Pizza and Salad Are Yummy at Home!

Okay, people, get out your frozen pizzas! We got our frozen pizza from from Trader Joe’s, and added garlic, shaved cheese, oregano and cherry tomatoes before putting it in the oven. Yummy!

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For salad, we had mixed baby greens with carrots, peppers, walnuts, red peppers, apples, tangerines and olives. The trick with salad is to make sure it’s as colorful as possible so that it starts to satisfy your hunger as soon as you see it. Add fruit, nuts, and leftover noodles for texture and depth. Keep it simple and fresh!

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Yummy at Home, Recipe 6: Dominican Fusion Comfort

Listen, I’m scared, too. The US death toll is climbing fast, thanks to Trump. (Yep, I’m mad as heck at how he’s mishandling this pandemic.) As a friend pointed out, Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, is egalitarian. So do yourself a favor and stay home and cook, read and exercise. If you’re not working or taking care of others, stay put. We don’t even know if we’re secret spreaders of this thing. It is through my pain and uncertainty that I continue to cook and read and share. This is what I have to give. This is my medicine:

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Dominican food is hard to find in California unless you make it at home. A staple at our house is red beans (Habichuelas) and rice–main Dominican fare. Slow cook unsalted beans with water, garlic, onion, bay leaf, dried oregano, basil and pepper. This takes about 3 hours, so you can substitute can beans if you don’t have the time. Once the beans break open you can salt and season them with tomato paste, cumin/fresh cilantro and paprika. Allow the vegan beans to thicken and serve over steamed rice.

As a modification, you can turn these Dominican-style beans into a modified chili base by adding for favorite meat: ground chicken, turkey, beef or lamb, and vegetables: green, red or yellow peppers, corn, carrots, potatoes, olives, peas or/or green beans. (Frozen or canned veggies will also work!) Be sure to add additional spices for each additional ingredient. Don’t lose flavor.

We ate our with maduros, ripe, fried plantains. Of course, greens, collards and broccoli are always welcome at our table.  Serve hot, and as Her Royal Highness Princess Diandra says, “Yam.”

Yummy at Home (Recipes from Our Table, Part I)

Just Because COVID-19 has us shut in, doesn’t mean we can’t thrive. In fact, since we’ve been staying home, we’ve eaten well, including a beautiful take-out dinner from our local sushi restaurant. During this ordeal I’ll be sharing recipes from our table made with anything and everything we happen to have in the kitchen from the pantry to the freezer. Staying safe has never been this delicious!

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Our first recipe is a Teriyaki style one-pan medley can be prepared vegan or otherwise. This dish can take 30-50 minutes depending on the number of helpers prepping and chopping. It’s okay to modify with whatever vegetable you have at home, including canned or frozen. We started with our herb and fruit basket and found:

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Garlic, fresh

Onion powder

Poblano peppers

Broccoli, with hearts

Asparagus

Prawns (Substitutes: tofu or fish)

Carrots

Sesame oil

Black pepper

Red chili flakes

Soy sauce: ¼ cup or so

Cook on high and stir constantly. Top with a ¼ cup of Trader Joe’s Soyaki or some Soy Vay if you have it. We paired ours with coconut rice and La Crema Chardonnay.

Enjoy my friends!

Eat Your Way through West Texas: A New Twist on the Great American Road Trip

 

We recently took a road trip to visit family in another state. Along the way we discovered bits of our country and ourselves, which is really what road trips are all about. We discovered that West Texas is a visually stunning place. Driving east as you leave the Painted Desert you encounter picturesque landscapes, filled with enormous skies, juxtaposed against shacks and huge cubes of baled cotton. Big cities are few and far between, so you’re just as likely to see towering silver silos, as you are to see zebras (no kidding!). You only have two things to remember: first, don’t speed through any small town in Texas unless you’re hankering for a speeding ticket (there really wasn’t a single town where we didn’t see a sheriff parked outside of town between the 40-mile and 70-mile speed-limit markers). Second, when you’re in Texas, you’ve gotta eat the local food, because they really do food in a special way.

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This was nothing like the road trips of my childhood, when I was packed into the car along with my sisters and our mother’s basket of carefully wrapped food. Nor was it a tedious quest for food, lurching from Wendy’s to Carl’s trying to pick food that would not upset our stomachs, a circumstance we endured just a few short years ago. To our delight, Yelp has transformed our culinary experiences, and thereby our lives, especially when we’re on the road. No longer do we need to make the requisite fast-food stop. A little WiFi and patience is all it takes to find the perfect meal when it might otherwise seem you’re in the middle of nowhere. That, plus the fact that gas is spectacularly cheap in Texas, makes it easy to go just a bit further down the road to feast like lords and ladies and forever forego meals in a bag.

So, next time you’re in Texas, keep your eyes open for Longhorns, llamas and goats on your way to our three picks for good things to eat with friends:

  • First Stop: Lubbock, Texas. The Cast Iron Skillet is totally worth a detour if you’re hungry before 2pm. We only had the opportunity to breakfast there, but I can tell you we were fully satisfied even as we pined for the fried okra that was two hours into a non-existent future. The Cast Iron Skillet is so good, they close right after lunch. They don’t even have to wait around for the dinner crowd. When you cook like that, you can be demanding. Service is courteous. Food’s served hot and delicious. I recommend the Chicken Fried chicken with a biscuit—the batter is spicy, peppery and crispy; the biscuit is flaky, a winning combo. You can also take a pie or some brownies home.

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  • The unexpected treasure in Burnet is Crazy Gal’s Café. They serve delightful coffee; it actually stands up to cream. They offer a very nice menu and friendly service. The decor is fun and provides a distraction while you wait. I recommend the egg sandwich, cherry pie, which is made with almond extract, and the pancakes. Yummy!

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  • Last stop: BBQ, anyone? If you like meat, buckle your seat belt, dress casually and arrive hungry. Lest you think I only eat breakfast, get yourself some world-class BBQ at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano. They serve the best BBQ chicken on earth. This is no exaggeration. This place is all about the food, and mostly, I mean meat. Wait in line outside before you get to the pit where a guardrail keeps the minions from grabbing a tempting morsel off the grill. Seriously, Cooper’s pit is designed to make your mouth water because it’s impossible to decide what to order when confronted with 12 choices of perfectly cooked meats, including goat and turkey and all the usual selections. This unfortunately, is not a vegetarian friendly establishment, so if you don’t at least eat chicken on occasion, give this place a pass, but send your meat-loving friends. It’s also not a place for purest. Meats are arrayed on one enormous grill—together. And at Cooper’s, there’s only one pot of lip-smacking wet dip for all of it. You can, however, ask for it dry and top off from the homemade BBQ sauce available inside. The picnic style-tables inside mean you might make a friend unless you’re a family of ten. All the meats we sampled were tender, cooked to perfection, seasoned with numerous herbs and spices; this was an all around hit. The turkey was unreal, and the pork ribs were as good as my mom’s Dominican-style slow-roasted pork shoulder—now that’s a compliment. Beans with bacon, pickles, water and sauce are all free sides. I recommend the coleslaw—I think that might be vegetarian. If you can’t get to West Texas any time soon, I hear Cooper’s delivers.

Maybe you’ll discover your own treats and surprises on your next road trip. Coming together around food is something most of us enjoy. It has a way of opening our hearts. That’s why it’s a treat to have local food prepared with care. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Texas, but the memories of passing forkfuls around the table, laughing with friends and family and planning the next meal before one has ended, persists. Even now, I long for the feeling of connection at the table—and another bite of pie.