Mom’s grilled onions, and scalloped potatoes, all favorites in the Tamminen and O’Donnell household.

Movie stars, I mean, Mom, Jenn, and me at the Library Bar in Hollywood.

After such a crazy school year, right now, I am mostly enjoying long walks around the lake with Sig, casually sitting on the kitchen counters chatting with Mom, reconnecting with great friends, and comfortably wearing tank tops.  My mom and I have taken turns cooking, and I think we make a great team.  The heat has lent to lighter dishes, such as seared Ahi, tortellini salad, and one of which I’ve included below.  You can’t come to California without eating a fish taco, and I’ve tried my hand at many versions, never really getting it perfectly right.  The SoCal inspiration worked – I think I did it this time.  You be the judge.

There’s still another week left in my vacation; I’m sure there’s more relaxing times, and more delicious dishes to come.  I’m off to work on my tan with a Starbucks in hand!  Happy summer!

Halibut Tacos (serves 4-6)…. sorry, in all the cooking fun I forgot to take a picture.  But I promise it still tastes amazing!  

  • 2 lbs fresh Halibut (1/8-1/4 lb for each taco)
  • 1 head green cabbage, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp good mayo
  • juice 2 limes
  • about 1 tsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp Agave
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • few tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • few dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • s&p
  • Corn or flour tortillas (or both!)
  • Extra limes and cilantro for garnish

 To cook the halibut, heat the grill to med-high heat.  Put the halibut on aluminum foil, and prepare with a few tablespoons of olive oil (because halibut can dry out), juice of 1 lime, the white whine, a few dashes of Tabasco sauce, a few springs of cilantro (no need to chop them) and s&p. 

Fold over the sides of the aluminum to make a vented pouch for the fish.  Put on the grill – no need to flip – until just cooked (fish should flake easily, but still show shininess and moisture), about 8-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the aioli sauce.  Mix the mayo, juice of 1 lime, garlic, cilantro, paprika, and s&p to taste.  Make sure the mixture combines smoothly, and remember, the longer it sits, the better it tastes.

If you wish, heat up the tortillas in the oven. 

When the fish is done, slice it into chunks that easily fit in the tortilla, about 1 inch by 4 inches.  Put a healthy shmear of the sauce on the tortilla, then place the fish on the sauce.  Top with the cabbage, and a tiny sprinkling of cinnamon (it is AMAZING what the cinnamon adds to this dish – may sound strange, but trust me, it’s fantastic).  Garnish with whole cilantro leaves, and lime wedges.

Enjoy with margaritas!!!

*******

If anyone wants a the lamb-dish recipe, just let me know… it’s a rough recipe (meaning not precise due to camping circumstances), but it, too, was very tasty.  Maybe even better than a hot dog. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

OuchyWowWow

11 Jan

Before I get to explaining said phrase, let’s recap the wonderful holiday season:

Healthy Holidays - Bacon, Bourbon, and Garlic Bruschetta

 

Black Truffle Butter Turkey - OMG.

 

I DID attempt cutting down our tree... unlike some people I know.

 

Braised Lamb Shank - one of our faves.

 

Italian Cookie making day.

 

Cherry Bourbon Truffles - Rob couldn't get enough!

 

Finnish Cookies and Maple Pepper Glazed Pretzels - assorted holiday gifts

 

Mom with Turner and Sig... which puppy looks like the chunk-a-lunk?

 

Christmas Eve Tamales - shredded pork or green chili and cheese. Despite the needed fat to masa ratio, these were fluffy as clouds.

 

Christmas Dinner - Beef Wellington. We skyped my mom for the carving!

 

Mom's Asparagus and French Bread Strata - fantastic with my dad's Split Pea Soup

 

What I see in the kitchen every time I start cooking.

 

Happy 2012!  Supposedly, according to Mayan Calendar beliefs, we are doomed for an end-times catastrophe this year, so huzzah!  Let’s make the best of it!

Due to my lack of picture taking (except for when the camera is right next to me in the kitchen), I didn’t get any footage of the surprise Rob and my parents planned for my 30th birthday.  After a quick hug and peck on the cheek from my parents, I was promptly blindfolded and then fugitive-like pushed into the back seat of their car.  All occurring in the loading zone of John Wayne Airport (come to think of it, where was TSA?!).

After a short car ride, I was lead through a bit of a walk, all the while being told to “DUCK!” and “Don’t step in the puddle!” (to save the inference, I’ll tell you there was nothing to duck from, and absolutely no puddle, and lots of laughs from my Dad and Rob).  After one giant – and invisible – “step up,” and a few muffled giggles, the blindfold was removed to reveal my friends from Irvine sitting in my favorite Mexican restaurant ready to toast my 30th.  It was fantastic and I am so thankful to have such thoughtful and generous people in my life!  Thank you for the celebration, family and friends!

During my visit back home, we climbed rocks on the beach, had a martini at the Yard House, shopped more than Rob would have preferred, held (and considered) a Remmington shotgun (20 gauge), ate ham (a rarity in my family, to both my Dad’s and Rob’s dismay), and down-right enjoyed ourselves.  The trip back to Oregon was capped with an overnight trip in a swanky suite room in Portland, and a slight dreaded sense of that thing called “life” creeping back in a few days.

Then comes the OuchyWowWow.  At this point, most of the students that have had me as a teacher are now saying this phrase, and maybe even extending its extreme expression: OuchyWowWow Muchamugonga.  Years and years ago, when my sister was young, this became her phrase for any sort of cut, scrape, bump, or “booboo.”  Personally, I think her phrase explains the angst of a stubbed toe much more than the usual strongly-and-specifically-chosen-adult word, and it fits here:

I cut my finger.  Badly.  Chopping cabbage for one of our favorite dishes: Apple and Bacon Braised Cabbage.  The nail was almost completely gone, and I went so deep the nailbed was revealed (which is white, by the way.  I originally thought I had cut to the bone, which sent me into shock.  Shock is no fun.  I digress).  After Rob bandaged me up, made me drink some water and eat some food, we decided going to the emergency room was the responsible thing to do.  After a soft-cast and a hard tetanus shot, I knew cooking (let alone showering with two hands) was not in the cards for a while.

Especially two days later when I had to remove the bandage.  I told my mom about what happened through email, and she almost threw up.  Rob was there helping me, and he did throw up.  So I’ll refrain from details on this food blog and just say that I’ve never screamed in pain before… it was hands-down-unarguably OuchyWowWow Muchamugonga pain.

Thus, Rob had to cook.  And get this – he didn’t make pasta, nor steak!  Rob pulled out a great Southwest-style appetizer salad that was perfectly fresh and filling, ideal for the New Years Resolution I’ve already broken with ice cream.  He described it as “learning how to fish,” as I taught him how to make salad dressing, which really gave this salad zip and zing.  As he should be, he’s very proud of cooking for his wife, the cook.  Props, hubby!

So in honor of my Irish husband stretching his comfort cooking roots and taking care of me, here’s his Southwestern Bean Salad with Chipotle Lime Dressing (hold the fingers).

Southwestern Bean Salad 

  • 1 head Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated pepper jack cheese 
  • roughly chopped cilantro, as garnish

Chipotle Lime Dressing 

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • zest 1 lime
  • juice 1/2 lime
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 tsp raw agave 
  • s&p 

In a large salad bowl, mix the salad ingredients together (saving the cilantro garnish for the end).  

In another bowl, mix all of the dressing ingredients together, season with s&p to taste.  

When ready to serve, pour desired amount of dressing over salad, and garnish with cilantro.  

Enjoy!  

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